Washington Capitals Tailgating

Washington Capitals Tailgating

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Washington Capitals Tailgating


The Washington Capitals are a professional ice hockey team that plays inWashington, D.C. They are members of the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). Since their founding in 1974, the “Caps” have won one conference championship to reach the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, and captured seven division titles. In 1997, the team moved their home hockey rink from the suburban Capital Centre to the new Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Former AOL executive Ted Leonsis has owned the team since 1999, and has revitalized the franchise by drafting star players such as Alexander OvechkinNicklas BackstromMike Green, and hiring former head coach Bruce Boudreau. The 2009–10 Capitals won the franchise’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy, for being the team with the most points at the end of the regular season.

History[edit source | editbeta]

Along with the Kansas City Scouts, the Capitals joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team for the 1974–75 season. The team was owned byAbe Pollin (also owner of the NBA‘s Washington Bullets/Wizards until his death on November 24, 2009). Pollin had built the Capital Centre in suburban Landover, Maryland, to house both the Bullets (who formerly played in Baltimore) and the Capitals. His first act as owner was to hire Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt as general manager.

With a combined 30 teams between the NHL and the World Hockey Association(WHA), the available talent was stretched thin. The Capitals had few players with professional experience and were at a disadvantage against the long-standing teams that were stocked with veteran players. Like the other three teams who joined the league during the WHA era—the Scouts (now the New Jersey Devils),Atlanta Flames (now playing in Calgary), and New York Islanders—the Capitals did not factor the survival of the rival league into their plans.

The Capitals played home games at theCapital Centre from 1974–1997.

The Capitals’ inaugural season was dreadful, even by expansion standards. They finished with far and away the worst record in the league at 8–67–5. Their 21 points were half that of their expansion brethren, the Scouts. The eight wins are the fewest for an NHL team playing at least 70 games, and the .131 winning percentage is still the worst in NHL history. They also set records for most road losses (39 out of 40), most consecutive road losses (37),and most consecutive losses (17). Coach Jim Anderson said, “I’d rather find out my wife was cheating on me than keep losing like this. At least I could tell my wife to cut it out.” Schmidt himself had to take over the coaching reins late in the season. (Only once in NHL history has another team even come close to matching this futility: the 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets finished with 9 wins and 57 losses, but a relatively impressive 14 ties.)

In 1975–76, Washington went 25 straight games without a win and allowed 394 goals en route to another horrendous record: 11–59–10 (32 points). During the middle of the season, Max McNab was hired as GM, and Tom McVie was hired as head coach to replace Schmidt. For the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Capitals alternated between dreadful seasons and finishing only a few points out of the playoffs. In 1980 and 1981, for instance, they were in playoff contention until the last day of the season. The one bright spot during these years of futility was that many of McNab’s draft picks (e.g. Rick GreenRyan WalterMike GartnerBengt Gustafsson,Gaetan DuchesneBobby Carpenter) would impact the team for years to come, whether as important members of the roster or crucial pieces to major trades. By the summer of 1982, there was serious talk of the team moving out of the U.S. capital, and a “Save the Caps” campaign was underway. Then two significant events took place to solve the problem.

Playoffs[edit source | editbeta]

First, the team hired David Poile as General Manager. Second, as his first move, Poile pulled off one of the largest trades in franchise history on September 9, 1982, when he dealt longtime regulars Ryan Walter and Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens for Rod Langway (named captain only a few weeks later), Brian EngblomDoug Jarvis, and Craig Laughlin. This move turned the franchise around, as Langway’s solid defense helped the team to dramatically reduce its goals-against, and the explosive goal-scoring of Dennis MarukMike Gartner, and Bobby Carpenter fueled the offensive attack. Another significant move was the drafting of defenseman Scott Stevens during the 1982 NHL Entry Draft (the pick was made by interim-GM Roger Crozier, prior to Poile’s hiring). The result was a 29-point jump, a third-place finish in the powerful Patrick Division, and the team’s first playoff appearance in 1983. Although they were eliminated by the three-time-defending (and eventual) Stanley Cup Champion New York Islanders (three games to one), the Caps’ dramatic turnaround ended any talk of the club leaving Washington.

