Six More Years of Dima

By Brittney Marcum

As you all have probably heard, Dmitry Orlov signed a shiny new deal with the Caps today, extending his tenure in Washington by six years. We here at FiCP couldn’t be happier but rumblings around the Kettler Capital’s rink today were a mixed bag of emotions. Some people, like us, were extremely happy the Caps signed this dynamic D–man, while others were a bit more skeptical.-

The doubts that arose were not so much if he is skilled enough to continue with the Caps but more so the length of the contract. The doubts are not unfounded though; A lot can change for a player in six years and being so young, Dima definitely has a little growing to do. The same people were cautiously optimistic about TJ Oshie’s recent eight-year deal with the team, wondering if his point production and contributions would be that of last year for the following eight.

Only time will tell what becomes of the two…

The Details of the Deal:

Six Years: 30.6 Million

Average per year: 5.1 Million

Here are some of our favorite photos of Dima from over the years:

CONGRATULATIONS DIMA!!!

Let’s Talk Washington Capitals Coaches 

Every time the Caps fail to make it past Round Two of the NHL playoffs, the call for the coach’s head can’t be far away. This season is no different as we have begun to see the tweets in favor of replacing Barry Trotz are building as frustration is replacing tears and anger.

So let’s look back a few years on the Ovechkin Era and see what’s been going on. Ovi signed with the Caps in 2004 right before the 2004/05 season lockout. It was a pivotal time for the Washington Capitals. At that time George McPhee was general manager (GMGM) and Glen Hanlon was coach. Hanlon had been coaching the team since 2003 when he was promoted as assistant coach and replaced Bruce Cassidy. Hanlon had played in the league himself from 1977 to 1991; however, he was never on a Cup winning team. His stint as coach was memorable only for his losses and the sense of defeat the fans felt as the result of his coaching.

That takes us to Bruce Boudreau. He too had played in the league. He; however, had no NHL coaching experience. What he did have was a winning record with the AHL affiliate team, the Hershey Bears. After seven years he took the team all the way to win the Calder Cup in 2006. The hope was that he would bring the winning skill he demonstrated in Hershey to Washington. Fans were pretty excited with this change and hope seemed to be all around the team. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green—The Young Guns—the Caps were primed for lifting the Cup.

Or so we thought.

BB would quickly become part of the “Building America’s Hockey Capital” strategy of owner Ted Leonsis.  It was a pretty remarkable time for the Caps. He helped them win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. He gained notoriety as the “F-bomb coach” when HBO followed him around during the Caps first Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a game that would excite Caps fans and dismay Pens fans as the Sidney Crosby hit and subsequent concussion would haunt the team ever after. He was a staple in the hockey world and fans adored him almost to the end. By the time he left Bruce posted a 201-88-40 in 329 regular season games. He was also the fastest coach to record 200 regular season wins. Unfortunately, he could never get the Caps past the second round of the playoffs either. He gradually lost the confidence of the team and the fan base resulting in his rather abrupt firing.

It was all over by November 2011 when the Caps fired Broudeau and made one of the worst hiring decisions bringing in former Capitals’ superstar Dale Hunter, owner of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. Hunter played for the Capitals from 1987 to 1999. Hunter made it clear when he arrived that he was no fan of Ovechkin, probably believing the press that Ovi had become disrespectful toward his coach and needed rewiring. The excitement for Hunter was brief. He had almost tasted the thrill of victory as a player with the Colorado Avalanche but still did not know how to lead a team past the final. After a dismal season (six months of coaching) with the Caps once again not making it past the semi-finals, Hunter decided he was better suited with the Knights and folded tent to head home.

Hunter’s departure led to the Caps second disaster in this time frame; the hiring of another former player, Adam Oates. Oates was a former assistant coach for Tampa Bay Lightning and part of the NJ Devils team (assistant coach) that made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2012,  which the LA Kings won.  Although he had not yet served as a head coach, he at least had the experience of working with a team that made it to the finals. And he was a Hall of Famer. What could go wrong???  Well things started bumpy with the 2012/13 NHL lockout, which led to a shortened first season. It looked hopeful for the team until they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. His second full season fell apart as he lost the locker room early and he lost the confidence of his star players, most notably Ovechkin. (Que the Ovi fires coaches rumors). He quickly lost the support of the fan base that loved him as a player. This discontent ultimately led to the Caps failure to make it to the playoffs. In the end, the Caps declined to continue their relationship with Oates and released him from his contract.

And as a side note,  they also released GM George McPhee. He was after all, the guy who brought in all the losing coaches. Although he was also responsible for bringing on some of the strongest players in the league, he was unable to create the right mix for a Stanley Cup winning team. He came close though in his first year, 1998, when the Caps went all the way to the finals—for the last time. It was time for a major shakeup and many long-time followers of the Capitals had mixed feelings about letting go of GMGM. Like Bruce, he was well liked in the community.

