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An Interview with the World's Most Powerful Caps Fan

The experts are agreed: the Caps are hopeless. ESPN's John Buccigross has them 14th in the East. So does ESPN.com. So does SI. Fox Sports says 15th. So does USA Today. So does TSN.

My feeling: are these people crazy? Which part of "star player gets hole-in-one during first trip to a golf course" did they miss? There is a word for people who get holes-in-one on their first trip to a golf course while swinging a golf club like it was a lightsaber and occasionally whiffing. The word is charmed. Who cares if you have no defense? Look at the Wizards. (By the way, are there two teams in one city that play worse defense than the Caps (29th in goals against) and the Wiz (20th)? Campaign slogan: "Washington is Weak on Defense.")

I'm telling you, ignore the skeptics. This team has 12th or 13th written all over it.

For support, I turned to Maryland delegate Rich Madaleno, who is heavily favored in his current race for state Senate. His campaign bio describes him as "an always devoted, currently disappointed, but ever-optimistic fan of the Washington Capitals." I assumed he was the World's Most Powerful Caps Fan, but he told me that Maryland Comptroller candidate Peter Franchot is also a fan, and probably more powerful. "See, there's an underground hockey mafia that's running the state of Maryland," Madaleno said. Anyhow, this is sort of our season preview, in Q&A form:

So do you mention the Caps in campaign speeches or brochures?

Oh yeah. This year because I ran on a slate I didn't have the same amount of space as you would have when you have your own piece, but my door-knocking piece that I used last year ended with that line: that I'm currently disappointed but ever-optimistic fan of the Washington Capitals.

Did you get any feedback on that?

Not that I remember. But there were a few times, whenever I was door-knocking and I saw that someone had a bumper sticker on their car that said Washington Capitals, I would definitely bring it up. And whenever I saw something like a Flyers bumper sticker, I would call Child Welfare Services.

So you don't think being a Caps fan has won you any votes?

Oh it has. Oh definitely. Believe me, there were times when I saw a Caps bumper sticker on a car and I would go up and show my brochure, and maybe five or six times people would say, 'Great, you've got my vote.' Probably just about as many times as someone said, "You're Italian? I'll vote for you."

Has it lost you any votes?

I don't think so. I would have lost more votes on the whole dog and cat issue. Fortunately I have both dogs and cats; you're more prone to lose votes if you're a cat person to a dog person than on hockey.

If they have a bad season, does that reflect poorly on you?

I have to tell you, it doesn't take long for people who know me to get to know how engaged I am with the Capitals, and so it's been a source of endless ribbing from friends and colleagues.

Like in the legislature?

Yes. Fortunately there's no NHL team in Baltimore for me to be tormented about.

What do they say?

I don't know if you know P.J. Hogan, a senator from Montgomery Village. P.J. is from Pittsburgh and has in his office some Steelers and Penguins memorabilia, so he's fond of pointing out

to me about how we can't get past the Penguins. Usually people just tell me to try to find a real sport.

Are other legislators Caps fans?

Well I told you about Franchot. There's no one else that instantly comes to mind. I don't think anyone else has the Washington Capitals home page bookmarked.

And do you have, like, clothing or paraphernalia or anything?

I do have a Jagr jersey that I just haven't taken out of the closet for a while. In the office I've got my little commemorative banner from when they won the conference, I've got mini hockey sticks and I've got the puck I actually personally caught in the Stanley Cup finals.

Ok, the preview. What did you think about what they did in the offseason?

Well, in my humble opinion, they didn't do much. I was very sad to see Jeff Halpern go, because Jeff was living my fantasy: local boy who got to play for the hometown team. I thought they never marketed him to the degree that they could have, as far as being the hometown boy. So I was sad to see him go, and then I don't know, I guess the defenseman [Brian Pothier] that they signed from Ottawa? I mean, it's interesting, he was like the fifth defenseman in Ottawa and they have him plugged in as our number one defenseman. There was a piece in the paper I think on Tuesday that said Olie bought a new house in Potomac; hopefully he's got a place where he can get a lot of rest. I mean, the poor guy's gonna get a lot of action.

What about Ovechkin?

He's unbelievable. He's a joy to watch. What I was saying last year to people was 'Ok, maybe we're like Edmonton 25 years ago: we draft Gretzky one year and then Messier the next. We just have to find our Messier and this will be the beginning of our dynasty.

Does being a Caps fan frustrate you overall?

It's the cross I have to bear. But I try to convince myself, look at all these people in Boston and Chicago who went for years waiting for the Red Sox and White Sox to win. My day will come.

Can you compare being a Caps fan to being a Democrat?

I guess you have many more victories as a Democrat than you do as a Caps fan, which doesn't say much about the Caps right now, in this political climate.

Can you levy extra taxes on players who don't play well?

Well, no, but it's a shame the Capitals now play in the District of Columbia, because one of the things I always thought would be an excellent piece of legislation would be to charge a 10 percent surtax on all concessions purchases for anyone wearing a shirt or jersey for another team, and that would be immediately donated to charity. Just as a way to penalize people for wearing the stuff from the other team. I've got to tell you, none of my friends will attend a Penguins game with me any more because I have no patience for Penguins fans.