The Capitals would make the playoffs for each of the next 14 years in a row. They became known for starting slow before catching fire in January and February. However, regular-season success did not carry into the playoffs. Despite a continuous march of stars like Gartner, Carpenter, Langway, Gustafsson, Mike RidleyDave ChristianDino CiccarelliLarry Murphy, and Kevin Hatcher, Washington was knocked out in either the first or second round eight years in a row. In 1985–86, for instance, the Caps finished with 107 points and won 50 games for the first time in franchise history, good enough for the third-best record in the league. They defeated the Islanders in the first round but were eliminated in the second round by the New York Rangers.

The next season brought even more heartbreak, with a loss to the Islanders in the Patrick Division Semifinal. This series was capped off by the classic Easter Epic game, which ended at 1:56 am on Easter Sunday 1987. The Capitals had thoroughly dominated most of the game, outshooting the Islanders 75–52, but lost in overtime when goaltender Bob Mason was beaten on a Pat LaFontaine shot from the blue line. For the 1989 playoff push, Gartner and defenseman Larry Murphy were traded to the Minnesota North Stars in exchange for Ciccarelli and defenseman Bob Rouse, however the goaltending once again faltered and they were eliminated in the first round by thePhiladelphia Flyers. The Capitals finally made the Wales Conference Finals in 1990, but went down in a four-game sweep at the hands of the first-place Boston Bruins.

Eastern Conference champions[edit source | editbeta]

Then in 1998Peter Bondra’s 52 goals led the team, veterans Dale HunterJoe Juneau and Adam Oates returned to old form, and Olaf Kolzig had a solid .920 save percentage as the Caps got past the Boston BruinsOttawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres (the latter on a dramatic overtime win in game six on a goal by Joe Juneau) en route to the team’s first (and to date, only) Stanley Cup finals appearance. The Capitals won six overtime games, three in each of their series against the Bruins and Sabres. However, the team was outmatched by the defending champions, the Detroit Red Wings, who won in a four-game sweep.

That same season, Oates, Phil Housley, and Hunter all scored their 1,000th career point, the only time in NHL history that one team had 3 different players reach that same milestone in a single season.[1]

Disappointments and rebuilding[edit source | editbeta]

In 1999, the team was sold to a group headed by AOL executive Ted Leonsis. The Capitals went on to win back-to-back Southeast Division titles in 2000 and 2001, yet both years lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the 2000–01 season, Adam Oates demanded a trade but management refused and stripped him of his team captaincy.

Washington moved into the Verizon Center in 1997.

In the summer of 2001, the Capitals landed five-time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr, by trading three young prospects to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jagr was signed to the largest contract ever in NHL history – $77 million over 7 years at an average salary of $11 million per year (over $134,000 per game), with an option for an eighth year. However, after Adam Oates was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals failed to defend their division title and missed the playoffs in 2002 despite a winning record. Still, the 2001–2002 season marked the highest attendance in franchise history, drawing in 710,990 fans and 17,341 per game.[2]

Before the 2002-03 season, the Caps made more roster changes, including the signing of highly regarded Robert Lang as a free agent, a linemate of Jagr’s from Pittsburgh. Washington returned to the playoffs in 2003, but disappointed fans again by losing in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning after starting off with a two-game lead in the best-of-seven first-round series. The series is well-remembered for the three-overtime Game 6 at the then-MCI Center, the longest game in the building’s history, which was eventually decided by a power play goal by Tampa.

In the 2003–2004 season, the Caps unloaded some of their high-priced talent — not just a cost-cutting spree, but also an acknowledgment that their attempt to build a contender with high-priced veteran talent had failed. Jagr had never lived up to expectations during his time with the Capitals, failing to finish among the league’s top scorers or make the postseason All-Star Team. The Caps tried to trade Jagr, but as only one year was left on the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement before it expired, few teams were willing to risk $11 million on an underperforming player. In 2004, Jagr was finally sent to the New York Rangers for Anson Carterand an agreement that Washington would pay approximately four million dollars per year of Jagr’s salary, with Jagr himself agreeing to defer (with interest) $1 million per year for the remainder of his contract to allow the trade to go ahead. This was quickly followed by Peter Bondra going to the Ottawa Senators. Not long after, Robert Lang was sent to Detroit and Gonchar to the Bruins. The Robert Lang trade marked the first time in the history of the National Hockey League that the league’s leading scorer was traded in the middle of the season. The Capitals ended the year 23–46–10–6, tied for the second worst record, along with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Alexander Ovechkin era (2004 – present)[edit source | editbeta]