Which brings us to the Capitals current coach, Barry Trotz. He never played hockey in the NHL, often saying he wasn’t good enough. He began his NHL coaching career with the Nashville Predators in 1997 as part of the new expansion team. He earned a positive reputation as a coach, a winning coach who also never took his team past the second round of the playoffs. He failed to bring them to the playoffs in his last two seasons in Nashville. As a result, the Preds released him in April 2014 which opened the door for the Caps to bring him into the fold a month later. There were mixed reviews about the Caps hiring him, but there was also a sense that he could be the guy to have some success in the latest round of “rebuild.” He has worked well with the team, never afraid to do the unexpected as he adjusted lines, sat under-performing players, and was not phased by the Ovi hype but looks at the team as a whole. Clearly he was disappointed after the Caps were knocked out of the playoffs for the third time under his leadership. He built real cohesion and friendships on the team, the likes of which we have never seen. There were mentors and a real dependence on each other, on and off the ice.  However, all the changes and growth were not enough to give the team the confidence and steam to push past round two. Clearly he knows how to get the team to the playoffs but he hasn’t proven an ability to make it all the way. All that said, there is no sense from the players that they have lost confidence in him. He has created a new culture, but that culture will change with all the moving pieces and trades likely to occur over the summer.watermarked332017-02-17-1120

In the weeks ahead the Capitals management will be taking a good look at what worked and what didn’t. Bloggers and sports writers will assess players and argue about the weakest links. If Trotz stays, he will keep working with GM Brian MacLellan to develop a new strategy and together they will work to create a new team that can go all the way. They have already made some positive changes overall on behalf of the team—creating a healthy environment and a place where young players can develop their craft. The team is closer than ever and it is a waiting game to see who stays and who goes and what that means for the next season.

In the end, the biggest downfall with GMGM’s hiring practice was the mistake in not hiring a coach with NHL Stanley Cup experience. The ongoing problem is that the Caps have never hired someone who coached a team and won the Stanley Cup. Close enough is not necessarily good enough. As much as we believe in what Barry Trotz has tried to accomplish with this team, his record speaks for itself. If the Caps stay with Trotz one more season, he needs to not just coach the team to the finals but win the Cup. If management is unsure of his ability to do that, we strongly urge them to consider hiring a coach with the actual experience of  “rebuilding” a team that has won the Cup. We know who we would suggest at this point were the Caps to make a change today…

Bottom line: fans don’t just want another season of making it to the playoffs, or even making it to the final round. WE WANT TO BRING THE CUP HOME!! And we want them to do whatever it takes to make that a reality next season. We are past the ‘rebuilding’ promises and are ready for a positive outcome.

Rink Think

Series devoted to building hockey in the DMV. Where to build, cost, and ongoing expenses.

My main theory is that the primary barrier to hockey in DC is not a shortage of money or absence of hockey culture, but rather the simple lack of access to a rink. DC itself has one (ONE!) sheet accessible to the public year-round. MD and VA rinks are stuffed to capacity during the after school hours; beer leaguers like me can attest to this: our games frequently start after 11 pm, because that’s the only ice time that remains. From my experience running a team (and having to turn lots of people away) I have the sense that the area could triple the number of sheets and they would still be filled.

Haymarket – 2nd Sheet Going Up (photo by Jeff Woods)

I’m not so jejune as to suggest it’s only a matter of If You Build It, They Will Come, but if They have no place to go, it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee entropy.

So, a few questions to ponder.

  1. Where should rinks be built?
  2. What does it cost and where does the money come from initially?
  3. Where does the ongoing revenue come from/who uses the ice?

These are each huge questions, and I want to be thoughtful with the answers- so I’m going to spend time talking to experts and decision makers in our area to give you, our beloved community, the best possible information. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of what I’ve learned so far.

Rink Location

If we’re talking about DC proper, there is a surprising amount of unused land, much of it east of the Anacostia. In zip code 20020 alone, there are over 53 million square feet of undeveloped land (the square footage of a standard sheet is ~17,000), all controlled by the federal government. Only 15 percent of the undeveloped land in southeast DC is owned privately. A brief survey of the terrain suggests that new rinks in SE DC would involve talks with Uncle Sam to either allocate funds or sell off some land.

There are unused plots in the other quadrants of The District, too. While I’m not giving up hope on rink development in NW, NE or SW, the area is experiencing Manhattan-like demand for housing: it would take something magical to persuade an entity to build a rink instead of overpriced condos and matching Starbucks/Chipotle/Panera shopping complexes.

