When Montreal traded Rod Langway to the Caps
The Caps have never played Montreal in the playoffs, have no geographic or cultural rivalry with that city, and are perfectly happy playing the half smokes to Montreal's poutine.
But there's at least one indelible hockey transaction linking the two franchises: Montreal provided D.C. with Rod Langway, this city's first hockey icon.
The trade (which happened in mid-September of 1982) was clicktastic in Montreal; four news stories in the Gazette, a Red Fisher column, and a headline stripped across the front of sports: "Canadiens Make Blockbuster Trade." (See the image at Habs Eyes on the Prize.)
And in Washington? Somewhat less so, although the "Capitals Trade Walter and Green to Canadiens" headline did make the sports front:
In the most significant trade in the history of the franchise, the Washington Capitals yesterday sent Ryan Walter, the team captain, and defenseman Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defensive all-stars Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, center Doug Jarvis and forward Craig Laughlin.
"This trade makes the Capitals competitive," David Poile, Washington's new general manager, said at a news conference at Capital Centre. "We've added four quality players. For the first time in Capitals history, we have a defense."
The best part of the story was a Langway quote from a Montreal radio station; he told the station that he was "ecstatic," and that Habs exec Irving Grundman had made "the worst trade in the history of the NHL."
By the next day, Coach Bryan Murray was expressing concern that his team was too confident, so excited was everyone about the talent infusion.
"All of a sudden we're talking as if we're in the Stanley Cup, and it's not meant that way at all," he said. "Maybe we'll be a top 12, or top 10 team, but I don't want to think too far. The pressure will really be applied to this team now. But it's a positive kind of pressure."
Two days later, everyone reported to Hershey for training camp, and the newcomers were all quizzed about their reactions.
"I know the Montreal feeling," Laughlin said. "Once you play there, wear a Canadiens' uniform, you get a feeling that every time you play, you have to go out and give better than 150 percent. You just go out and win. Maybe Washington didn't have that."
"Winning and losing are kind of trends," Engblom said. "You've got to break one to get into the other. It's time for the Capitals to break a trend."
"Washington got a great deal," Langway said. "Here I know I'll have a chance to bloom."
Langway, in fact, had wanted a trade to the U.S. for tax issues. But he said that city still had a certain allure.
"They, meaning Montreal, make an average player look better because of the quality of play," he said. "Some guys think it's just as good to sit out in Montreal as it is to play any other place."
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