In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals won the Draft Lottery, moving ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins who had the NHL’s worst record, and selected Alexander Ovechkin first overall. During the NHL labor dispute of 2004–05, which cost the NHL its entire season, Ovechkin stayed in Russia, playing for Moscow Dynamo. Several other Capitals played part or all of the lost season in Europe, including Olaf KolzigBrendan Witt, and Jeff Halpern. The Capitals’ 2005 off-season consisted of making D.C.-area native Halpern the team’s captain, signing Andrew CasselsBen ClymerMathieu Biron and Jamie Heward, and acquiring Chris Clark and Jeff Friesen via trade.

Dainius Zubrus set career highs with the Capitals in 2005-06 season.

The Capitals finished the 2005–06 NHL season in the cellar of the Southeastern Division again, with a 29–41–12 campaign, having 12 more points than the 2003–04 Season, good for 27th out of the 30 NHL teams. Yet the team played close in every game, playing in 42 one-goal games, although losing 2/3 of those games. Ovechkin’s rookie season exceeded the hype, as he led all 2005–06 NHL rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots. He finished third overall in the NHL in scoring and tied for third in goals; and his 425 shots not only led the league, but also set an NHL rookie record and was the fourth-highest total in NHL history. Ovechkin’s rookie point total was the second-best in Washington Capitals history, and his goal total was tied for third in franchise history. Ovechkin won the Calder Memorial Trophy, beating out Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby and Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Many longtime Capitals had career years, with Dainius Zubrus netting 57 points, Halpern having a career-best 33 assists, Matt Pettinger putting in a career-best 20-goal, 38-point effort and seven others on the relatively young team topping 20 points for the first time. Two notable landmarks were also hit by Capitals, as the team’s longest tenured Capital, Olaf Kolzig, won his 250th game in goal and Andrew Cassels became the 204th player to play 1,000 games, although he did not finish out his season with the team. A notable first was that Washington area native Jeff Halpern was named captain of his hometown Capitals. At the 2006 trade deadline, March 8, Brendan Witt was traded to Nashville.

In the 2006 offseason, Halpern left the Capitals to join the Dallas Stars; Chris Clark became the Capitals’ new captain. Richard Zednikreturned to the Capitals in 2006–07 after a disappointing 16-goal, 14-assist season in 2005–06 with Montreal, but was later dealt at the trade deadline to the New York Islanders after a disappointing and injury plagued season; the Caps also signed former Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Donald Brashear.

Yet the Capitals finished with the same point total (70) in 2006–2007 as they did the year before, although they won one fewer game.Alexander Ovechkin was the Capitals’ lone representative in the All-Star game. The year was also notable for the breakout of Alexander Semin, who notched 38 goals in only his second NHL season.

The Capitals signed Swedish phenom Nicklas Backstrom, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, to a three-year entry-level contract. They also signed 19-year-old Semyon Varlamov to a three-year entry-level contract. They then went on to fill needs at defense, by signing puck moving defenseman Tom Poti, right wing, by signing Viktor Kozlov, and center, by signing playmaker Michael Nylander. Because of these signings there was much more hope for the 07–08 season and players were looking towards the playoffs.

Alexander Ovechkin won theHart MVP Trophy in 2008, 2009 and 2013.

After starting the season 6–14–1, the Capitals fired coach Glen Hanlon and replaced him withHershey Bears coach Bruce Boudreau on Thanksgiving Day, 2007. On January 10, 2008, the Capitals signed Ovechkin to a league-record $124 million contract extension; at 13 years, it also had the second-longest term of any contract in the NHL, after New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro‘s 15-year contract.

