The end of the year often makes hockey fans nostalgic for days gone by.
Washington Capitals fans are no different. Whether they look back to last season, last decade or last millennium, Caps fans have plenty of moments they can recall that will fill them with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
That's the nostalgia you're feeling, not the egg nog.
With that in mind, here are five moments that make every Washington Capitals fan nostalgic.
Note: All statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.
Few moments in a franchise's history inspire more nostalgia than the retiring of a player's jersey number.
This special moment has happened four times in Capitals history, according to the team's website:
|Yvon Labre||Defense||1974-1981||7||Nov. 7, 1981|
|Rod Langway||Defense||1982-1993||5||Nov. 26, 1997|
|Dale Hunter||Center||1987-1999||32||Mar. 11, 2000|
|Mike Gartner||Right Wing||1979-1989||11||Dec. 28, 2008|
Caps fans can wax nostalgic about these four players every time they enter Verizon Center to take in a game or whenever they watch a Capitals home game on TV.
Before long, Capitals fans could be experiencing more jersey number nostalgia, as they may witness the retiring of three more sweaters in quick succession:
|Peter Bondra||Right Wing||1990-2004||12|
Former players may get old, but nostalgia never does.
The Hockey Hall of Fame recently inducted the Class of 2013. Each induction causes Capitals fans to harken back to one magical season when the Caps' roster boasted five future Hall of Famers over the course of the campaign.
As the 1988-89 season began, the Capitals could claim four future Hall of Fame members in Mike Gartner, Rod Langway (pictured, right), Scott Stevens (pictured, left) and Larry Murphy, who had been with the team since the 1979-80, 1982-83, 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, respectively.
At the trade deadline, Washington made a deal with the Minnesota North Stars that sent two future HOFers in Gartner and Murphy to Minneapolis for the fifth future HOFer to play for the Caps that season, Dino Ciccarelli.
Thanks to that trade, the Caps were down to three future Hall of Famers on the roster by the end of the 1988-89 season, and that number did not stay that way for long. Stevens was gone by the end of the 1989-90 season, Ciccarelli left after the 1991-92 season and Langway retired in 1992-93. The only other Hall of Fame member the Capitals can claim during their history is Adam Oates, who played from 1997-2002.
Dale Hunter and Peter Bondra have yet to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and chances are they will not receive that honor. Both of their tenures in Washington overlapped with multiple HOFers, as Hunter played in Washington from 1987-1999, and Bondra played from 1990-2004. Until and unless these two are inducted, Capitals fans will have to look back to the 1988-89 season as the one year in franchise history with the greatest concentration of hockey royalty.
Any number of things may cause Capitals fans to think of Dale Hunter and the biggest goal in Caps history:
- Randomly turning on the NHL Network to see Hunter coaching the London Knights of the OHL.
- Attending a game at the Verizon Center and seeing Hunter's jersey hanging in the rafters.
- Watching the NHL Collector's Edition DVD of the Washington Capitals 10 Greatest Games, Disc One (I have it in my laptop's DVD player as I write this).
- Driving past the site of the old Capital Centre.
- Hearing the name Ron Hextall.
These can all trigger a trip down memory lane.
With the Capitals set to play Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 23 at Verizon Center, it's hard not to think back to what could be considered the high water mark of the Bruce Boudreau era in Washington, as well as of the Young Guns he so famously coached:
- April 5, 2008: Capitals defeat the Florida Panthers 3-1 to secure the Southeast Division title on the last day of the regular season and, along with it, the first postseason berth for the so-called Young Guns (pictured). Washington went 37-17-7 under Boudreau, who took over on Nov. 23, 2007 when the Capitals were 6-14-1. It was the first of four straight division titles for Boudreau and the Caps.
You're probably wondering how this could be the greatest accomplishment during Gabby's time in Washington. After all, he did coach three more full seasons in Washington, and he even won the Presidents' Trophy during that time.
Think about it, though. Nothing bad had happened yet:
- No overtime heartbreak.
- No shocking Game 7 losses.
- No postseason defeats of historic proportions.
- No unrealized expectations.
- No need to change his coaching style.
On April 5, 2008, it was all good for Boudreau and the Caps.
After that day, nothing that they accomplished together would ever deserve the same unbridled enthusiasm and far-reaching optimism.
The Capitals' annual trip to the postseason will stir up memories of the greatest moment in franchise history, a day that marked its 15-year anniversary earlier this year.
On June 4, 1998, captain Dale Hunter accepted the Prince of Wales Trophy (pictured) after the Washington Capitals defeated the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in what would be the final game won by the Capitals during the 1997-98 season.
Unfortunately for the Capitals and their fans, Washington still had to play the Stanley Cup Finals, the first in franchise history. The Caps would lose to the repeat-champion Detroit Red Wings in four games.
Since then, no NHL team has been swept in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Since then, no Capitals team has played in the Stanley Cup Finals.
For that reason, June 4, 1998 is the high water mark of the Capitals franchise.
Until this team is overwhelmed by a flood of Stanley Cup glory, its fans can look back in nostalgia upon this fateful day in franchise history—the high tide of the Washington Capitals.