It was wonderful seeing Ron Weber seated way up high in Verizon Center Sunday afternoon, headset on, mouth moving before a radio microphone with a sheet of ice below him. He joined Jonathon Warner during Federal News Radio’s Capitals’ pre-game program, and he had clutched in his hands a copy of the gamesheet from February 18, 1984 — a 4-2 Capitals’ triumph in St. Louis, the club’s 10th consecutive victory in the middle of that memorable winter. All of the rich detail of Ron Weber’s legendary game calls was etched onto the front, back and side margins of that sheet of paper. In what was the 60th game for the Caps that season, for instance, Weber had a notation that the team had gone shorthanded by two men merely three times (surrendering one goal). He told Warner how this well illustrated that team’s discipline.
Back into the ’80s we were again on Sunday in Verizon Center.
Craig Laughlin had a goal and two assists in that record-establishing game in ’84, Weber additionally pointed out.
I conducted a survey of print, broadcast, and new media before Sunday’s game to pulse sentiment on just how big a deal this winning streak is. I mean, should we be stopping the electronic presses over it? What was its importance in a relative and big-picture sense — does it mean as much to the players and coaches as it does to fans?, I asked press to speculate. It’d been conspicuously downplayed by the head coach all week; referenced regularly by the media covering the team; emerged as a point of lavish civic pride on 106.7 The Fan; and swelled the price of tickets for games this week on outlets like Craig’s List and Stub Hub.
I received interesting and thoughtful replies:
- In the context of what the Caps want to do this season — namely, win a Stanley Cup — no, the streak isn’t that big a deal, one writer offered;
- It sure is a big deal to Ovi, said another writer — he wants to be no. 1 at everything.
- I guarantee you Bruce Boudreau is talking to his team about matching the all-time best winning streak down there in the locker room at this very moment, offered one broadcaster.
- Ovi loves to win, offered another broadcaster, and now that he’s in a leadership role he will make this a big deal to his teammates if it already isn’t one for them.
- Still another broadcaster termed the current streak “huge” to the players and the organization as a whole. Every blogger I spoke to believed this streak to be a top storyline on the season.
I didn’t need to survey Ron Weber; the aged scoresheet in his hand told me all I felt I needed to know about his thoughts on the significance of this streak — as did his presence on Washington’s most prominent news and sports radio outlet.
From this blogger’s perspective, a streak such as this would be enormous for this city at any moment in time, but it seems especially special and endearing and chest-thumping-worthy relative to the sour and dour that characterizes so much of the rest of our professional sports landscape here. Washington really needs this wonderful winning. It’s been a long time since a big-four-sport team here could boast being this juggernaut good. And the fact that it’s the hockey team that is the studly story is a distinctive source of pride for the region’s puckheads, all too accustomed to being regarded as the red-headed stepchildren of sports fans about the region. Bask in it we will as long as this great ride races forward.
A false concern, though: the Caps are “peaking too early” in the season. There was nothing about the team’s play this past weekend, against Southeast division opponents, that suggested to Bruce Boudreau anything related to his club approaching peak performance. His players know it, too.
It is wrong, too, to look past this moment and wish instead that the playoffs were already upon us. This is history; it demands our savoring it, in a detailed fashion like a Ron Weber does, so that a following generation of hockey fans can be told about it. Moreover the hockey season has a calendar that cannot be shortcut. A Stanley Cup is cherished as it is by virtue of the long and arduous path required to claim it. These days, we in HockeyWashington just aren’t experiencing much ardor.
Winning and HockeyWashington are now synonymous. Spend a fair portion of your Monday meditating upon that.
Ahead looms a stunningly mediocre Boston team, Zdeno Chara’s towering form virtually alone in standing between the Caps and their all-time greatest win streak. I find myself particularly in synch with the sentiment that this winning streak has become something of a personal mission for the new captain. It’s oddly interesting, isn’t it, that this historic streak has occurred less than a month into his leadership reign? Coincidence? Since Ovechkin was named captain on January 5 the Caps have won 13 of 14 games.
I wonder what sort of TV rating’s Tuesday’s game in Boston will draw for Comcast, with all-time history on the line. And I wonder as well what sort of drive and determination we’ll see from the captain that night. About the same as we saw in yesterday’s final 10 minutes, with the outcome in doubt, I think.
Ron Weber is a walking library of Capitals’ history. If this season ends in exceptionally special fashion, really spectacularly like in the stuff of dreams, and on home ice, I will want very much to be seated next to him in the press box that night, a fellow traveler with this team since day one. As the clock draws down to zero I will turn and look at the man whose voice brought Capitals’ hockey alive in my life back during the years when there was no television coverage of hockey here to be found, and ask him, “Now this is a two-point night, isn’t it?”
Sunday evening email from the Hershey Bears: “We’re only about $400 short of $3,000 [needed for Jason Hartle] after our games here this weekend.” I want to send a very personal thank you out to two early Red Army action-takers in this matter, HC Young, of section 115, who was the first Caps’ fan on Sunday to relay to us a generous contribution for Jason Hartle’s cause, and Heather, an OFB follower on Twitter in New Jersey, who also chipped in generously. We’ve got two more home games this week to raise money for Jason, and we’ll come to your seat to retrieve every dollar.