In his playing days he was known as “The Secretary of Defense” but almost 19 years after he left the Washington Capitals organization he has been brought back and named as an “Ambassador to the Capitals.”
Of course I am talking about Rod Langway, the player who helped to save this franchise in the early 80’s leading them to their first ever NHL playoff berth in 1983. #5 would play 11 more seasons after that initial campaign in 1982-83 with Washington and the Caps made the post season every year he put on the red, white, and blue. On the list of most popular Capitals of all time, he was number one until that Gr8 guy came along.
The two time Norris Trophy Winner and Hall of Famer will represent the team in the community and spread the Capitals brand as well as grow the sport of hockey. He will work with various ice hockey and street hockey clinics, including visiting schools in the area, making special presentations at Caps games and attending community events.
Having worked as a team statistician on game nights for the Caps for 11 plus years, it is extremely nice and satisfying to see owner Ted Leonsis bringing back guys who wore the sweater that I grew up watching, then working for, and now covering for WNST. With Langway as Ambassador, Dale Hunter as head coach, and Olie Kolzig as associate goaltending coach, the Capitals have brought three of their most popular retired players into the fold in the last calendar year.
Langway and Hunter played in what I still say was the most important playoff game in franchise history, the 1988 game seven 5-4 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, where #32 potted the series clincher on Ron Hextall. Long time Caps fans never get tired of seeing that highlight. That season the Capitals had a very good chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals but when Langway was cut in the back of leg by Pat Verbeek’s skate in game one of the Patrick Division Finals, their chances of winning it all went out the window.
In 1990 Langway scored arguably his biggest Capitals goal ever notching an overtime tally against the New York Rangers to give Washington a commanding 3-1 lead in that second round playoff series. The Capital Centre went nuts that night after #5 pinched on the boards to take the puck from Mike Gartner and then potted one top shelf like he was Mike Bossy. The Caps would knock off the Blueshirts in game five and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. Unfortunately injuries to Dino Ciccarelli, Kevin Hatcher, and then Scott Stevens did that club in. The man known as “Rocket” had his last real chance at a Stanley Cup ended in 1992 when the Caps lost a 3-1 first round series lead to the Penguins, who would destroy everyone else en route to their second NHL title. One of the big disappointments for Langway in his career had to be not bringing a Stanley Cup to the Nation’s Capitol (he did won two with the Montreal Canadiens).
But now he, Hunter, and Kolzig are all back trying to bring this franchise its’ first ever championship. It is a great thing to see and Leonsis and Team President Dick Patrick have to be awfully proud that these former stars are now back in the organization. It also says a lot about the class and loyalty of the two men at the top of the Washington Capitals food chain.
Notes: Defenseman Mike Green traveled with the team to Florida and could see action on Washington’s four game road trip. The first tilt is Friday night at 730 pm against the Panthers. A regulation victory by the Caps puts them just two points behind the Cats in the Southeast Division race…the team recalled center Keith Aucoin from Hershey…the Capitals raised over $350,000 for Washington Capitals Charities at last Friday night’s Caps Care Casino night.