Because country clubs seldom are known for breeding warrior hockey players, it’s past time I think that we advocated taking a wrecking ball to Capitals’ Country Club. Professional hockey players are accorded extraordinary creature comforts while plying their trade here, from practicing and working out in a world-class training facility to engaging with a fairly fawning (hyper-non-critical) press corps.
Heck, even when this team practices outdoors it takes those paces at the posh Chevy Chase Country Club.
But from where I blog, a change in culture is badly needed for the Washington Capitals. Opulence and pampering and coddling, I allege, do not make for pit bulls in Bauers.
Herewith, in the first of a two-part revolution-intervention, I present a ten-point plan to radically reorient Washington’s country club hockey culture. On Wednesday I’ll bring you part II.
Understand, please: changes in cultures require shock therapy, boot-camp-style makeovers. These suggested intervention-remedies should be adopted in the short-term, and are not conceived as conditions to be carried forward (necessarily) through say the entirety of a player’s multi-year term with the club . . .
Although at this stage I am open to hearing otherwise from my readers.
- New paces at the Puck Palace. There will be no returning to Piney Orchard or Mt. Vernon for practicing and training by this club, and in a sense, that’s a shame. Those over-refrigerated, decrepit barns, while rough on shivering media and spectators, reminded Capitals’ players of hockey’s primal conditions. Lay an egg one night in an NHL rink, and Caps’ players could promptly expect locker room blackboard word of penance skates at their training ice box early the following a.m. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the greatest blue-collar ethos and lunch-pail sensibilities in Capitals’ history were forged during the neighborhood, rustic rink years.
Kettler-Capitals, on the other hand, is a puck palace. Capitals’ players can have their dogs groomed there while they practice; their girlfriends can get pedis and spa treatments a few floors below. We can’t take a literal wrecking ball to the palace, but we can remove a bit of the debutant-beau out of the hockey player while he’s in there.
Effective immediately, all 10:30 practices at Kettler are moved to 7:30 a.m. Practice skates the mornings after Eastern time zone road games will take place at 8:45. Cots will be purchased by management and placed in the locker room for players wanting to maximize their rest upon late-night arrival at Kettler from the airport. This will dis-incentivize a bit the team’s nocturnal social habits (more on that in a second). This is hardly cruel and unusual punishment; the region’s high school hockey players are typically on ice sheets at 6:00 a.m. for practice skates before classes. This will prove a bit of a hardship for local media, but they’re soft, too; it’ll be good to toughen them up a bit as well.
7:30 morning skates will strike many as punitive, and that’s fine. However, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians are roused and already on Metro or en route to their labor at the Department of Labor, or some 60-hour-a-week software shop, by 7:30 each weekday, and so our newly inspired Capitals will with their new skating schedule be more in synch with their community. Wearing ‘Washington’ as crest on your sweater necessarily means you’re a Washingtonian; our guys in skates are gonna work like we do.
- Last call. Effective immediately, the very next Capitals player photographed at a bar the night before a game is fined $1,500, and the day following confirmation of the transgression, the team skates at 5:30 a.m. No need to go subpoena about the social past; perception in this town is reality. This is hockey; the sin of one is the sin of 20.
- Also effective immediately, second-offender bar sippers are fined $5,000, and a bag-skate — also in 5:30 a.m. darkness — will accompany. In-season, there will be only one top shelf pursued by Capitals’ players so long as they perpetuate mediocrity on the ice upon Washington’s severely stressed fan wallets, and that’s behind opposing netminders. The Flyers, you know, had a similar cloud of alleged bar-fly booze haze dog them not long ago. A regime change remedied that rather swiftly, and the results ever since speak for themselves.
- Citizen-governance. No figure in hockey history was as effective at demolishing complacency and deficient work ethic as Herb Brooks. Unfortunately, we don’t have him around any more. But we can learn from his richly chronicled pedagogy. Effective immediately, Capitals’ season ticket holders will be invited to a novel participation in all bag-skates deemed necessary by the Capitals’ coaching staff. The evening before the skates, the Capitals head coach will, via email, invite a season ticket holder of duration out onto the ice the following morning for the retribution session, introduce the VIP to the entire team, and hand him or her a whistle. You know the rest. Ultimate accountability.
Legacy season-ticket holders unavailable to attend the skates will also be able to Skype-in their suggested discipline.
- Lunch-pail/brown bag nutrition. Team officials have described to me the in-flight meals afforded Capitals players on their charters. Suffice to say, they’re not the spartan sustenance of pretzels and lukewarm Folgers you and I receive on our commercial air excursions. More like the Palm at 30,000 feet. We’re changing that, effective immediately. In lieu of filets seared in cabernet-cherry, our new in-flight nutrition will be more in line with line workers: Sloppy Joes, spinach, and gelatin. And an apple.
Obviously, no Amstel Light.
You beat the Habs up there on a Saturday night, one bottle of Labatt’s per player for the flight home.
Shock therapy, remember.
[Coming up in tomorrow's Part II, we take our pampered pucksters for a little bus ride.]