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Bloodied Caps fan: "I thought I was a goner"

Larry Cafritz has Caps season tickets in Section 107, but for his father's 80th birthday celebration, he had a party of 13, and needed more tickets. The Caps helped him get 13 seats together, high in Section 104.

That's where the Cafritz Party was seated a week ago Sunday when a Flyer knocked a puck over the boards, over the net, and into the head of Jimmy Cafritz, the guest of honor, a former neighbor and friend of Abe Pollin.

"Never saw it coming," the elder Cafritz told me this week. "The blood was gushing out of my temple....I thought maybe I was a goner, that might be it."

Cafritz's wife was sitting next to him; her hands were covered in blood. Caps and arena staffers rushed over and helped stopped the bleeding; soon, they were calling Cafritz a legend and telling him he should be out on the ice. Eventually Cafritz--who praised the staffers for his treatment--was escorted out of his seat and down to the service level; on his way out, he got an ovation. He said he waved to the crowd, and the fans stood and gave him another ovation.

"Boy, that was a thrill, the feeling of going out like a hero," he said with a laugh. "It made me feel good, to get a little recognition, [18,000] people, a standing ovation for me. That was wonderful."

A doctor inside the arena patched Cafritz up, and sent him by ambulance to Washington Hospital Center. He said the wound "wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it was pretty painful." One of his relatives, meantime, stopped off at the Sports Authority to get Cafritz a hockey helmet, which all his relatives signed. He got a CAT scan and three stitches--yes, just three--and then went home to eat dinner.

"We had 13 people with us, the party was still going," he explained.

Was this puck victim a newcomer to Caps games? Um, not really? Cafritz bought a tiny stake of the team in the '70s through his lawyer, David Osnos, who was one of Pollin's representatives. He was on the team's Board of Directors from 1975 through 1999, regularly watched games in the owner's box--though he preferred being closer to the action--and saw every version of this franchise, in both of its arenas. And he likes what's happening about now.

"It's amazing; finally a hockey town," Cafritz said. "[In the early days '70s] we made the playoffs every once in a while. I was still excited, but we weren't like Montreal or the islanders or the Flyers. We were second-rate. Ted really has done a great job."

And is he scared to go back? Um, not really. He said he was "very impressed, happy and satisfied" with how he was treated, and he said he plans on going again soon, and would have been at Saturday's meeting with the Coyotes if he hadn't had a conflict.

"It could happen to anybody," he explained. "I would go back in a second."

Since he was at the game to celebrate his birthday, the team put up Happy Birthday wishes during the second intermission. Cafritz missed that part of the festivities, since he was bleeding profusely at the time. But he has the puck that beaned him and photos of the incident, and he plans to frame the whole deal.

"It's like getting a hole in one in golf," he told me. "I'll never forget this [birthday]. This was one I'll never forget."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 26, 2010; 9:27 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Peter Vecsey unloads on Wise


Awesome work, Dan. Great read.

Posted by: smperk | January 26, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Another reason to hate the Flyers. Go Caps!

Posted by: rmontcal | January 26, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Cafritz gets hit in the head with the puck on his 80th birthday, has to go to the ER at Washington Hospital Center and get 3 stitches and a CAt scan and then says "It's like getting a hole-in-one in golf!"

i love hockey fans.

Posted by: bacaje | January 26, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Really, what a great guy he must be - there are surely people out there who instead of reacting the way Mr. Cafritz has, would be preparing a lawsuit.

Posted by: David90 | January 26, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

When I used to attend Bruins games at the Boston Garden with my father back in the '60s and '70s, he'd often say "And another lucky fan gets a souvenir in the mouth" when a puck would go into the crowd.

Posted by: billmelater | January 26, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

That is a great article! :-)

Posted by: irockthered | January 26, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Caps first made the playoffs in 82/83, not the 70s.

Other than that, great article......well done.....

Posted by: CF11555 | January 26, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Great post. I almost forgot about this incident. Mr. Cafritz sure is a tough old guy.

If a similar incident (old guy getting injured) happened at a Redskins game, Dan Snyder likely would require all fans over the age of 65 purchase overpriced helmets to remain in their seats. I bet Ted Leonsis does something far more classy - if he has not done so already.

Posted by: HeShootsHeScores | January 26, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Not surprised that there was a lot of blood. Skin on the head is pretty thin, and there are a lot of blood vessels there. I hope he's fully recovered. We need to figuratively bleed for the team. Leave the actual blood flow to Matt Bradley.

