place on the D.C. beltway in the late 1970s. The Capital Centre might as well have been on another planet for a kid from Dundalk. And this was still a few years before the Colts were ripped out of Baltimore but right around the same time that Bert Jones got hurt and Bob Irsay was drinking a fifth of vodka every morning before lunch.
I loved hockey but Baltimore couldn’t keep a team. My Pop took me but he was never truly excited about taking me. It wasn’t his thing. He was actually motivated about the Baltimore Blades in 1976 but that passed as quickly as Howe and Gretzky came and went. Downtown was dark and dodgy. And cold. And empty. He felt vulnerable waiting on a bus. And there weren’t a lot of people who went to those games.
But we did.
And when the Minnesota North Stars lower-level minor league affiliate appeared in 1979 and run by an old hockey player named Gene Ubriaco, from Sault Ste. Marie and a former member of the Oakland Seals, we started going to games again at a time when my Pop would take me to 40 Orioles games a year. Cable television appeared the next year and suddenly the New York Rangers games were beamed into my house via MSG Network and Channel 20 was on cable making the picture viewable.
Meanwhile, my Pop was trying to figure out how an adopted Dundalk kid with Venezuelan Hall of Fame baseball roots could possibly love ice hockey? In those days, sometimes he’d take me down to a morning skate and a guy like Kim Spencer or Henry Taylor would give me a broken stick or a logoed puck coming off the ice as a prize for my childhood stalking of sports.
I started connecting with Washington Capitals games in 1978 and 1979 when my Pop’s antennae on the roof could get games on WDCA-Channel 20. In 1982, I finally attended my first Caps game against the legendary New York Islanders team when I talked my Pop and my stepbrother into a Tuesday night cheap ticket up in the red seats. I’ll never forget my first sight of that magical baby blue ice in Landover and the chill of the arena and the bright lights on the ice in an otherwise dark, cavernous coaster of a building watching Bossy and Trottier, Potvin and Smith.
In 1984, when Tom Robinson of The News American walked me into the Skipjacks press box, it changed my professional life because no one around any of the newspapers in town really wanted to cover the lowly