Wednesday, November 22, 2006

All I Want for Christmas is My 2 Front Teeth...

Introduce us to your team captain.

Let me first preface this by saying that in Washington, there is no question who the captain has been for the last 10 years - and he's not the guy with the 'C' on his chest. Olie "the Goalie" Kolzig is the longest-tenured player in franchise history, having been in the Caps system for 17 years and making it clear that he wants to finish his career in DC. He's always outspoken in the media but is tactful and direct, and very funny. He's known to be vocal both in the lockerroom and on the ice, and has broken quite a few sticks in his day.

When the captaincy was left vacant in the offseason, players were asked who should fill the role - without missing a beat, every single one of them (including the guy who would eventually wear the 'C'...I'll talk about him in a minute, I promise) said that it didn't matter because Olie was the true leader of the team. That alone speaks volumes...this is truly Olie's team.

Now, having said that, I have to say that this in no way takes away from the work of the current captain, Chris Clark. Those of you from Calgary probably remember him, and anyone who has been following DC-area sports over the last week (come on, you know you have the Washington Post bookmarked...) has heard of him. The recent media flurry wasn't for his stellar play on the ice, although it has been great, or for any antics off the ice, because there are none. No, it's simply because he blocked a shot.

With his mouth.

And stayed on the ice despite losing two teeth and fracturing his palate.


Said Olie Kolzig after the game,
"I've never seen anyone get hurt like that...[i]t was gory. To take a puck in the mouth like that is one thing. But to finish his shift, work his butt off to get the puck out of the zone, that's the reason he's our captain." Coach Hanlon said it was likely the most courageous thing he'd seen in hockey.

Clark's reason behind finishing his shift? "There was no sense in laying on the ice...[l]aying on the ice wouldn't have made me feel any better. That's never been my way to do it." He underwent intensive oral surgery the day after the game, which I won't describe here, then was upset when he wasn't cleared to play the next day.

But that's nothing new - Clark has been one of the tougher players on the ice and the most modest player off the ice since he arrived here last season. He has become a true leader of this young team and is a key part of the success of the Caps top line, which also contains Dainius Zubrus and Alex Ovechkin. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Caps have lost the last two without him in the lineup.

There was talk in the offseason that the new captain would simply be a placeholder for Ovechkin, someone to keep it warm until Ovie was ready. Don't get me wrong, Ovie will get the 'C' eventually, but Clark is so much more than just a 'C'-warmer. What Clark brings to the ice every night is a work ethic, an energy and an attitude that sets an example for everyone else in a Caps sweater.

He is truly one of the most underrated players in the league and one of my favorites.


Heather B. said...

I really think that if I fractured my PALATE(!) laying on the ice is the ONLY thing that would've made me feel better. That's crazy. Impressive but crazy.

Jordi said...

Dude that is truly hardcore. Finishing the shift? What about the blinding pain?