Posted by: EricS2 | January 26, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Nice story... I hope the team offered to replace his blood-stained jersey; perhaps with one of the "off-the-back" of the player of his choice variety.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | January 26, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

we shouldn't celebrate this guy because he should have been watching the game and thus would have seen the puck.

don't make him a hero for not paying attention and watching the game.

Posted by: pittpimp66 | January 26, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I was at that game and remember a point in which everyone started randomly cheering. Glancing over that direction I saw people being "escorted" out. I just figured it was a bunch of rowdy drunk Flyers fans being shown the door. Guess I'm sorta out of touch with some things being way up there in 431.

Posted by: Rainier1 | January 26, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Now I wanna' get hit in the head with a puck. =(


Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | January 26, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Sure thing, pittschmuck. The only way an 80 year old man can get hit by a puck is if he's not paying attention, AND your eyes are locked on the puck every second of every game, AND being glad he's okay is the same thing as making him a "hero".
Pound sand, toolshed.

Posted by: redlineblue | January 26, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I've never seen anybody so happy to have head trauma.

Posted by: large23220 | January 26, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

He was indeed gracious and smiling upon his exit and we participated in the standing O. Glad to hear he is doing fine. What a birthday! And how interesting that he used to be on the board.

I wonder if he has ties to the Cafritz Foundation?

Thanks for the update!

Posted by: CapsChick | January 26, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

@redlineblue - perfectly said, thank you!

Posted by: yosemite_sam | January 26, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Once again, I appreciate the truth in labeling as practiced by pittpimp66. Nobody said Cafritz is a hero. Celebrate or not as you want. Leave others do as they please. As for you, you ought to celebrate that you live in the DC area as opposed to Pittsburgh. Let's see, Pittsburgh has good sports teams and... well that's about it.

Posted by: chopin224 | January 26, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Just to give credit where credit is due. My seats are right across the isle from where he got hit. I saw the puck coming and I was like that might have a chance of coming up this high and sure enough (unfortuantly) did. Anyhow at first unlike the article mentions the first ones to respond to Mr. Nichols where a couple of fans that are EMTs.Just thought theyd deserve a thank you as well.

Posted by: washingtoncapitals | January 26, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Dan Steinberg--- This is the first hockey anything that I've read (the title intrigued me) - but wow hockey fans are kinda different than basketball fans, huh? Everyone here is nice and positive and complimentary. If this were a Wizards post, all the commments would be "The old guy sucks. And so do you, Steinberg." It's just amazing the difference. (Oh, except for the nutball who's upset that the guy wasn't paying attention to every second of what by definition is an incredibly dull sport - also he might have been paying attention; these things move fast and he's 80).

However, since I am a basketball fan and not a hockey fan, I do have to ask - what's with the photo ads (ie, the HUGE name of the photographer and website)?? It's obnoxious and looks horrible. And what makes Cheryl Nichols think that she is the one photographer in the world who can put her ads on the TOP of the photo, as opposed to the bottom right corner. I mean, seriously, it's kinda crazy. Is the reader supposed to think: "Oh my gosh, awesome, Cheryl Nichols took a photo!!!! Plus there's some bloody old guy there."

Posted by: Urnesto | January 26, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

My fault I posted Mr. Nichols name accidently. Should have been Mr.Cafritz

Posted by: washingtoncapitals | January 26, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

That is once cool old dude.

Posted by: jpfterps | January 26, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I've heard people say that more things to be done with hockey protection but from what I understand this was sort of a freak accident.

Posted by: Dlewis10 | January 26, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Tough as nails. Hope I'm like that at 80.

Posted by: TheRealDuffman | January 26, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Another outstanding story, Steinz! Keep 'em coming. And for Mr Cafritz and his family, happy birthday, and keep coming back for more...enjoyment of the games, that is, not getting beaned. ;-)

Posted by: aphid69 | January 26, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Great work, Dan.

I was sitting nearby. I've never seen a puck come into the crowd with that much velocity. The way it nicked the edge of the glass and turned was like a careening bullet richoting to a place behind the screen where a puck would not be expected.

I couldn't see him when he was down, but the look of horror on the face of the woman sitting in front of him when she turned around is frozen in my memory. I'm not surprised to read there was gushing blood. It showed on her face.

Then we watched the flurry of people going to help. When he emerged with the bandaged head and waved to the crowd, it was great.

If they have video of that, it would be a great addition to the "unleash the fury" montage.

Posted by: justkiddingdc | January 27, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Great piece, Dan. This guy has the best attitude in the world. I wish we were all a little bit more like Jimmy Cafritz.

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | January 27, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

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