Craig Laughlin, Passing the Torch to the Next Generation

If you follow Washington Capitals hockey then you know the voice and commentary by Craig Laughlin on NBC Sports Washington. “Locker,” as he is known by his fans, played six seasons with the Caps in the 1980’s before retiring from playing hockey in 1989. We say retiring from playing because Craig has never retired from hockey! For him, hockey is clearly “in his blood.”

Craig began his NHL career as a 10th round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1977. Another “face of the Capitals,” Hall of Famer Rod Langway was part of the 1977 draft, also selected in the second for Montreal. Laughlin played 36 games with them and ended the season with 23 points. The 25-year old right wing made the transition to the Caps in 1982, along with Langway. They joined up with some of the most notable players in Capital’s history, including Bob Carpenter and Mike Gartner. By the end of his first season he had recorded 44 points, seventh highest on the roster. This was the team that led the Capitals to the playoffs in 1983, for the first time in franchise history.  Locker played in all four games and scored his first playoff goal in the process!

Craig Laughlin went to the big show seven times but never made it to the final round with the Washington Capitals, the LA Kings, or Toronto Maple Leafs who he played for in 1987-88 and !988-89 respectively. He scored six goals and had six helpers for a total of 12 points in 33 games. He played a total of 549 NHL games in his career and ended with a nice 341 points (136 G 205 A). An all-around solid player, in his high three seasons he scored 20, 22, and 30 goals. He understands how difficult a hurdle it has been for the current legion of Capitals to make the leap to the final round.

1982 was a time of change for the Washington Capitals. Ted Starkey wrote about owner Abe Pollin’s vision to turn things around for the Caps. According to Starkey, Pollin had four criteria to meet to secure the future of the team, which was playing in Landover:

A season-ticket base of 7,500, (an increase of nearly 70 percent over the 4,200 the team had in 1981-82;

Selling out the team’s first 10 games;

Having the Capital Centre’s rent reduced by the arena’s bondholders;

And Prince George’s County reducing the entertainment tax on Capitals tickets from 10 percent to 0.5 percent for the next three years.

Craig Laughlin was part of the team that turned the tide and made hockey an exciting sport in the District-Maryland-Virigina (DMV) area. Those years with the Caps left an imprint on his life. Although he went on to play with other teams, he was drawn back to Washington, writing articles for the Washington Times and with his wife Linda’s encouragement accepted an offer from Home Team Sports which later became CSN. And as they say, the rest was TV history! Caps hockey would not be the same without Locker and his buddy JoeB.  Chcek out the video from the 1996-97 talking about Adam Oates and Peter Bondra.

The analysis and color commentary he provides night after night for the Washington Capitals has forever endeared him to the Caps Community. He may not always get the names right – we have gotten used to BEAR -a-kovsky for Andre Burr-a-kov-ski. Maybe it is just all part of his way of giving players and friends little nicknames. Either way – fans love his game calling and he and Joe Beninati were seriously missed by fans during the final round. Not to fear, Craig shared his excitement on Twitter:

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In the video “Growing Up Hockey” with former CSN reporter Jill Sorenson, Craig talked about his start skating at the young age of three and the way his dad created ice for him in the backyard. He talks about the passion his father had and that he clearly passed on to his son. Craig has passed that enthusiasm to his daughter Courtney who plays hockey and can often be seen on NBC Sports Washington as well. This is a true hockey family and they are a part of the Capitals history and of their future as well.

Craig, as seen in this video with studio mate Alan May, puts his time and energy in developing young players and helping them to realize their dreams. He is often part of the hockey camps at Kettler Ice Plex  and around the DMV. He has worked with the young children to college-age skaters, sharing his experience and expertise to help them hone their skills. And as you can see from the video, he does it with the same enthusiasm we hear on the air and the same positive energy that encourages success. Craig, and his wife Linda, work year round educating players through their educational program: Network Hockey Development Program (NHDP). They work with PeeWee AA to professional athletes, educating, coaching, and advising aspiring players.

You can be sure that if his fellow alumi are in town or hosting an event, he will be hanging out with them – laughing it up and having a good ol’ time! If you are up at Kettler for practice or see Locker walking around Capital One Arena, be sure to say “hey” and tell him how much you appreciate what he has done and is doing for hockey in the DMV. And be sure to tell him how much you love his commentary. He’s a great guy and we are blessed to have him as part of our community.

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