On the Caps and Chirping
"Guys say the most ridiculous things," Brian Pothier told me, when I asked him about on-ice chirping. "Matthew Barnaby called me ugly once. That was an interesting one. What am I supposed to say? I'm like, 'Yeah, all right man. You got me. Sorry dude. I didn't mean to offend you with my presence.' "
The Caps, several players said, don't have many chirpers, or yappers, or trash talkers, or whatever you want to call them. Donald Brashear, as previously noted, thinks the whole thing is kind of stupid. John Erskine, Pothier said, doesn't need to chirp either; "he just scares the crap out of you, you know what I mean, he scares the life out of you," Pothier said. "He gives you the look, and it's like, 'Oh, ok, I've got you.' "
Tom Poti regularly manages to irritate opposing forwards, but he said it's not with his mouth.
"There's a lot of guys that like to chirp and kind of trash talk, but that doesn't really accomplish much, in my mind," he said. "I'm not a guy that really talks too much out there, just trying to get under guys skin and be physical and kind of get in the way out there on the ice. That's kind of my job, is to get under the other teams' first line's [skin] and kind of annoy them and try to get them off their game. So the madder I get them, the better I'm doing my job, I guess."
And Pothier, too, said he's never been fond of on-ice chatter.
"I'm not a talker," he said. "I believe that if you're gonna yip or chirp, then you should be able to back it up, and I've never been a good fighter so I don't get into it that much. Guys that I know I'll give it to, have a little fun on the ice, or if a guy's diving or something, just have a little fun with him and yip at him. But I leave that to the guys who that's their job."
Even Caps players who are predisposed to conversating said they've grown quieter of late. Eric Fehr said he was always a chirpy player at every level of the sport, but that things changed once he got to the NHL.
"I stay out of the game now," he said. "I'm out of the chirping game. In juniors, I was big into it, and in the A even, but it's not worth it, it's not worth the time....When I got to the NHL I kind of gave it up. Because at the A, I was still a pretty decent scorer so you could kind of chirp then, but when you have 11 goals, you have nothing to say. You know, you're the guy getting chirped. So it's different."
(What would he actually say? "Usually there's a couple guys on each team that like to yap, and it's usually their scrapper or their [stuff] disturber, and you're just chirping," Fehr said. "You tell him how bad he is, how useless he is. I don't know, all kinds of stuff. It was pretty fun, but it gets you off your game a little bit.")
"When it's warranted," David Steckel said, when asked whether the Caps chirp. "It's not really like, 'Hey we're going into the game tonight and we're gonna chirp so and so.' It just happens."
Is there a difference between chirping and yipping? Pothier wasn't completely sure.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I just think of yipping as just never shutting up, you know, whining at the refs all the time, just complaining about everything, just a whiner. And then guys who are chirping--it's similar obviously--but they're usually guys [who] just never shut up, they just try so hard to play the role as the agitator. Just wah wah wah wah. Shut up. It's annoying more than anything else."
When I asked a few players who chirped the most on the Caps, no names really came to mind. Pothier looked around the room and still didn't have a suggestion; "I'm trying to think of anybody," he said. "We're pretty good, man, actually I don't think we have anybody."
Which would be news to Bruce Boudreau.
"I think everybody chirps now and again," the coach said. "Every player on every team in every league and every sport does it, so whether I care or not, it happens, all the time."
I figured that the legendarily quick-witted, brutally honest and sharp-tongued Boudreau would have been an award-winning chirper in his day. Not so, he said.
"Maybe I grew into it, but on the ice, I wasn't very good at it," he said. "I was horrible."
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