Nathan Burchfiel had the opportunity of a lifetime on Saturday.
Nathan, and his lovely wife Natalie, were presented glass side seats for the Washington Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets game on Saturday from The Nellis Group — the real estate company they used to buy their DMV-area home a few years ago. But they weren’t any glass side seats. They were directly behind the Capitals bench where you could see them sitting behind Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery frequently during the telecast.
Naturally, I was curious about the once in a lifetime experience so I asked him about it.
What I learned is that you’re sitting so close to the ice, you start seeing the game within the game more than the game itself.
“It’s a really unique perspective on the game,” Burchfiel said. “You can’t actually see much of the ice during play because the players and coaches are in front of you. I did more looking back and forth from ice to big screen to track the puck than I ever do in higher up seats. But being right there made me realize how fast everything is moving and how little space there is.
“Guys are seemingly constantly coming on and off the bench and chatting with each other and the coaches,” he continued. “When I’m watching on TV or even higher up I’m following the puck more. This made me appreciate how much else really goes on all the time away from the puck.”
While the Monumental Sports Network production staff does an incredible job of producing games, there is minutia that we miss including player expression and interactions between the team.
“Early in the game, Alex Ovechkin missed a good chance where he hit the crossbar,” Burchfiel said. “He’s coming to the bench and just yells ‘f*&%’ really loud. Or after Hendrix Lapierre blatantly played the puck with a high stick late in the game, he was all ‘my bad’ and Sonny Milano and others were telling him it’s okay.”
There is also a constant communication and negotiation process that happens.
“During the game, I took a photo of Wilson and Strome working the ref a bit,” Burchfiel said. “Couldn’t hear what they were saying unfortunately. But obvious that’s what they were doing.”
One of the most notable moments of the Capitals’ 4-3 win came when Ivan Provorov scored at 7:01 in the third period to make the game 3-2. Carbery challenged the call on the ice for goaltender interference. He proceeded to call timeout before making the decision and looked at various replays on an iPad. Assistant coach Scott Allen also has a hearing device so he can listen in to feedback from the team’s goaltending coach and video coaches.
On another Columbus goal, a TV with a feed of the game that is installed underneath the benches had neon green text pop up that said GOOD GOAL.
“They do pick up the iPads a ton to watch replays,” Burchfiel observed. “And they toss them around like they’re towels or something.”
Burchfiel also noticed something special that Carbery was holding the entire game.
“He had a sheet of paper that looked like lineup info and for writing his own personal notes,” Burchfiel said.
One side had the headline pace and connectivity printed at the top — his personal themes of how he wants the Capitals to play as a unit. Underneath that, there appeared to be plays the Capitals would run off faceoffs and with breakouts. On the other side, there were lines so that Carbery could jot down his personal observations with a pen.
Anthony Mantha had a notable equipment malfunction during the action, taking a shot to his skate and having the skate blade fall off. It forced Mantha to crawl back to the bench where one player extended out his stick from the bench to pull him back like an oversized human fish.
Once at the bench, Mantha stood up and put his left leg out so a member of the equipment staff could slip on a new blade for him.
“I noticed one other player getting their blades changed earlier in the game, too,” Burchfiel said.
Finally, one other thing Burchfiel noticed was that Alex Ovechkin basically had an assigned seat.
“Ovi seemed to usually be at the end of the bench nearest the offensive zone and our seats were more in the middle so I didn’t see him a ton except for the pictures I took,” Burchfiel said. “This is well known too, but he really loves the smelling salts at the beginning of the game and every period.”
Full disclosure: Nathan is a close friend of mine who used to be one of the Brouwer Rangers. I did not know he was going to the game until I literally saw him on TV.
Headline photo: Nathan Burchfiel
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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