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Olie Kolzig Comes Back to D.C.

More of Kolzig from the archives. (1996 TWP photo by John McDonnell)

"Forget for the time being Alfie Turcotte and Alain Cote," my former colleague William Gildea wrote in October of 1989. "Picked up in deals this week, they've been shipped to the minor league Baltimore Skipjacks. But remember the name Olaf "Olie the Goalie" Kolzig. He's a story waiting to happen."

Ah, 1989: the Caps played in Maryland, the Redskins played in D.C., and I had yet to illegally embed my first video of burgundy and gold moving pictures. And sure enough, Kolzig became a bit of a story in these parts. I guess it's easy to over-hype such things for sportswriters--some Caps fans were none too taken with Mike Wise's homage to Kolzig this AM--but this whole Olie-returning-to-D.C. thing does have a different feel than, say, Juan Dixon facing one of the 13 NBA franchises he's played for in his career. Here's Thom Loverro, also writing Olie this AM:

From 1998, the year the Capitals went to the Stanley Cup Finals, until the emergence of superstar Alex Ovechkin last season as hockey's dominant player, Kolzig was the Capitals.

The joke in town used to be that a Capitals player could walk down the street outside Verizon Center and not be recognized. Not Kolzig - which is ironic because he was the one player who wore a mask that covered his face. He was often the spokesman for the team in the locker room and was so active in community service that he was the exception to that joke.

I'm not sure how widely recognized he would have been, but I agree that for the five-sport D.C. fan who follows the frozen water only casually, Kolzig was No. 1 on the Caps "name a player right now!" list for most of the past decade. At a minimum, his return makes tonight's game the second-biggest D.C. sports event of the next week, behind only Cowboys-Redskins the unveiling of George Mason's new mascot.

So in honor of that return, and in honor of me having nothing else to write about pointy-ball today, here's a story from Kolzig's first stint with the Caps. It's by Dave Sell; the date was Oct. 26 of '89, and the subject was another Kolzig departure from D.C.


WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, OCT. 25 -- At 19, Olaf Kolzig is old enough to have decided he is not yet old enough to be a member of the Washington Capitals.

"It was my decision," he said today of Tuesday's move from the Capitals back to his junior team in the Western Hockey League. "I felt the Capitals couldn't develop into a Stanley Cup contender with a 19-year-old goalie.

"I don't know that the situation was right to learn this year. If this were Toronto or Quebec, which are looking way into the future, then maybe, but Washington is an established team. I'll go back to juniors, develop my skills and next year I'll be that much better."

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Kolzig was the Capitals' first-round draft choice last June and the consensus was he was the best goaltender in training camp.

But the results of two regular season games were not immediately encouraging -- a 4-1 loss in Hartford and an 8-4 defeat Saturday in Toronto -- although support in both games was lacking. In addition, Don Beaupre has played well and emerged as the clear No. 1 goaltender, which means Kolzig would have had to do much of his learning in practice or by watching.

It's distinctly possible the Capitals would have made the same move in the next few weeks, regardless of Kolzig's opinion of himself. But when word got back to Coach Bryan Murray that Kolzig felt he wasn't certain he was ready for the NHL, Murray went to his young goalie and asked what he was thinking.

"Bryan called me over and explained that it was my decision," Kolzig said. "I'm just being honest with myself. It's not a question of doubting my ability and my confidence. I want the Capitals to go as far as they can and I don't know if that means using a 19-year-old in goal. I don't want to be there just to be a nuisance."

Kolzig was on the bench for Monday night's 3-3 tie in Calgary. He flew from there to Toronto, where he spent the night because his flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport was canceled. He was to begin the five-day drive back to Washington state today with his girlfriend, Christine.

Kolzig, who is a West German citizen and Canadian resident, has moved all over the world with his family, and he has enjoyed each new place. He was thrilled to have skated and been in uniform for the Capitals' game at Montreal's Forum.

"It was exciting," he said of his short stay in the NHL. "I'd love to stay, and, in a way, it will hurt to leave. I had a great time with the team and the NHL is the best there is. But I'm looking at the long term."

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 10, 2008; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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It's Monday, why am I the only one not doing work around here!?!?!

Posted by: ThisGuy | November 10, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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