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Caps Way-Back Machine: Tony's Zamboni

Craig Berube dances with Viacheslav Fetisov.

If you can't tell, I'm sort of phoning it in today. But jeez, it used to be nice when Kornheiser would write for the paper, huh? Love him or write snarky blog items to leech off his name, you have to admit that there's no one currently getting paid by writing for our section who would approach a playoff series quite like this. Full disclosure: he was by a million feet my favorite thing about the Post when I moved to D.C. right around the time this column was written.

This is from June 9, 1998, the first day of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings. Like today, it was a day full of life, and springtime, and optimism, and large quantities of beer. One more even more way-backer item, coming soon.

By Tony Kornheiser

My friend Mitch Albom, the Detroit sportswriter, had me on his radio show the other night and asked me how I thought the Stanley Cup finals would go.

"Detroit in four," I said.

Mitch was distraught. "I've been doing the show for two hours," he said, "and everybody is picking Detroit. I hoped somebody would pick Washington."

"Sorry to disappoint you," I said. "I could make some calls."

Washington, I explained, hasn't been a hockey town.

You say "forechecking" here, and people automatically ask: "Is that interest bearing?"

Back up, Tony, you picked Detroit in four? You picked against Our Caps?

No, no. I just did that because I was on radio in Detroit. You think I want some crazy Red Wings fan coming here and heaving an octopus at my car? I would never pick against Our Caps.

My Caps!

And so I am hereby announcing the opportunity of a lifetime, your chance to get aboard the Official Vehicle of The Stanley Cup Finals:

Tony's Zamboni.

Yes, Tony's Zamboni. Mobile Home of the Stanley Caps. Group rates available.

Motto: "Shtick Save, And It's A Beauty!"

(Somebody go tell Wilbon that he's at the wrong series. At this rate the Capitals and the Red Wings will both outscore Utah.)

Now you might ask: Isn't it a bit late for me to be firing up the Zamboni? I mean, I could have gassed up this thing when the playoffs first began.

Yes, I could have. But at the time I was laboring under the foolish misconception that the Caps might not actually get this far. I don't know why I would've thought that. It's not like the Caps haven't gotten to the Stanley Cup finals in, oh, 24 years, is it?

But the point is I am here now. I am on Tony's Zamboni.

When it comes to leading this parade, I am so far out in front not even George Michael can catch me. (Though, believe me, if the Caps start taking on water, I'll jump off this bad boy so quick it'll be doing donuts on the ice.)

I am the Caps' biggest fan. I love these guys. Huntsy, Oatesy, Hinky, Dinky, Parlez-Vous.

Yesterday evening, The Post's promotion department hung a gargantuan "Let's Go Caps" banner on the side of the building facing M Street. How dare these arrivistes? Don't they know that I am the official Caps hand puppet?

Hockey is my life. I've gone to every home game since last Tuesday.

I just have one question: What exactly is "boarding"? Will the Caps take my dog?

I know what you're thinking: But, Tony, how can we beat these guys? The Red Wings are the defending NHL champions.

They are?

I mean . . . yes, they are.

(Forgive me, I haven't been as deeply involved in hockey as perhaps I should have been. I don't understand, for example, why it's pronounced "Eye-zerman." From now on should I spell my name Kornyzer?)

Ah, yes, Detroit -- Hockey Town USA. Where else would the fans rush out of their seats after a goal and toss an octopus onto the ice? What would we throw here in Washington, red tape?

The Red Wings have those great Russian players. They have the finest coach in NHL history, Scotty Bowman. They have pretty darn cool uniforms. And, obviously, they have lots of recipes for calamari.

But they are vulnerable in many ways.

First of all, the Red Wings must be unbelievably overconfident. There's no way they could have ever thought they'd wind up playing the Capitals for the Stanley Cup. Normally, the only cup the Caps are involved with in June is one with a flagstick in it. How could the Red Wings take the Caps seriously? We don't even take the Caps seriously.

