The Washington Capitals have gained a legion of new fans in recent years, helped in part by the regular season success of recently named Hart Trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin.
But some of these newer fans do not know all there is to know about their favorite hockey team. And some long-time fans do not have complete knowledge of this franchise, either.
So, in the spirit of fan education, here is some Washington Capitals trivia every fan should know.
The Washington Capitals entered the NHL for the 1974-75 season.
That season, the Capitals were bad. Historically bad.
Here is a long list of several ignominious team records the Washington Capitals set in their inaugural season in the NHL, courtesy of StatsHockey.net:
- Fewest Wins in a Season: 8
- Fewest Points by a Team in a Season: 21
- Most Goals Against by a Team in a Season: 446
- Worst Goal Differential by a Team in a Season: -265
- Worst Power-Play Percentage by a Team in a Season: 9.35%
- Longest Losing Streak in a Season: 17 games
By 1982, owner Abe Pollin was willing to sell the Washington Capitals for $7,500,000.
After their woeful beginning, the Capitals did little to improve and missed the playoffs each of their first eight seasons in the league. Starting in 1979-80, 16 of 21 NHL teams qualified for the playoffs, adding to the Capitals' embarrassment.
By the summer of 1982, the Washington Capitals were in a different type of trouble. Owner Abe Pollin claimed to have lost $20,000,000 since entering the league per SaveTheCaps.com. As a result, Pollin threatened to move, merge or fold the franchise if four specific criteria were not met, according to Dave McKenna of Washington City Paper:
- Reduce Prince George's County amusement tax by 95 percent.
- Reduce Capital Centre rent by two-thirds.
- Sell out first 10 home games of 1982-83 season.
- Sell at least 7,500 season tickets.
The first three criteria were met, and the Caps fell short of the fourth criteria by only 1,900 tickets (SaveTheCaps.com).
To meet these criteria, the Capitals needed a little help from their friends. Okay, a lot of help (Dave McKenna of Washington City Paper):
- Local resident Steve Mehlman formed the "Save the Caps" campaign with other volunteers.
- Mehlman appeared on WTOP-TV with the late, great Glenn Brenner to discuss the campaign.
- Another local legend, George Michael of NBC4, emceed an on-air telethon.
- People's Drug adorned all newspaper advertising with "Save the Caps!"
- DC Special Olympics chapter used tax-deductible contributions to buy tickets.
- The Washington Post published multiple editorials in support of the campaign.
- The Post also guaranteed to buy all unsold tickets to one of first 10 home games.
- Nine other local businesses followed suit, helping to meet one of Pollin's demands.
Capitals fans then and now shudder to think what would have happened if Pollin's demands had not been met. The owner's preferred course of action was to merge his franchise with another, also born in 1974: The New Jersey Devils (Ted Starkey of SBNation DC).
Adam Oates, being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Throughout their history, the Washington Capitals have been home to a multitude of magnificent hockey players.
Some began their careers in Washington, while others joined the Capitals later in their careers.
Still others achieved greater fame with other teams, and only a few are best known for their time in Washington.
Among all these players exists a group of six who were eventually inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after donning the Washington Capitals jersey at one time in their careers:
- Mike Gartner: Inducted in 2001. Played in NHL from 1979-1998. Career totals of 708 goals, 627 assists, 1,335 points and 1,159 penalty minutes in 1,432 games. Played for Capitals from 1979-1989. Sweater No. 11 retired by Capitals (Hockey-Reference.com).
- Rod Langway: Inducted in 2002. Played in NHL from 1978-1993. Career totals of 51 goals, 278 assists, 329 points, and 849 penalty minutes in 994 games played. Played for Capitals from 1982-1993. Sweater No. 5 retired by Capitals (Hockey-Reference.com).
- Larry Murphy: Inducted in 2004. Played in NHL from 1980-2001. Career totals of 287 goals, 989 assists, 1,216 points and 1,084 penalty minutes in 1,615 games. Played for Capitals from 1983-1989.
- Scott Stevens: Inducted in 2007. Played in NHL from 1982-2004. Career totals of 196 goals, 712 assists, 908 points, and 2785 penalty minutes in 1635 games. Played with Capitals from 1982-1990.
- Dino Ciccarelli: Inducted in 2010. Played in NHL from 1980-1999. Career totals of 608 goals, 592 assist, 1,200 points and 1,435 penalty minutes in 1,232 games. Played for Capitals from 1988-92.
- Adam Oates: Inducted in 2012. Played in NHL from 1985-2004. Career totals of 341 goals, 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in 1,337 games. Played for Capitals from 1997-2002.
The President's Trophy has been awarded annually since 1986 to the NHL team that earns the most points in the standings during the regular season.
However, the annual NHL standings can be reviewed to retroactively name one team as the President's Trophy winner for every NHL season (StatsHockey.net). This way, each season's winner can be compared to winners from the past.
After undergoing such a comparison, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals stand apart. That season, the Capitals won the first and only President's Trophy in franchise history. They finished the season with a 54-15-13 record, earning 121 points in the standings (Hockey-Reference.com). Here are the precedents they set along the way:
- 54 wins set franchise record for victories (Hockey-Reference.com).
- 121 points set franchise record for points (Hockey-Reference.com).
- Only team from now-defunct Southeast Division to win President's Trophy (StatsHockey.net).
- One of only eight teams to earn at least 120 points in the standings (StatsHockey.net).
- Only non-Original Six team to earn at least 120 points in the standings (StatsHockey.net).
If you are to know only one thing about the Washington Capitals franchise, know this: On their unfinished journey to claim Lord Stanley's Cup, the Capitals have chosen a path lined with pain, misery and heartache:
- 1987: Played in 10th-longest overtime game in Stanley Cup playoff history (NHL.com), losing 3-2 at home to the New York Islanders in fourth overtime of Game 7 of Patrick Division Semifinals. Longest Game 7 in Stanley Cup playoff history. Game finished the following day on Easter Sunday, earning the nickname of "The Easter Epic' (The Hockey News).
- 1996: Played in fifth-longest overtime game in Stanley Cup playoffs history (NHL.com), losing 3-2 at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins in fourth overtime of Game 4 of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Eventually lost series 4-2, after leading 2-0 (Hockey-Reference.com).
- 1998: Reached first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, only to be swept by the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. No team has been swept in Stanley Cup Final since 1998 (Reuters via YahooSports.com).
- 2009: Lost 6-2 at home to Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Semifinals (Hockey-Reference.com). Washington is 1-7 in postseason series against Pittsburgh. In Game 7's against their bitter rivals, Capitals are 0-3 and have been outscored 12-3 (MCubed.net).
- 2010: Became first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 series lead to a No. 8 seed, losing to the Montreal Canadiens at home in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (ESPN.com).
- 2012: Finished playoffs with a 1-1 record in Game 7's. After 2013 season, record in Game 7's stands at 3-9 overall, and 2-7 at home (USAToday Sports).
- 2013: Failed to take 3-0 series lead against New York Rangers in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and eventually lost in seven games. Capitals have never held a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven series (Ted Starkey of SB Nation DC via Twitter).
Long-time Capitals fans have these painful pieces of trivia seared in their memories. Newer Caps fans must learn them, know them and embrace them, if they are to know what it means to be a true Caps fan.
By plunging into the depths of this seemingly endless abyss of playoff failures, Capitals fans can fully embrace that singular moment when their beloved team finally reaches the top of the Stanley Cup mountain.