Ranking the 5 Strangest Players in Washington Capitals History
There's no one criteria for determining which players earn the distinction for being oddballs, but at the same time, it's generally not difficult to distinguish which players are very much marching to the beat of their own drum.
Behavior both on and off the ice, interests and even hairstyles are all taken into consideration, but it's hard to pinpoint what quality truly separates these players from the rest.
They're just downright different.
With that in mind, here's a look at the five strangest players in Capitals history.
Joe Juneau only makes this list because of how strangely interesting and remarkably unique his interests were off the ice.
Fans during the 1990s will remember Juneau for scoring the overtime-winning goal in Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Final to send the Capitals to the Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
By that time, Juneau had type-cast himself as a two-way center, but the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute star entered the league as something far different.
As a rookie in 1992-93, the then-Boston Bruin tallied an incredibly impressive 102 points, and if not for Teemu Selanne’s 76-goal campaign, he would’ve been a shoe-in for the Calder Trophy.
Upon Juneau’s arrival in D.C., he had developed into a smart, if unspectacular second-liner, but some of his most impressive work came off the ice.
That’s because Juneau played in a rock band named “The Offwings,” aptly named due to Juneau’s profession, as well as his degree in aeronautical engineering (via Sports Illustrated).
If anything, Juneau was “strange” because of his unusually high level of intelligence and talent in a number of different fields, ranging from the hockey rink, to the recording studio and all the way to outer space.
The former Edmonton Oiler great wasn’t necessarily regarded as an unusual player due to his behavior while a member of the Capitals, but his actions and demeanor during his previous stops make him a lock for any list of this nature.
Simply put, Tikkanen was unlike any player that came before him.
He could antagonize his opponents just as easily as he could rip home a game-winner, which is why the Finnish pest retired with five Stanley Cup rings.
However, despite the three-time 30-goal man’s pedigree, what may be best remembered about Tikkanen may be the decidedly unorthodox dialect he used on the ice.
Known league-wide as “Tikkanese,” the former Finnish Olympian made a name for himself immediately by developing his own form of trash talk, which was given its name by Wayne Gretzky after their first time on the ice (via Frank Ahearns of The Washington Post).
While Tikkanen was a valuable late-season addition to the Capitals’ eventual Eastern Conference Championship team in 1998, he will forever be remembered by Washingtonians for missing a crucial open-net opportunity in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, which ended up with the Caps blowing a late two-goal lead, en route to a four-game sweep.
Former Capitals starting goaltender Jim Carey doesn’t make the list for any of his bizarre habits or tendencies off the ice, because Washington didn’t get to know him long enough to notice them.
Instead, Carey made the cut due to his extremely enigmatic performance during the mid-1990s, while tending the net in D.C.
In the summer of 1996, Carey was arguably the best goaltender in the game, as the Massachusetts native had captured the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, just one year after earning a berth on the NHL All-Rookie Team.
Following the season, Carey backed up Mike Richter on Team USA's World Cup-winning squad, the young University of Wisconsin product seemed destined for greatness.
Fans of the Capitals were ecstatic, as the team finally seemed to have found its long-term starting netminder.
Unfortunately, the magic didn’t last, and Carey played himself out of the nation’s capital the following season.
He left in a trade that brought back a package which included future Hall of Fame center and current Capitals coach Adam Oates.
From there, Carey fell out of the NHL, and was out of the game completely just two years later.
As one of just two Wawa, Ontario natives to skate at the NHL level, Chris Simon was an outlier of sorts before the Colorado Avalanche traded the bruising winger to the Capitals in 1996.
Upon arriving in Washington, Simon instantly became a fan favorite, as the 6’3” power forward quickly demonstrated that he was unafraid of anyone in the league. To top its off, his almost ridiculously long hair made him one of the most recognizable players on the ice.
Eventually, Simon exhibited the type of skill that made him a valuable part of Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup champion team, and he potted 29 goals and 49 points while riding shotgun to Adam Oates on Washington's top line in 1999-2000.
However, Simon’s eight career suspensions, coupled with the highly-publicized incident involving Simon uttering a racial slur toward Edmonton's Mike Grier (another future Capital), made him undoubtedly one of the most enigmatic players in Capitals history.
Simon's apparent lack of self-control, off-the-cuff demeanor and surprisingly impressive level of skill made him one of the most memorable players from the Caps' Eastern Conference champion team.
So, to recap, Al Iafrate was an All-Star defenseman with the Capitals, who also boasted the hardest shot in the NHL for a time, but the rugged rearguard’s off-ice personality was just as dynamic and eye-catching as his offensive game.
Iafrate was famous for smoking cigarettes before, after and sometimes even during games, but that didn’t stop the hard-shooting Michigan native from earning two All-Star Game appearances during his four years in D.C.
But Iafrate didn’t simply use a regular lighter to spark his cigarettes, instead he used the same blowtorch the team relied on to install new blades into their composite hockey shafts.
In addition to his habit of smoking in the arena, Iafrate also sported what The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg refers to as a “skullet,” which is essentially a mullet complete with a growing bald spot in the middle.