Secondly, the Red Wings have Brendan Shanahan. You remember Shanahan, don't you? He's the mope who was desperate to get away from the Hartford Whalers -- but he made it clear he didn't want to be traded to Washington, because he said Washington was a dump. Well, Mr. Geography Major, what are you going to do during Games 3 and 4, sit in a tanning booth in Flint?

Thirdly, we've got Olaf The Goalaf, who stops everything. They've got Chris "Oops" Osgood, who lets them in from so far away, Peter Bondra could score on him from USAir Arena.

Plus, the psychological matchup favors the Caps. This is Washington, D.C., capital of the United States. Detroit has all those Russians: Fedorov, Fetisov, Larionov, Kozlov, Mironov, Ustinov and Stroganov. Hockey is a Cold War. A Cold War. Need I say more, Boris?

Yes, what on earth are you talking about?

Never mind.

I just hope I don't jinx the Caps.

Last week, as I was driving out of MCI Center after the Caps' Game 5 loss to Buffalo, some punk in a Capitals jersey started screaming at me: "Kornheiser, you're a jinx. Don't come to any more games, you ----!" (I didn't catch the exact word, but it sounded like Donald Duck.)

I was outraged. I wanted to reason with the young man by backing my car up over his feet. But I simply drove home and stewed. Me, a jinx?

It's a forlorn feeling. And you know who feels it?

Abe Pollin.

He's afraid to go to road games.

"They're 7-1 without me," he said. "So I'm staying home."

Imagine that. Abe sinks all this dough into the hockey team, and he can't even go to the first Stanley Cup finals he ever made.

"So what do you do, watch on TV?" I asked him.

"No, I can't," he said. "I'm too nervous."

He watches just long enough to get a score, then changes the channel. He keeps peeking in every so often for a score update. God only knows what he's watching the rest of the time. If he's like my dad, it's the Weather Channel.

True story: In one of Abe's channel-flipping sorties during last week's Game 6 in Buffalo, he found that the game had gone into overtime. He was too nervous to watch. A few minutes later Abe got a call from his son Jimmy in Florida.

"We won, Dad! We won!"

That's how the owner of the Washington Capitals found out he was in the Stanley Cup.

That's why I'm putting a car phone on Tony's Zamboni. To call Abe.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 11, 2008; 10:14 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Classic Kornheiser. Maybe he's stopped writing for sports so he can go back to his first love: The Style Section

Posted by: JDP | April 11, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

They are buying this guy out?

Posted by: | April 11, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Two words. Essa Tikonnen!!

Posted by: A Hardwick | April 11, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

For all the great Caps coverage by the Post this week, this one is a big step back. Thanks for reminding us of this dark time where, with Tony at the lead, this paper repeatedly derided hockey and demeaned its fans for loving the sport.

I don't want Tony's Zamboni anywhere near this playoff run.

Posted by: pepper | April 11, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"What would we throw here in Washington, red tape?"
hmm . . .

Posted by: honed | April 11, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Translation: "I support my team, but not in front of other teams' fans..."

I remember reading this back when it was written. It's the reason I can't stand Kornholer to this day. Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by: HolyOlie | April 11, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

dude can write...

Posted by: littles | April 11, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

THIS is the reason some of you can't stand Kornheiser?

Hockey is a second-rate sport in this country. It's a great thing to make fun of.

That said, go Caps. I've been behind the team ever since I heard Wale was.

Posted by: KC in HD | April 11, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh, great memories of the TK I used to like, and the articles he used to write.

Now he just sucks. There are many other things I'd like to say, but I'll respect the readers...

Posted by: Sam | April 11, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

When are going to make a TK tag/category for this blog...

Posted by: WaPoLiveFan16 | April 11, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

car phone? even in '98 that was a dated reference, wasn't it?

i remember watching one of the games in this series (Game 2?) while also trying to watch a World Cup game at the same time (must have been tape delayed). naturally we missed like 4 consecutive goals in the hockey game, flipping back every time to see a celebration or a new score splashed on the screen.

Posted by: jamie | April 11, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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