Brooks Orpik officially hung up his skates on Tuesday, but was back at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex again the very next day. The expectation was Orpik would not be at camp, instead flying home back to Boston.
But wearing a black t-shirt that read “District of Columbia” on the front, the retired veteran defenseman stood behind the bench and observed behind the glass as he watched prospects for over an hour do skating drills in at Development Camp. At one point, he turned to a Capitals staff member to ask the name of one of the players on the ice.
It was a sight that has sparked discussion among Capitals fans wondering if one day they might see Orpik behind the bench in a coaching role.
Speculation about Orpik’s future in hockey after retirement began in March 2019 when the Capitals defenseman was voted third-most likely by his peers in the NHLPA poll to become a general manager after retiring.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Orpik said that he wasn’t interested in stepping behind the bench yet, citing his desire to spend more time with his young children.
“Not right now. With coaching it’s the exact same schedule plus more hours, so that’s something that’s important to me right now,” Orpik said. “I’ve got two young girls that I think I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff over the years so moving forward, something that allows me to travel less and be around them more.”
Orpik said that he spoke to the Capitals prospects who are participating in Development Camp. He advised them to use the resources and experience of the camp wisely.
“I got drafted in 2000. They didn’t have Development Camp. They didn’t have Rookie Camp. I was talking to some of them today. My first day as a pro was the first day of main camp. I don’t care how confident you are, you’re pretty nervous,” Orpik said. “This is a luxury these guys have. There’s a lot of resources. I think to just use it wisely.”
Orpik has been a part of meetings early on in Development Camp. Capitals head coach Todd Reirden praised Orpik’s natural mentorship.
“The thing with Brooks Orpik is I don’t have to ask him to talk to anybody, and he just does it. That’s who he is,” said Reirden. “I’ve seen him in more conversations, whether it was last year or the year before. In the ten years I’ve known him, he’s always had the desire to grab, in particular, a young defenseman and talk to him…It’s something that makes a huge difference in these young players, not just on the ice but off the ice.”
One such young defenseman is Alex Alexeyev, the Capitals 2018 first-round draft pick, who said it was good to hear the advice of the veteran who played 15 seasons in the NHL.
“He’s always giving some advice like how to prepare, how to do things. Because he’s played here 15 years in this league. He knows things.”
Reirden shared an anecdote that he said is still talked about by the Capitals strength coaches to this day. He said Orpik doesn’t even need to speak to make an impact. One of Orpik’s former teammates learned just by watching him work.
“I’ve seen it, everything from an 18 or 19-year old player watching [Orpik] in the gym–waiting until he got done with his workout, out of respect he didn’t want to be in the gym with him,” said Reirden. “Then I watched the 18 or 19-year old player do exactly the same exercise that [Orpik] did and try to duplicate it.”
Orpik, who is named after “Miracle on Ice” coach Herb Brooks, said that he doesn’t yet know what the next chapter in his life is going to be.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, yeah,” said Orpik. I’ve had a lot of people reach out and offer to give me opportunities. Not really jobs but kind of help me decide what I might want to try. There’ll be those opportunities, but like I said, I’m not in any rush.”
He added to Capitals senior writer Mike Vogel, “If that’s something that people think I can add value to, it’s definitely something I would consider,” Orpik said. “I guess that’s part of the reason why I came down here Sunday for this Development Camp, was to kind of see what some of the people here do.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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