Editor’s note: At the end of this season, Michael “Mouse” McNealy will retire after a glorious 36-year career as Capitals bench security. Katie McNealy, Mouse’s daughter, writes a tribute to her dad.
If the McNealy household had an official sport, it would be hockey. Growing up as Mike’s daughter, it was almost mandatory that I, along with my sister Emma and brother Brendan, become die-hard Caps fans like our dad. He began working for CSC (Contemporary Services Corporation) in 1976 because his brother Brian and his friends liked working the concert scene and they convinced him to join.
Over the years, Mike worked as security for concerts, football games, and 36 years ago he began working at Capitals games. As his three kids got older, he made the decision to strictly work Caps games because he was coming home with bruises and awful stories about the concert scene, including the fights he had to break up. He also wanted to continue working for the Caps because he felt a love for the team. If I am speaking on behalf of our family — even though we haven’t met most of the players — the team began to feel like family to us as well.
In 2004, my grandfather (my father’s father) passed away after battling cancer for years. Before his passing, Paul Stewart, NHL Referee and founder of Hockey Fights Cancer, and my father got into a discussion about my grandfather’s cancer. Stewart asked my father for my grandfather’s address. About a week later, my grandfather received a note from Paul with a bunch of shirts and other items from the Hockey Fights Cancer organization. I know that surprise lifted his spirits.
About five years ago, my father had to undergo heart surgery to correct a heart murmur that he’s had his whole life. As he was researching surgeons, the Capitals’ team doctors put him in touch with one of the best surgeons in the area that also treats the team.
When he went in for his first checkup, it was apparent that this doctor was very hard to get an appointment with and that my dad had clearly received some help from the team in order to get in. As he was about to undergo surgery, he received a call from, former Washington Capitals defenseman Brendan Witt, checking in to wish him luck with the surgery. Witt also gave him some words of encouragement on behalf of the team.
On the lighter side, the team has also helped our family figure out our own heritage. My mom is very into researching our genealogy and had tracked down some family documents that were all written in Slovak. Former Capitals players Michal Neuvirth and Dainius Zubrus helped translate the documents for my mom so that she could continue into her research.
Not only does my family feel connected to the Caps through my dad, but so do my friends. I know their livers will thank them next season because the Michael McNealy Drinking Game will come to a halt. I have heard from numerous friends that they take a drink every time they see him on the screen.
My dad has also enjoyed reliving his funny team moments with my friends. There have been times where we’ve seen my dad double over on camera because Chimera has ball tapped him on his way back to the locker room. We’ve also heard the story of the team daring Alex Ovechkin to come out of the locker room and talk to my dad.
“Where are all the bitches at?!” Ovechkin once asked my father, when he was still new to the United States and learning English.
My dad can also now call numerous Caps fans his friends, whether it be season ticket holders that have sat around the bench area for years or fans that he has shared celebratory drinks with at Clyde’s after the games. I’ve been to Clyde’s with him and he’s like a local celebrity. We can’t walk in there without at least five people coming up to say hi and talk to him about the game. It’s also his spot to grab drinks with his buddy, Al Koken.
As my dad retires, after working for the team for the past 36 years, I know he looks forward to spending time with his family and welcoming his first grandchild, a boy, in August. I know he is also looking forward to relaxing at his retirement home in West Virginia with my mom, which is close enough where he can still pop into the city to actually attend a Caps game with his family rather than meet them after he’s done working.
Recently, the Capitals equipment staff gave my dad a retirement gift: a signed customized jersey commemorating his 36 years behind the bench. I know it meant the world to him.
My dad’s biggest wish (along with the rest of the DMV) is to witness the Caps win the Stanley Cup. My mom has known my dad for 44 years and has never seen him without his beard. If the Caps win the Stanley Cup, he has vowed to shave it completely off for the first time since he was 18. It might scare us all, but I know it would mean the world to him to keep up with that promise.
I love you, Dad. You’ve made us all very proud.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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