MD and VA are wide open compared to DC’s small but mighty footprint. The DMV is rich with dispersed population centers, boasting plenty of money (both in terms of people with disposable income and entities looking to build) and open land. Rinks are currently destinations, with many people driving 30+ mile round trips to participate in hockey. It seems to me that the cornerstone of a robust hockey culture is the idea of a local rink– a place that is easy to get to that caters to the needs of the immediate community.

Rink Cost

The price of building and maintaining a rink varies wildly. Kettler Capitals Iceplex cost in excess of $40 million to build, and is an immense undertaking to operate: it had to be grandfathered onto the withering skeleton of the Ballston Mall (which is now being turned into an indoor/outdoor shopping plaza), boasts the Capitals’ training facilities, front offices, 8 locker rooms, and several large event spaces, making it easily the most expensive and well-appointed ice arena in the region.

Other facilities with more modest accommodations seem to start from the low single millions, depending on everything from state tax structure to the season construction begins in. Long story short, there is nothing cheap about building and maintaining an ice surface- and there are lessons to be learned from the facilities in our area, some of which are bustling, while others fall into disrepair.

Ongoing costs and sustainability

There seems to be consensus that ice rinks are not giant money makers (a few anecdotal sources). Those that thrive tend to be municipally subsidized and use their ice time efficiently, making smaller repairs as they are needed and avoiding the epic overhauls associated with putting off maintenance.

More in-depth research is needed, but every hockey director I’ve spoken to says they turn down more people than they allow into their programs, simply for lack of ice time. The demand is there.

Coming up, we’ll look into why counties choose to build rinks: who applies pressure, the arguments for and against, what politics get weighed, and how they decide where to put them.

Home VS Away: Growing Hockey in the DMV by Emily Wright

Emily Wright kicks off a new series for FiCP which is designed to open a dialogue about ways to expand hockey in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We’d love to hear your ideas as we begin to explore ways to Grow Hockey in the DMV!  Here’s Emily’s first post in the series:

While I was living in Minnesota, I kept turning one phrase over and over again in my mind. It was emblazoned on signs all over Verizon: Building America’s Hockey Capital. In Minneapolis, I had access to literally hundreds of sheets of ice within a twenty mile radius. League fees were low, ice time was cheap, and there was a sense that still more could be done to promote participation in the game.

Our area could not be more different. We have no great expanse of reasonably-priced land on which to build endless county-run rinks. There is one single sheet in DC proper available to the public. There are a decent number of rinks serving MD and VA, but when you look at per capita figures, it’s no surprise that most sheets are full in the after-school hours, leaving no room for growth. MD has 18 rinks. That’s 1 for every 329,379 people. Virginia’s 15 rinks make it one rink for every half a million residents. In the US, Minnesota is the clear winner with 236 rinks. In terms of access, it’s unparalleled, with one rink for every 22,968 people. It has clearly earned the title The State of Hockey.

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Hockey is growing in the United States, and in the DC Metro area in particular. Our region, dubbed the Southeastern area by USA Hockey, basically consists of all of the “non-traditional” markets east of the Mississippi- places where water doesn’t reliably freeze in the wintertime.

According to USA Hockey, overall enrollment in the Southeastern roughly parallels Minnesota’s. Minnesota gets its own category, because the numbers there are so huge- including it in any other region would be silly. 

Minnesota, population ~5.4 million

57,107 enrolled (13,354 women/girls)

Southeast, (AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA) population: ~82.2 million

51,438 enrolled (4,138 women/girls)

source: USA Hockey 2015-16 Final Report

It should be noted that these are not the numbers for all players. There are other hockey orgs, like Hockey North America (HNA), for instance, that run leagues with thousands of players, and many teams are independent. USA Hockey is a great place to look because they are by far the most ubiquitous and have been keeping accurate records for a long time, not to mention that many players are in multiple leagues. USA Hockey casts a wide net.

It should also be mentioned that the Southeastern region’s members are pegged at the extremes of the income and poverty statistics. MD, DC and VA are right up there among the wealthiest states, while AR, MS, AL, SC and LA are among the poorest. It is also worth a hard look at DC itself, where the big money resides west of the Anacostia, while many of those east of it struggle to survive.

It is no secret that hockey has traditionally been a sport for the affluent, and as uncomfortable as it is to talk about, it’s something we’ll have to own up to as a community if we want to increase access and grow the sport for everyone in the DMV. It is for this reason that this series will not focus on the already booming club teams in this area, but rather on what can be done to encourage participation on a similar level to other school-age sports programs.

In the posts that follow, I’m going to take a look at the state of hockey in our region, and what we might be able to do—from practical steps to pie-in-the-sky dreams— to grow this wonderful sport, and possibly do some good in the process.