Today the Capitals have a captain who is not just a leader on the ice but the best marketing tool the Caps could ever ask to have. The franchise has always looked for leaders with the personality and experience to push the team forward. The Capitals often put their trust in the person whom they believe sets an example for the team as a whole and who will represent the team well in front of the media and at community events.
In the NHL the team selects their captain. A team can have one captain and up to three alternate captains. Some teams may instead go with four alternate captains and no primary captain. These guys have a simple role: talk to the officials about calls or what is happening on the ice. Technically, no other player is authorized to talk to the ref. It is a sign of great respect from the team and from management. to wear the “C” on ones jersey. A few captains stand out for us as we look back over the history of the team.
In 1974 the Capitals became a new franchise and were led by its first captain, Doug Mohns. He was a 40-year old defenseman who was on the Atlanta Flames roster the season before. Mohns was the oldest on the team that season and by then his scoring numbers had dropped off considerably. He was an enforcer and a brut on the ice in his early playing day. Mohns passed away in 2014 at the age of 80, leaving behind an NHL legacy of 22 years, having played 1,391 games recording a total of 710 points.
Skip ahead to 1982 and time when the Capitals acquired defenseman Rod Langway. Langway was drafted by Montréal Canadiens in 1977 and traded to the Caps in a move that many claim saved the Capitals from leaving Washington. The Caps had yet to make a run in the playoffs and owner Abe Polin was close to pulling the plug. The “Secretary of Defense” led the team to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history as their new captain. He remained the captain until he retired from the NHL in 1993. The Capitals retired his number (5) in 1997, knowing there would never be a player like him again!
Dale Hunter did what no other Capitals’ captain did before Alex Ovechkin – he took the team to the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1998. He was named captain in 1994 and served in that role until the end of the 1998/99 season. After another failed attempt at winning the highest trophy in the league, Hunter was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. He remained a fan favorite because of his leadership in 1998 and the Capitals retired his number (32) in 2000. His reputation was somewhat tarnished when he returned to coach the team in November 2011 but resigned six month later, after the Caps failed to make it to the NHL playoffs.
Chris Clark became the Capitals 13th captain in September 2006. It was just the right winger’s second season with the Capitals and his seventh with the NHL. During his time with the Capitals Clark found himself playing on the first line for the team, along with new arrival, Alex Ovechkin. Unfortunately he was plagued with injuries while playing for the Capitals and never had the chance to perform to the full extent the Caps had hoped he would. Yet, there was something about him that caused fans to rally behind him and remain hopeful. He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in December 2009, shocking much of the fanbase.
Alexander Ovechkin was just 24 when he was named as the Capitals first Russian team captain in January 2010. He stepped into the leadership spot just seven days after Clark was traded. He had been wearing the A since 2006 and filling in for Clark after his injury. Already the face of the franchise, Ovechkin now embraced the role of team leader in his scoring and in his all-around performance standards. Over the years though, some have questioned whether he should have the C since the team had never made it past the second round. His teammates; however, put their full trust in their designated captain, according to an NBC Sports report. As the highest scorer on the team and most of the time in the NHL – it seems the selection paid off in June 2018 when he finally led his team to the Stanley Cup. He is the captain who never gave up hope and made sure his mates kept the faith too.
Who is next to wear the C for the Capitals?? This summer some have posited that Tom Wilson could take the lead when Ovechkin moves on. Others suggest another Russian follow in his footsteps: Evgeny Kuznetsov. TJ Oshie certainly is a possibility if the team decides to go with a more mature and seasoned player. Thankfully, the Capitals will not have to worry about that for sometime.