Despite the Capitals’ young defense and injuries to key players such as Michael Nylander and Brian Pothier, Boudreau engineered a remarkable turnaround. Aided by key moves at the trade deadline (Matt CookeSergei Fedorov and Cristobal Huet), Ovechkin’s league-leading 65 goals,[3] and Mike Green‘s NHL defenseman leading 18 goals, the Capitals won the Southeast Division title for the first time since the 2000–01 NHL season, edging out the Carolina Hurricanes for the division title on the final game of the season. Their remarkable end of season run included winning 11 of the final 12 regular season games. The Capitals became the first team in NHL history to make the playoffs after being ranked 14th or lower in their conference standings at the season’s midpoint.[4] The Capitals drew the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, and managed to force a Game 7 after being down 3-1 in the series. They ultimately lost to the Flyers 3–2 in OT.[5] After the season concluded, Boudreau’s efforts were rewarded with a long term contract.

The accolades for the team continued to grow after the end of the season. Alex Ovechkin won the Art Ross Trophy, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award. Ovechkin became the first player in NHL history to win all four awards in the same season. He also was the first player to win an MVP award in any major sport in the Washington, DC area since Joe Theismann won the NFL MVP in 1983. Moreover, he was named an NHL First Team All-Star and became the first player since 1953 to be named as such in each of his first three years in the NHL. Nicklas Backstrom was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, but ended up second to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane; however, Backstrom was still selected to the All-Star Rookie Team. Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award for NHL best coach. Ovechkin and Mike Green were named to the Sporting News All-Star Team, with Ovechkin being the Sporting News Player of the Year.[6]

The 2008-09 NHL season was highlighted by the play of Green (who was the third of the Capitals’ 3 first-round selections in Ovechkin’s draft year) and Ovechkin. Green led all NHL defensemen in goals and points. He set the record for the longest consecutive goal scoring streak by a defenseman with eight games. Ovechkin won his second Hart Trophy, his second Lester B. Pearson Award and his secondMaurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. The Capitals finished the regular season with a record of 50-24-8 and a team record 108 points, and they won their second consecutive Southeast Division championship. They defeated the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs 4 games to 3, overcoming a 3-1 deficit. The Capitals were then defeated by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in seven games.

The Capitals finished the 2009-10 NHL season regular season first in the league with 121 points and won the Presidents’ Trophy. Ovechkin lead the team in points with 109, and finished as the third highest goal scorer, despite playing 9 games fewer than the league leaders Sidney Crosby and Henrik Sedin. Backstrom finished with 101 points, fourth most in the NHL. Once again, Mike Green led all defensemen in points, finishing with 76. The Capitals also dominated the plus/minus category, finishing with 5 players in the top six.[7]Despite having a top-ranked regular season, they were defeated by the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington won the 2011 NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.

The 2010-11 NHL season saw the Capitals repeat as the Southeast Division champions and the top team in the Eastern Conference with 107 points. The season was highlighted by their participation in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at Heinz Field. However, the Capitals’ playoff disappointment continued. After defeating the New York Rangers in five games of the first round, they were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Capitals made a splash in the 2011 Free Agent Frenzy, signing Troy Brouwer (a restricted free agent in a trade from Chicago) and Roman Hamrlik to two year deals, Joel Ward to a four year deal and brought former captain Jeff Halpern back with a one year deal on July 1. Tomas Vokoun, the top free agent goaltender, signed with the club on July 2 to a one year contract. Christian Hanson, son of Hanson brother David, joined the club on July 10.

The Capitals started the 2011–12 NHL season with a record of 7-0, but they only won five of their next 15 games. As a result, General Manager George McPhee fired head coach Bruce Boudreau and hired Capitals legend Dale Hunter to replace him.

By the end of the 2011-2012 season, the team’s top two goaltenders, Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun, were injured and the Capitals were required to lean on their goaltending prospect Braden Holtby to help the team into the playoffs. The Capitals made a strong push and finished with the 7th overall seed in the Eastern Conference and drew the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first-round. The Capitals shocked the NHL by defeating the heavily-favored Boston Bruins in 7 games on an overtime goal by Joel Ward. Young goaltender Braden Holtby was remarkable in his first-ever professional playoff series and outplayed defending Vezina and Conn-Smythe winner Tim Thomas for most of the series. Previously, no single series in the Stanley Cup playoffs had ever gone as far as 6 or 7 games while neither team ever held more than a one goal lead. For the first time in NHL history, the Bruins and Capitals completed an entire 7 game playoff series without more than a one goal differential.