What do you say?

You can't print it. I usually try to point out the fact that if there were economic opportunities in Western Pennsylvania, they would still be living there. (Now if I ever run for national office, I'll never carry the state of Pennsylvania.)

Most of the predictions I've seen have the Caps finishing 14th or 15th in the East....

If we're 14th, who's 15th? Listen, the problem is, it's kind of humorous to say it, but we probably do play in the best division in hockey. Tampa, Carolina, Atlanta, they're good teams.

Give me a number.

I guess I'd look irrational to say first? I'm hopeful that we'll sneak in at seventh or eighth, that Ovechkin will continue to dominate, that, helped by a bigger curve to the stick blade, he will soar to new heights.

And in your race?

Considering I represent a district that's three-to-one Democrat, I should be in good shape. I should probably be making more people's winners list than the Capitals.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 5, 2006; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Comments

Ovechkin is a blessing to have in D.C. It is a shame nobody is interested in the Caps. You could not ask for a better superstar. He has amazing skill (could end up being one of the best ever down the road), is a very kind person, has a great personality, and is just a natural when it comes to sports. A hole in one the first time playing golf? You have got to be kidding me!

Posted by: Mike4169@aol.com | October 5, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Maybe the most powerful Caps fan (I'd say that Ted's more powerful), but not the best fan or smartest.

Only has a Jagr jersey? Was that a freebie to get on the bandwaggon? Where's the old school Hunter or Gartner jersey.....or a Halpern jersey. You want to be in the state legistlature and promote the homegrown talent, why not one of those?

And not understanding the Pothier move is a classic example of a guy who just reads the Post coverage of hockey. (which is decent in terms of the Caps but not so much for the NHL).

I wonder how much money Maryland loses becuase of the Caps move to Arlington?

Posted by: Kim | October 5, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Easy Kim. He also has an old red, white and blue jersey. I think he might have more than that, too; I kept interrupting him so he couldn't always say all that he wanted. Bear in mind that the answerer is always limited by the questioner. Madaleno has been going to Caps games since his mother bought a partial season-ticket plan in 1980. I think he's a legit fan.

Posted by: SportsBog | October 5, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Let me attack....let me cause controversy....let me cause division.

Posted by: Kim | October 5, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I suggest that the soon-to-be-state-Sen. burn his Jagr jersey at about 7:07 tonight. Just the way to kick off the season!

Posted by: Tyler Green | October 5, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Pam, I thought politics brought out the emotions. Wow. Dan is correct. I have five jerseys from over the years. Three are nameless, one Jagr, and one Kolzig. Mostly gifts from relatives. A piece of Caps clothing is a safe bet for a Christmas gift from my mother or aunt. I once received a Caps tie from a boss. Dan did not insert a link to the profile the Post did of several fans, including me, when the Caps made the Cup finals a few years back. No bandwagon jumper here.

My insights about the Caps are more reliant on the Post these days as work and child have cut into my hockey time. And, I agree with you that it is unfortunate that the practice facility moved to VA. Many of the Caps lived, and may still live in, Anne Arundel County because of the proximity to Odenton. Over the years, I have seen many walking the streets in Annapolis. I am sure I was the only person who knew Adam Oates, Olie Kolzig and others out of uniform. In fact, Callie Johanssen was a regular in a Swedish restaurant on State Circle for years. I used to get my inside info from him but that source has dried up unfortunately.

Posted by: Rich Madaleno | October 5, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Not a bad call, Tyler. Those things are a blight on the local sports paraphenalia world. I'm still amazed to this day to see how many of them were made and moved in such a relatively short time span.

Posted by: Goat | October 5, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Rich, no disrespect intended, just some good ol'internet fun. ( I wouldn't expect Dan to interveiw someone who isn't ....Do you know who the King of the Jungle is?).

I also meant to congratulate you on the Stanley Cup puck. Sadly, that's not from a winning trip.

Though you should have gotten yourself a Halpern jersey.......(that and Kono are among the favorites in my collection).

Posted by: Kim | October 5, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Goat, I think you can still walk into almost any Modell's in the area and come out the owner of a #68 jersey.

Posted by: Kim | October 5, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Such a great interview - it's nice to know there are at least five or six other serious Caps fans out there. And it'll be nice to have friends in high places. Next stop: a Caps fan in the White House! (Actually, I'll settle for a Democrat...) Once the Caps start winning, the bandwagon fans will come out of the woodwork, and I will welcome them with open arms...even if they're wearing a Jagr jersey.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 5, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Rich,

According to the Caps message boards, you've got a handful more votes now just due to your Caps fandom.

Posted by: Kim | October 5, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

See...I NEVER gave in and bought the Jagr...and made it clear to the family that it wouldn't be a good Christmas/Birthday gift. I could never get over my loathing of him. I'm glad he flaked out here! Good riddance!

My only jersey is a throwback red. I haven't decided if it's going to end up being a Gartner or Ciccarelli. (I think Dino)

Posted by: Dan F. | October 5, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Hey...all you need is a stitch-ripper...and a #68 jersey becomes a #8 jersey!

Posted by: Dan F. | October 5, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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