When the Washington Capitals recently updated their practice schedule ahead of their Home Opener, the team’s skate on Wednesday had a surprising venue change. The Caps announced that they would take the ice at the Talbot County Ice Skating Rink. Head coach Spencer Carbery said that he believed getting players out of their normal routine will help them build camaraderie with each other.
While Wednesday was the team’s only listed day in Maryland, the Capitals ultimately left for the Eastern Shore on Monday afternoon (with their golf clubs in tow) for a three-day trip. The Caps’ itinerary provided ample down time for the players, which turned into a chance meeting of a lifetime for some Maryland Capitals fans.
Take longtime reader Drew and his son Elliot, a youth hockey player for the Easton Icehawks. Drew reached out to RMNB in excitement on Instagram.
“My son and I were getting ready to head out to meet a buddy of mine to go for a boat ride on the Choptank River to see tree swallows going to roost,” began Drew. “My buddy Matt lives in Cambridge and he popped into RAR Brewing to fill a growler before going to pick up his boat. The bar, as he put it, was filled with a bunch of guys, which he thought was strange.”
The bartender told Matt that those guys happened to be hockey superstar/global sports celebrity Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the 2023-24 Washington Capitals.
Drew’s bird-watching trip would have to wait.
“So Matt texted us,” Drew said. “My son immediately threw on his Capitals jersey, the same one he wore to the Game Five, Stanley Cup Finals viewing party in 2018, and was yelling at me, ‘Lets go!” We hurried over from Easton to Cambridge, walked in the door, and there the whole team was sitting around casually hanging out.”
The moment created memories the father and son would never forget. “It was surreal,” Drew said. “Elliot could barely talk, which is pretty unusual for someone his age.” For instance, Drew, who had been wearing a number 19 Capitals sweatshirt all day, was now rubbing elbows with THE Nicklas Backstrom in his neck of the woods.
“As soon as we walked in, Trevor van Riemsdyk looked at us and got this funny look on his face like you guys are in for a treat,” Drew said. “We spoke to the hostess who was going to seat us and then I saw Kuzy. I walked right up and started to chat. He was incredibly chill and told me about the practice at Easton Wednesday morning.
“My son saw Ovi sitting across from Kuzy and ran over. Ovi was super gracious, signed his jersey, and later took the selfie with him. Ovi took the pic. Elliot even asked him for hockey advice.”
Ovi told Elliot, “Just go for the puck as hard as you can.”
Drew described the experience as “kind of a blur” due to how much it meant to both him and his son. Drew remembers talking to John Carlson about his injury last season and telling Charlie Lindgren that he hoped he’d get more starts. He also recalled fondly of his son’s photo with Connor McMichael and the fist bumps he shared with Tom Wilson, TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary, Sonny Milano, Anthony Mantha, and Darcy Kuemper.
Drew also noticed that all the Russian-speaking Caps were sitting together as Alex Alexeyev and Aliaksei Protas stayed close to Kuzy and Ovi.
“There were just a few other people in bar too, which made it even more special,” Drew said. “For the most part, we just walked around with a sharpie and had the entire team sign Elliot’s jersey. It’s super sentimental because my late mother got him the sweater and now it’s signed by the entire team. We’re going to frame it with the photos to create a Caps shrine in his room. Elliot could barely contain himself.”
This is, in essence, the type of good will and community building that makes more hockey fans, especially in an area that rarely if ever has Caps appearances
While a bird-watching trip on the Choptank may sound like an easy sacrifice, the annual boat trip brings the family closer together through nature.
“At sunset, waves of blackbirds pour into the marsh,” Drew said. “As light fades, the sky fills with tree swallows. Right at last light, they spill into the marsh like water being poured out of a pitcher. One time a raptor tore through the giant flock and they split up and were flying all around us.”
But something tells me they made the right decision.
“My son kept saying over and over, ‘This is the best day of my life.'”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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