Two years ago, John Carlson’s mother, Angela Dalle-Molle, teared up watching Patrick Kane take the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic. John and Patrick shared the same billet family when they were playing hockey in London, Ontario, for the CHL Knights, and Angela remembered reflecting on how excited Kane’s parents must have been to watch their son play in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. She also wondered what it would be like to see John play in the game.
“I literally burst into tears,” she said, recalling the Red Wings-Blackhawks outdoor game.
The mother of the Capitals’ remarkably impressive young rearguard realizes that dream this Saturday, when her son — still an NHL rookie — will be an important part of the Washington Capitals team that travels to Heinz Field to play the Penguins in this year’s Winter Classic. It’s a massive stage for any NHL player, but Angela says she hopes the one piece of motherly advice John remembers throughout his career is something her father shared with her about staying grounded.
“I tell John what my father always told me: remember who you are,” Angela said.
Of his take on playing in the Classic, she says, “He knows it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The game will bring out the tough as well as the tender side of Angela and other supporters in the stands. Hockey players are notoriously tough; but while John Carlson plays outside in likely inclimate weather, his mom stands and cheers in it. And she’s prepared to do that again January 1st, should gameday buck meteorologists’ current April-like predictions of rain and instead follow in previous Winter Classic tradition.
Angela said the coldest she’s ever been watching her son play the game was during his time in youth hockey, when John and his brother would have back-to-back games. Though it was an indoor rink, there were no stands, so Angela spent the games standing on concrete close to the playing surface and remembers being so cold that she could barely lift her legs to get in the car afterward.
Then there was last year’s World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatoon, where her son would eventually score the game and gold-medal winning goal for Team USA, when 35 degree-below weather greeted her every time she stepped outdoors.
The main constant in Carlson’s big career moments seems to be the presence of supportive family members to witness them. Carlson has had family present for last year’s World Juniors in Canada, the Calder Cup Game 6 in Hershey, Pa., in the spring, when the Bears won the Calder on home ice for the first time in nearly three decades, and now a sizable Carlson cheering section — of almost 30 — at Heinz Field, where they’ll be well armored for this year’s Winter Classic with footwarmers, handwarmers, and ski apparel, should the forecast call for it.
“We basically broke out ski equipment,” mom said when asked for tips for Caps fans on how to stay warm if they’re attending the outdoor game.
The biggest Winter Classic-related challenge for the rookie has been some of the off-ice logistics, such as coordinating with the team to get tickets for those coming to watch him play. Two tickets were issued to each Capitals player, but there was also a block of seats and hotel rooms that the Capitals had set aside for family and friends. Angela said the Carlson group will be spending New Year’s Eve at one of the hospitality suites in the hotel, though Caps nation hope to be celebrating a victory the following evening as well.