Brooks Orpik played his last season of hockey in the NHL during the 2018-19 campaign with the Washington Capitals. A year prior, he was part of the first-ever Caps team to bring home a Stanley Cup championship to DC.
Orpik talked about winning with that Caps team with former NHL player Cam Janssen and St. Louis Blues reporter Andy Strickland on the Cam & Strick Podcast on Tuesday. The rugged blueliner discussed particularly what inspired the Caps to do their best to overcome a third-period deficit in Game Five against the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Cup.
Celebrating in Vegas.
In Game Five, the Golden Knights took a 3-2 lead into the final frame of regulation before goals from Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller vaulted the Caps into the lead.
Orpik, now a member of the player development staff in the Capitals organization, revealed that partying in Sin City helped fuel that eventual comeback victory.
“I remember we were down going into the third period and that may have come up in between periods,” Orpik said. “Like, ‘Hey, guys, let’s not screw this one up because we’re staying overnight here.’ I think only two guys slept and they were the only two guys that were late for the plane. Everybody else just stumbled right to it. It was awesome and all the families were in town. We did something with the families at the hotel right after and then after that it was just the guys. It was cool, we wound up going to Hakkasan and Ovi was buddies with Tiesto and he just happened to be playing there that night. It was a good night.”
Little did Brooks and the other Caps know, that was just the start of over a week-long party once the club returned to DC. A party that perhaps went a little too long for some of the group, but united them forever nonetheless.
“I’ll tell you, it was everybody,” Orpik continued. “It was such an awesome group. I will say we got to about day nine or ten and I think everybody was on the same page. It was like, I’ll pay whatever I gotta do to get out of this city now. My body literally is going to shut down. We had our fun.”
That bond still remains strong, too. Orpik conducted the podcast interview on the Capitals’ five-year Cupiversary last week and his phone was blowing up.
“I got a bunch of text messages on my phone because we still got an awesome group chat with the Washington team,” Orpik said.
The 2018 Cup victory was Orpik’s second opportunity to lift Lord Stanley after taking home the prize as member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. He won that first Cup alongside Sidney Crosby and then won his second with Crosby’s frenemy, Alex Ovechkin.
Orpik compared those two experiences and explained how Ovechkin’s victory felt like a full-on cathartic, emotional event for the Caps captain and postseason MVP.
“For Ovi, I think as excited as he was, it was almost kind of a feeling of relief more than anything,” Orpik said. “Because he had all that expectation, especially with Sid already having three under his belt, and whether it’s fair or not, those guys came into the league the same time and they were just always compared and held up against each other.
“Sid won it pretty early – it was a lot different feeling,” he added. I think it was just so much excitement with Sid and just the start of things to come. And, then Ovi, it felt way different. Maybe that’s why the partying was that hard in Washington.”
After that never-ending party with The Great Eight, Orpik played just one more year of pro hockey before calling it quits on a 16-year NHL career. Not long after he got a call from Caps general manager Brian MacLellan about playing a role in the future careers of Caps prospects.
Orpik accepted that position and remains part of the organization’s “Scouting Staff” in the player development department alongside other former NHLers Olie Kolzig and Jim Slater.
“When I got done playing, I had this idea that I was just going to take a whole year off, just slow down, and figure out what I wanted to do,” Orpik said. “Brian MacLellan came to me and I think he kinda knew that I’d probably get halfway through the year and drive myself crazy without having something with some sort of purpose to do. I did it part-time my first year, the player development with Washington, and then I started volunteering back at Boston College with Jerry York because I was going back to finish my degree.
“Then before I knew it I was doing the player development, volunteer coaching, and then trying to take a few college classes too. I went from thinking I was going to take a year off to having way too much on my plate and being way too over-committed, especially with two young ones. So, I stopped doing the college coaching just because it was too much, and really I wanted to be able to do the Washington stuff the best that I could and still have the flexibility with the kids’ schedule.”
Orpik once helped the Caps win a Cup on the ice and is now trying to do that again but this time off the ice. And, if he’s successful, probably with a little less partying.
Headline photo: Chris Gordon/RMNB
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