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Caps, pizza and video games

Welcome to Washington Capitals preseason practice, live from the Ashburn Ice House, where the parking lot is filled with European luxury cars, the lobby is filled with video games and killer-claw-of-death stuffed animal temptresses, the upper level is filled with reposing European figure skaters and the stands are filled with Caps fans eating slices from Pomodoro Pasta, Pizza & More, conveniently located next door.

The stands a few minutes ago were also filled with some young, hip looking fellows who I assumed were college kids with nothing else to do, but who turned out to be recently cut Washington Capitals. "Recently" meaning a couple hours ago. The six I joined were given the word mid-morning: that there were too many bodies for today's scrimmage and not enough spots, and that they were being sent down. Some will go straight to Hershey, others will rejoin their junior teams.

I really wanted to talk to Oskar Osala, a Finnish left wing with a t-shirt directing the world to check out this Web site, which appears to be the campaign site for Heidi Hautala's ill-fated Green Party presidential campaign. (She came in fourth in the first round of voting. Her Slogan: "Defending Finnish well being requires tackling global ill-being.") Heidi, I'm happy to note, also opened a vegetarian restaurant at one point. (Things you don't learn at Redskins practice, incidentally.)

I asked Oskar to explain the shirt, before I had become such an expert on Finnish politics, but he declined.

"Everybody's asking," he said. "It means something in Finnish, I can't explain."

If there's something more to it that I'm missing, I would ask any Finnish political experts to help out.

Anyhow, the other five players who had been cut were all Canadian: Daren Machesney, Sasha Pokulok, Francois Bouchard, Matt Stefanishion and Patrick McNeill. They didn't have to stay for the scrimmage, but Stefanishion told me they just like watching good hockey. And they acted like any other fans, gasping when Ovechkin danced down the ice and wincing at nasty collisions.

The players without local housing have been staying at a fancy hotel nearby; Stefanishion was now headed to Hershey to stay at another hotel. Eventually, he said, he would get a five-day warning when his hotel stipend was set to expire; "might as well live for free while you can," he said.

More to the point of the Bog, he had a hipster-style baseball hat for Pilsner beer, a Molson label I was not aware of. Great name, btw. Would love to talk to the marketing guy who thought that one up. Wonder why they didn't choose "Beer" as the name. (Pilsner "sparks pride in the down to earth values that endure in Western Canada," where Stefanishion is from, although he said he doesn't care for the stuff.)

His town in Alberta had about 700 people, his graduating class about 40 kids. And yet two of his childhood buddies are in NHL camps: Richard Petiot with the Kings (although he recently blew out his knee) and Matthew Spiller with the 'Yotes.

"Good coaching," he said by way of explanation.

The six guys took off after the first scrimmage session, and I went to stare at the luxury cars in the parking lot.

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 19, 2006; 12:46 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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do they do much running at Capitals practice?

Posted by: wordylouis | September 19, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

So, Oskar Osala isn't a big Conan O'Brien fan?

Posted by: Kim | September 19, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Your coverage of Caps training camp rocks! There are few places that we can get this sort of 'behind the scenes' look at the players. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: scott | September 20, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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