Even the most diehard Capitals fan could likely have learned something new at the Capitals’ Hockey ‘n Heels event at Kettler Monday evening.
I’ve been covering the team for over three seasons now, and I had no idea, for example, that, along with players’ skates and jerseys and other numerous pieces of the hockey uniform, equipment manager Brock Myles and his team were also responsible for keeping hairspray handy. Yes, hairspray. I double-checked.
Myles, personable and informative in his off-ice teaching session with the attendees, is also pretty adept with a sewing machine, and his demonstration of repairing a torn hockey sock—at lightning speed, by the way—using the machine drew claps from the ladies present.
One attendee brought up the subject of high maintenance players during the Q & A, to which Myles shared that none of the guys on the roster were “high maintenance.” A few were “maintenance,” as he categorized them, but he also stressed that each player on the team was great overall to work with in this area—in other words, there are no Lindsay Lohans on the roster when it comes to hockey equipment.
The ladies, in fact, brought their A-game when questioning the team of hockey experts assembled for the event. One asked Capitals’ video coach Brett Leonhardt, who ran the video information session, about scoring chances versus shots (had there been any fancy stats guys present, proposals would have quickly followed, I imagine), and another attendee’s question during that session focused on Alex Ovechkin’s shift to right wing.
I knew NHL video work was demanding, but, frankly, my jaw was on the floor by the end of the session, as Leonhardt showed how he logged just about every aspect of the game—practically in real time—with a complicated (to the amateur eye) color-coordinated keyboard program designed for that purpose. He also mentioned that the Capitals, while using video to correct weak aspects of the game, used video for positive reinforcement as well.
During on-ice sessions earlier in the evening, the ladies learned how to pass, shoot the puck and compete on faceoffs—and Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson demonstrated little regard for the safety of his shins during the faceoff demonstration sessions on one of the rinks, where he was responsible for dropping the puck.
Friends and attendees Kim and Ralita both took advantage of the opportunity to practice a faceoff under Johansson’s supervision. For Kim, the experience elicited admiration for a group that usually doesn’t experience a whole lot of positive feedback—hockey referees who have to drop the puck on faceoffs. Ralita, meanwhile, found Johansson’s demonstration made faceoffs look easy—a notion that was quickly dispelled when she was given a hockey stick and had to try it for herself. It was Ralita, who’s been a Capitals fan for about 10 years, that suggested attending the event to Kim—who, though she’s never been to a Capitals game, went to several Rangers games growing up and said she could relate the lineup from the ‘70s.
In addition to Johansson’s instruction, Capitals Tomas Kundratek, Joey Crabb and Wojtek Wolski also helped during the on-ice sessions along with additional coaches and Capitals alumni. The Capitals’ Jay Beagle, meanwhile, had a steady stream of attendees line up to get their picture taken with the Capitals’ forward. Beagle posed with a “Flat Stella” (apparently the female version of the “Flat Stanley” phenomenon) and handled compliment and critiques alike.
“A couple of them were saying that we need to help [goaltender Braden] Holtby out there, need to give him more support,” Beagle said. “I mean, most of them are right on a lot of stuff. They watch a lot of hockey.” (Smart guy.)
Though in Beagle’s family overall, it’s the guys who are the bigger hockey fans, both of Beagle’s parents helped foster his love of the game. He said his mom loves hockey and used to take him to skate when he was younger, while his dad was working (though his dad also contributed significantly to the hockey teaching). In fact, his mother would also stand in the net and let Beagle shoot at her playing ball hockey when he was little.
He appreciates the fact that female fans—in contrast with their male counterparts—are so willing wear their enthusiasm for going to a game or a similar activity on their sleeve.
“The women, I find, almost are more enthusiastic about it, they’re more open to be excited about it,” Beagle said.