Caps Winning On and Off the Ice

November 19, 2008 | Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals are off to a very good start on the ice with a 10-4-3 record that has put them at the top of the Southeast Division in the early stages of this 2008-09 NHL regular season. Off the ice things have been good for the team as well with attendance up quite a bit and many of the Caps receiving extra media coverage and recognition from the league. Last week Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s first star of the week and the runner-up was none other than Alexander Ovechkin, who received the second star. The prior week Caps goalie Brent Johnson received the NHL’s third star for his stellar goaltending. Clearly things are going well for the organization from a hockey standpoint.

As we all know the world of sports can at times be overly competitive, cutthroat, and downright cruel. How often have you picked up the sports page or checked out a sports web site and see it filled with stories of greed and/or criminal acts by players or management? Those things can get old fast and sometimes we can become numb to them, but believe it or not, there are a lot of good things going on in the sports world that many of its teams do that often goes unnoticed or unpublicized. Those of us in the media or blogosphere (or whatever it is called these days), are fortunate to have the local teams feed us with information that is not only about what they are doing competitively but even more importantly, what they are doing in the community for good causes. I and many of the people at WNST think it is worthwhile for fans to hear about the good things the teams and players are doing because to be honest, there is way more good than bad occurring despite some of the sensation grabbing daily headlines we all see and read on a consistent basis.

The Washington Capitals are certainly one of the teams doing lots of good things and given that it seemed like every third day or so I was getting a press release from the team about some significant charity event I felt compelled to pass on info on many of them in this forum. So tonight I am going to write about more Caps achievements and it has nothing to do with winning hockey games and more with supporting disadvantaged people or promoting research for critical diseases.

Basically, the Washington Capitals make a positive impact in the local community through the team’s nonprofit arm, Washington Capitals Charities and the team is dedicated to the enhancement and development of the community that has supported them for so many years. Since its creation in 2000, Washington Capitals Charities has raised nearly $3 million through various fundraisers, auctions, raffles and fan donations. The foundation has also donated more than $2 million to numerous charities. Some of the worthy nonprofit organizations that Washington Capitals Charities has given to include: Children’s National Medical Center, The Children’s Inn at NIH, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, H.E.R.O.E.S. Inc., the Washington Scholarship Fund, Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and local youth hockey leagues and schools throughout the D.C. area.

Probably the largest and single most successful Caps fundraiser support Washington Capitals Charities is the Caps Care Classic. This is a golf tournament that raised more than $180,000 through sponsorship, donations and an online auction this year which brought the grand total of funds raised during the five years of the event to more than $1 million. This money primarily goes to benefit the Children’s National Medical Center and Washington Capitals Charities.

Hockey Fights Cancer is a league-wide initiative founded by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association that brings the hockey community together to fight cancer, a disease that has affected so many individuals in the hockey family and beyond. Caps players, team personnel and front office staff actively participated in the initiative. Players’ helmets featured a Hockey Fights Cancer decal – lavender in color, representing all forms of cancer – on the back of their helmet throughout the month of October. Coaches and other team personnel participated in the cause while sporting commemorative Hockey Fights Cancer ties. During home games on Oct. 11, 13 and 18, the Caps hosted a player-worn practice jersey auction. The jerseys featured the player’ names and numbers screened in pink in addition to a pink ribbon. Several jerseys were auctioned off each night, and all money raised was donated to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. At the home opener on Saturday, Oct. 11, when the Capitals announced the attendance, they also asked fans to donate $1 upon exit, with all money raised going toward Hockey Fights Cancer. The Capitals raised nearly $30,000 this season.

Courage Caps is a program where 100% of the proceeds of the caps sold go to the Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times – during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease or injury.

Many sports teams participate in blood drives and canned food drives and the Caps are no exception. The Washington Capitals and Inova Blood Donor Services collected 415 units of blood at their fall blood drive at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, Oct. 25. With the overwhelming support of 462 Caps fans, the drive marked the most successful blood donation campaign hosted by the Capitals. The Caps and WFED 1500 AM hosted a canned food drive at the Caps game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on Nov. 8, to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. Caps fans donated 2,708 pounds of food, which more than doubled what was collected at last year’s drive. The Capital Area Food Bank also collected $2,248.31 at the drive, including a $1,000 check from Washington Capitals Charities. In total, nearly 9,500 meals will be provided with donations collected by the Caps. Capitals players’ wives Sasha Bradley, Danielle Johnson, Gwen Pothier and Didi Steckel greeted fans at the F Street entrance along with volunteers from the Capital Area Food Bank.

The list of other community wide efforts goes on and on:

Players donating tickets to needy children and soldiers (Ovechkin and Mike Green do this each game)

Visits to local schools (right wing Matt Bradley, defenseman Jeff Schultz, assistant coach Dean Evason and Slapshot visited H.B. Woodlawn Middle School in Arlington, Va. last Thursday, November 13th to kick off this season’s Caps Hockey School program presented by Chevy Chase Bank).

Skating sessions with youth hockey players (left wing Donald Brashear will skate with youth hockey players at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena located in Southeast Washington, D.C. on December 1st and the Great #8 hosted nearly 100 youth hockey players age 6 to 14 in the Crazy Eights Skills Session at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. on September 15th)

The team’s annual Toys for Tots Toy Drive with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves on December 12th

Providing hundreds of underprivileged children and their families with a sit-down holiday dinner (Green will participate in Miracle on Seventh Street for the third year in a row on November 27th)

Helping children with disabilities (“So Kids Can” is a program Green and Elliot Segal, host of DC101’s Elliot in the Morning show, have teamed up on to form a group created to help children with disabilities. Green and Segal announced their plans on the Elliot in the Morning show and will each donate $100 for every goal Green scores this season and $50 for every assist he has. Their contributions will double in the playoffs.)

Clearly there is a lot of good going on here and there is more to come from the Washington Capitals going forward. From owner Ted Leonsis, to the front office and coaches, the players, and all the way down to the fans the Capitals are making a significant contribution to the local community. The off the ice charity work is truly something special so the next time you are attending or watching a game rest assured there is more going on than just the hockey and all who are involved should feel a sense of pride. Winning hockey games is nice, heck it is really nice, but only one team wins the Stanley Cup each year so even if the Caps don’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup this spring you can rest assured that the team and its fans are still winners.