When Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin scored a goal in the third period of Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, the 700th goal of his storied career, the Capitals’ bench emptied as every player in a white jersey tumbled over the boards. In ye good olde days of hockey, that would have been a sure sign that a full-on brawl was about to begin.
This Saturday, and one other recent momentous moment in Capitals’ history, it was a carefully planned and pre-approved celebration that still felt like a spontaneous outburst of joy. AKA: a group hug.
Not too long ago, Ovechkin scored goal number 500. Completely unbeknownst to him, his team, the Capitals staff, and the NHL worked behind the scenes to engineer the first all-team hug — something that wouldn’t happen again for another two-hundred goals.
Because having too many men on the ice is typically a penalty, general manager Brian MacLellan had to make a few calls in order to make sure the Capitals wouldn’t be penalized for pouring onto the ice en masse. Alex Prewitt wrote about the work that went into it for Sports Illustrated in 2016.
“It began the previous night once the team flight landed at Dulles International Airport,” Prewitt wrote, “when general manager Brian MacLellan called the NHL and requested special approval for a special occasion. In the event that Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th goal Sunday night at Verizon Center, MacLellan wondered, could the Capitals empty their bench in celebration without penalty? Permission was quickly granted.”
Then-coach Barry Trotz tipped off some veterans, who tipped off other teammates, and soon everyone but Ovechkin was in the know. “If it happens tonight,” Trotz said, according to Prewitt, “let’s get out there as fast as we can.”
“It’s amazing,” teammate TJ Oshie said, quoted in a piece by Katie Brown for NHL.com. “[W]hen we all jumped on the ice there, we couldn’t contain ourselves. We had to get out there and celebrate with him.”
Four years and a bazillion few milestones later, the captain wowed the league one more time.
“We may never see another 700-goal-scorer,” Joe Beninati said, once again turning hockey commentary into tear-jerking poetry, “and he has just done it.”
The Capitals’ giant group hug, with their record-breaking captain in the middle of it, is one small, lovely way to recognize the place Ovi has in the NHL’s record books, and the place he has among the teammates that helped get him there.
Headline photo: MSG
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.