The Capitals then advanced to the second-round to face the first seeded New York Rangers. The series took all 7 games, ending with a 2-1 Rangers victory at the Madison Square Garden. Following the season’s end for the Capitals, head coach Dale Hunter announced he would step down. Adam Oates was later named permanent head coach of the team.

The shortened 2012-13 season was a rocky start for the Capitals, managing just 2 wins in the first 10 games. Slowly, the team improved enough to land 3rd seed in the eastern conference. There were high hopes for the Capitals entering the playoffs as they were on a hot streak at the end of the season as well as Ovechkin’s offensive improvement. Unfortunately for Washington, the Capitals’ playoff woes continued as they were upset in the first round by the team that ended their season a year ago, the New York Rangers. The Capitals fell to the Rangers in 7 games despite having a 2-0 series lead and home-ice advantage.

Season-by-season record[edit source | editbeta]

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Capitals. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Washington Capitals seasons Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, OTL = Overtime Losses/SOL = Shootout Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L OTL Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
2008–09 82 50 24 8 108 272 245 1st, Southeast Lost in Conference Semifinals, 3-4 (Penguins)
2009–10 82 54 15 13 121 318 233 1st, Southeast Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 3-4 (Canadiens)
2010–11 82 48 23 11 107 224 197 1st, Southeast Lost in Conference Semifinals, 0-4 (Lightning)
2011–12 82 42 32 8 92 222 230 2nd, Southeast Lost in Conference Semifinals, 3-4 (Rangers)
2012–13 48 27 18 3 57 149 130 1st, Southeast Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 3-4 (Rangers)

Team colors[edit source | editbeta]

The Capitals took to the ice in red, white, and blue jerseys featuring contrast-colored shoulders and stars on the chest and sleeves. The team originally had red, white, and blue pants options, but quickly retired the white pants. The blue pants would eventually become the only option used.

Prior to the start of the 1995–96 season, in an attempt to modernize the look and improve merchandise sales, the team abandoned its original logo and color scheme in favor of a blue, black and bronze palette with an American bald eagle with five stars as its logo. The alternate logo depicted the Capitol with crossed hockey sticks behind. The new logos were viewed as being unpopular with fans[citation needed]. Prior to the 2000-01 season, the team retired its blue road jersey in favor of the alternate black Capitol uniform, but still kept the white eagle jersey for home games.

The Capitals unveiled new uniforms on June 22, 2007 which coincided with the NHL Entry Draft and the new league-wide adaptation of the Reebok-designed uniform system for 2007–08. The change marks a return to the red, white, and blue color scheme originally used from 1974 to 1995.[8] The new primary logo is reminiscent of the original Capitals’ logo, complete with a hockey stick formed by the letter “t”; it also includes a new feature the original logo didn’t have: 3 stars representing MarylandVirginia, and DC.[9] More simply, the stars are a reference to the flag of DC, which is in turn based on the shield of George Washington’s family coat of arms. The new alternate logo uses an eagle in the shape of a “W” with the silhouette of the United States Capitol building in the negative space below.

For the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Capitals wore a white jersey honoring its past with the original logo. The jersey resembled the one the franchise wore from 1974-1975 to 1994-1995. Instead of wearing the combination of blue pants and white helmets that the team used when it played at the Capital Centre, the Caps chose red pants and helmets for the New Year’s Day game.[10] The Caps wore the same jersey, minus the NHL Winter Classic patch, on February 1, 2011 to honor Hockey Hall of Fame winger Dino Ciccarelli.[11]

The Capitals announced on September 16, 2011 that it would wear a third jersey modeled after the Winter Classic jersey for 16 road games during the 2011-2012 season. The Caps will wear white helmets to go along with its red pants.[12]


Original logo 1974–1995 
Second logo 1995/96-2001/02 
Two hockey sticks crossed behind the image of the United States Capitol, with stars flanking it, a hockey puck at the front, and the team's name emblazoned across the Capitol.
Third home logo 2002/03-2006/07 
blue "W" and the silhouette of the United States Capitol in the negative space below.
Current alternate logo, 2007–present