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The Caps Flash Back

So, since the video won't be arriving until tomorrow AM, here's some more on the Caps' outdoor practice in the Chevy Chase area.

Basically, the party line seemed to be that this was a flashback to hockey youth. Whether this was the party line because uncreative hacks like myself went around asking all the players about their childhoods, or because playing outside actually made the Caps flash back to their childhood, is sort of unclear. But I think the latter. In fact, everybody was flashing back to their childhood.

"It's pretty awesome," said Official Caps Beat Writer Tarik El-Bashir. "It reminds me of my youth, growing up in Saskatchewan."

"Medicine Hat, right?" said Official Official Caps Beat Writer Mike Vogel.

"And then a couple years in Saskatoon," Tarik said.

Because I might never have another chance to post this. Hi Tarik! Hi, caphcky!

"Yeah, what he said," Mike Vogel said when I asked about his youth. "Except Michigan, Chicago and Boston."

As for me, it was Western New York, and everyone played indoors, although we did knock each other into some big snow drifts during winter street hockey games.

Anyhow, the idea for the outdoor practice came from GM George McPhee, who was asked whether this was a breath of fresh air for his team.

"Well, it's fresh air, all right," he said. "It's just nice to break the routine once in a while. We do have a long season, and every once in a while to do something a little different but still get in a good workout in is great for the players."

And then the childhood talk....

"I'm sure a lot of the players played in outdoor rinks when they were kids, whether it was in Moscow or Minnesota or somewhere in Canada," GMGM said. "We've all done it, and remembered the freedom, and sort of the unstructured skating we had in those days, and it's kind of nice to do that once again at this age. Probably makes them feel like a kid again."

I asked whether he himself was an outdoor skater.

Anyone for a radiator? GMGM? (By Rich Lipski - The Washington Post)

"Oh sure," he said. "We used to just go out and play for hours, and come home and take our skates off and put our feet up on the heater to warm them up, and be squealing because it hurt, because your toes were thawed out. We used to play for hours and hours. I think we'd all love to be out there."

I asked whether he was going to go home and put his feet on the radiator.

"Not today," he said. "Don't have a radiator. We did in those days."

More memories....

Ovie: "I play in Moscow outside a lot; right now I remember when I was young, me and my buddies, my friends, my father go to skate."

Steve Eminger of Toronto: "Go in for lunch, back on the ice, go in for dinner, back on the ice. It was an all-day thing."

Brooks Laich of Wawota, Saskatchewan: "We had nothing else to do but go play, have fun, and at the end of the night go home sopping wet and cold for a nice hot chocolate....Kids would stay out, it wouldn't matter if it was minus-20, minus-30, kids would still be out there, ski pants, toques, gloves, scarves, they'd be out there."

Anyone for hot chocolate? Laicher? (Reuters)

(Toques, for your heathen non-Canadians, are winter hats.)

"That's where you start the game, right there, stuff like that," Brooksie continued. "To be able to do it today in the NHL is pretty cool, pretty neat. We've come a long way, and it's nice to go back."

Any hot chocolate tonight? "No, I think I'm a little past that. It's a little nicer out here than what it is back home."

Bryan Muir of Winnipeg: "That's how it all started. Flashes of being a little kid when you come out here, sun in your eyes. Not quite as cold as Winnipeg, obviously, but it brought back some good memories....The ice was really good out here, I couldn't believe how good it was. When I skated in Winnipeg the ice, there was nothing artificial about it. It was just real ice, just put water down. We would go to the lake, it was great when the lake actually froze without snow on it. Just all day....Get there about 8 o'clock--I only lived about six blocks from the rink, so I used to walk--and the lights went off at 11. Eat a hot dog or two, and that's your day.

"It was just fun, that's all it was. You know, we all know it's a business, we get paid to perform, and I think there's a refresher there, that you can come out on a day like this and kind of forget about it and just enjoy the game. It does bring you back: some guys, lights and darks, and just go play a game."

Anyone for a hot dog? Muirsie? (Reuters)

Any hot dogs tonight? "No. Get a little different lunch here now, a country club, you can enjoy it a bit....The canteen lady used to know me."

Jamie Heward of Regina, Saskatchewan: "It brought back memories of the old pond days, playing with the kids on the farm, playing on the outdoor rinks back in Canada....In Canada that's all you have to do, it's that cold outside, there's snow on the ground, there's rinks on pretty much every corner, so yeah, it was just something that my friends and I did to kill time during the day. We were out there every night playing for pride, I guess, was all you could play for back then."

And are you faster indoors or outdoors? "I think I'm faster indoors. My feet get cold outside."

Brian Sutherby of Edmonton, Alberta: The outdoor rink "was a little walk from my house and I spent countless hours there. It kind of brings back some memories. A little nicer outdoor rink, though, than the ones I skated in.....Most of them didn't have glass. Just a lot of wood."

American Chris Clark: "You know, I used to skate on ponds, and we had outdoor rinks when I was in high school. We'd play, but it was never during the day like this, with the sun shining. It was always outside, with the lights."

Glen Hanlon: "It was more fresh air in one hour than I [get] all year when I'm inside all day long. We'd definitely, if the invitation is open, would like to come here again. It would be fun at night, too, it would be really fun.....I think for me this was an every day occurrence [way back when]. It's part of the game. I think even in Canada in the colder climates it's something that has gone by the wayside. It seems like everybody's ambition and goal now is just to play inside, and for myself we weren't even allowed to play inside until we were 7-years old, so these are great memories for me. And it's just unfortunate I'm so doggone old. It's hard to remember back that long. It'd be a little more vivid for some of these guys than it is for me."

And were the guys digging it? "I don't know. I was in too bad a mood to see if anybody was digging it."

That's for all you Caps fans worried that these guys weren't concerned about the loss to Tampa Bay. Trust me, they were concerned, when they weren't flashing back.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 20, 2006; 6:24 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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