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Countdown to Caps Convention: Bondra & Kolzig

By Nicole Weissman

I’m taking a break today from my three-part series on Caps players who make good role models for kids – the third part is coming next week. With the Caps Convention coming up on Saturday, I have a few words to say about two Caps alumni who will be in attendance. 

Peter Bondra

503 career goals spanning a career that included the lowest scoring years in modern NHL history, the “Dead Puck Era.” If the number of goals is impressive, the style in which they were scored is even better. Peter Bondra’s blue line slapshot was perfection. It wasn’t the only trick Bondra had up his sleeve, but it was a heck of a good one. 

Bondra was Mr. Capitals, the face of this team for almost all of the 13 years he spent here. He was first on the ice and last off of it, and I think we have him to thank for the fact that that hardworking mentality is still with the Caps today.

I thought Peter Bondra would be here his whole career. I think we all did. And I was there at Verizon Center the night after Bondra was traded.  Normally, the walls are decorated with cleverly worded banners. That night there were no banners in the stands, save for one sign in the shape of a broken heart, with the number 12 in the middle. 

Olie Kolzig

If Bondra was the face of the Caps on the ice, Olie Kolzig was the face of the team in the D.C. community. He was a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender whose chant-worthy saves took us to our first and only Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, but even with those accomplishments, his greatest contributions were off the ice. Among other things, Kolzig co-founded  Athletes Against Autism and founded the Carson Kolzig Foundation for Youth Autism in honor of his son, who was diagnosed with autism during Olie’s time with the team. For his humanitarian work, Kolzig was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2006. He started a tradition of giving back that I hope will be with this team forever. 

The end of Olie Kolzig’s story is a sad one, too. Kolzig did not start during the Caps’ seven games against Philadelphia in the 2008 playoffs before becoming a free agent in July. For a goaltender with a flare for drama, going out without a bang was a terrible disappointment both for Olie and for his adoring fans.

If you’re going to Caps Convention, don’t miss the opportunity to meet these two great players. But that’s not why I really wrote this post. As a fan, I was disappointed by how these two players’ careers in D.C. ended. I think the fact that they come back here for events like this one is a testament to what great guys they are, and I think the long lines to get their autographs will speak to the fact that they are legends here. I encourage the Caps to make these two remarkable team members Capitals forever by retiring their numbers at the start of next season.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 1, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  | Tags:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  
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The difference between the two is that Bondra lives in the area year round, just like Mark Tinordi. Both had kids that played local hockey and both played for the Washington Jr. Nationals. Mark's oldest Jarred was drafted in the first round by the Canadians.

Kolzig, on the other hand, went back out west during the offseasons. Yes, he did a lot but Kolzig coming back is a short trip back here. For Bondra, he's at home. Yes, they both ended their careers not wearing Caps sweaters but they no longer fit in their roles and when you look at the stats they put up away from Washington, it was justified. The players were past their prime and should have called it quits but that's a common story among pro athletes. Trying to hold on for one more year of glory.

I am surprised however, that you didn't mention Mike Gartner coming back. If Bondra and Olie were the faces of the team, Gartner was the savior. He came along when the team was struggling, in danger of being sold and possibly relocated. Gartner's scoring ability brought excitement to Verizon Center and he ended with over 700 career goals, not too shabby. Gartner was part of the first Caps team to make the playoffs and though he never won a Stanley Cup, was part of the Rangers 1994 Cup winning team before getting traded at the deadline.

It's good to see that Garts is coming back for Convention, I hope to run into him there and thank him for saving the Caps. Because if not for Gartner, we're not talking about this right now!

Posted by: dj1123 | October 1, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

hey dj1123 - huh? ..."Gartner's scoring ability brought excitement to Verizon Center?

You mean Capital Center. Now that was a place to watch Caps hockey!!!!

Posted by: Nats1924 | October 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment, dj 1123 -- Gartner was actually the inspiration for the post.

It took the Caps 10 years after Gartner's retirement from the NHL to retire his number. Why the wait? I'd like to see Bondra and Kolzig honored while the memories are still fresh for their fans.

Posted by: nicko | October 1, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

dj1123: I think you're wrong on one count--the Caps could really have used Bondra in '05-06 and '06-'07 (ie, OV's first two years); not for sentimental reasons or to be a big brother to the youngsters, but as a decent point shot for the anemic power play which was agonizing to watch--he certainly would have been a better deal than the pointless parade of other veterans who paraded through here instead for at least as high a salary. (Of course, the real counter-argument is that it was better for the Caps in the medium-long term to stink up the league with two 70-pt seasons to get better subsequent draft picks.)

Posted by: jhershb | October 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@jhershb: The return for Bondra was Brooks Laich. Hated seeing Bonzai leave but it was a good move long term.

Posted by: ouvan59 | October 3, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, Capital Centre. Not Verizon Center, and I agree it was a great place to watch Capitals hockey. It always seemed louder and there's something about the concourse there where everyone mingled. Even those in the skyboxes had to come down at some point, right!

Bondra in his final two seasons, 97 games, 26 goals, 10 on the power play. Now, you sound like someone who was around in the 80's when the Caps made the playoffs every year, but never made a splash with a trade or draft pick. They were consistent, but never got better. They needed to strip everything and build from within, that they did. They wouldn't be as successful today with as much depth as they do today, had they tried to pick up a couple of players to win a few more games in years they probably weren't going to make the playoffs, and if they did, they'd be eliminated in the first round and get the same draft slots they did back in the 80's and early 90's. We wouldn't have Brooks Laich, and someone may still be stuck with a flat tire.

Posted by: dj1123 | October 3, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you guys mentioned the fact that Laich was who we got in exchange for Bondra -- I have a post coming up about all the trades that season, a sort of "where are they now, was it worth it?"

Posted by: nicko | October 6, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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