Capitals Hill History Lesson Part 1


With all sports teams come the obscure, wacky, and just plain strange stories. The following is a compilation of a few of those stories from over the years of when the Capitals were created in 1974.

  • George McPhee punched Blackhawks coach Lorne Molleken during a fight in the Blackhawks dressing room after a preseason game. The fight began when McPhee complained about unnecessarily rough play. McPhee was suspended for a month and had to pay a $20,000 fine.
  • For reasons I have yet to discover, Bruins assistant trainer Frosty Forristall threw a cream pie in the face of Caps’ left wing Dave Forbes during a live tv interview. No word on whether or not Forristall faced discipline for it.
  • In 1977-78, Roy Rogers made a deal with the Caps. He’d give away a dozen sandwiches to a charity of the Caps’ choice for every goal scored. On one rare occasion, the Caps scored 7 goals. That’s seven dozen sandwiches. Luckily for Rogers, and unluckily for the Caps, the team only scored 195 goals total that season.
  • Andy Dolich (Team marketing director) arranged promotions such as Miss America singing the national anthem; Hollywood searchlights and hiring world frisbee champion Victor Malafronte to do his thing on skates.
  • Abe Pollin, president and owner of the Caps, offered season-ticket holders a 20 per cent rebate if they didn’t think the team was exciting or competitive in the 1978-1979 campaign, no matter how many games the Caps won or where the team finishes in the standing.
  • Mike Bossy scored the 50th goal of his rookie season against Caps Jim Bedard.
  • Caps coach Tom McVie’s record in 2 1/2 seasons was 49-122-33.
  • Bill McCreary refereed his first game in D.C. in 1984. His first call was a tripping penalty on Craig Laughlin. His last game was April 2, 2011 in D.C. This time, Laughlin was the color commentator.
  • In their first season, the Caps had a total 21 points. The next worst expansion team, the Kansas City Scouts, had 42 points.
  • Most important hire: David Poile. Under his leadership the team blossomed into a regular playoff contender.
  • Best trade: Sending Ryan Walter and Rick Green to the Habs for Rod Langway, Bryan Engblom, Doug Jarvis, and Craig Laughlin. After this trade, the team made the playoffs 14 consecutive years.
  • In 1997-98, Adam Oates, Phil Housley, and Dale Hunter all scored their 1,000th point. This was the only time in NHL history that 3 players on one team all achieved 1,000 points in the same season.
  • During the 1989 playoffs, John Druce went from mediocre to playoff star as he scored 14 goals and helped the Caps to their first semifinals appearance. Unfortunately, he was never able to duplicate the success.
  • When Michal Pivonka defected and joined the Caps, the only belongings he had were in a single suitcase: shorts and t-shirts from a vacation.
  • Clint Malarchuk. Teammates named him “Mallard” because of in-game impressions of Donald Duck. “He quacks between periods. Actually quacks,” marveled defenceman Gary Galley to Sports Illustrated. Forward Greg Adams’ take? “Clint Malarchuk is the mayor of Pluto.”
  • According to defenceman Jim McTaggart and what he told the Washington Post. “Mike Palmateer told the training staff that he needed pepperoni pizza before each game. So they kept a stack of them in the equipment room and before the game would put one in the sauna and heat it for 30 minutes, then serve it to Mike.”
  • The Caps first GM, Milt Schmidt, was the headmaster of the white pants decision, saying that the goalies during his Bruins playing days said dark pants made it harder to pick up the puck. The players apparently skated hunched over during road contests, an attempt to hide the white shorts. Goalie Ron Low told Evan Weiner of, “It was a joke. The pads get rubbed against the boards and it gets really filthy. After 10 games you couldn’t tell if it was white or not anyway.” So, new blue duds were hastily ordered. The NHL even overlooked its own rules to authorize an in-season change.
  • According to the Washington Post, Richard Nixon was one of the people who helped Washington secure a NHL team in 1972. However, NBC broadcaster Mike Emrick said Nixon “lobbied for another city other than Washington to get a franchise and the Caps were discouraged that the guy who lived in town wasn’t going to help them.”
  • Before taking the ice in the 1983-84 season, Dave Christian was in charge of hitting play on the tape record, which would play “Break On Through” by The Doors for the Capitals to come out to.
  • Of the five compensatory picks the Caps got for Scott Stevens, only Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt played more than 20 games. The Caps traded one of those picks, which turned out to be Eric Fichaud.
  • Kelly, Kip, and Kevin Miller all played at least 10 games for the Caps.
  • After a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Capitals were booked on the very back rows of a commercial flight on their way to Kansas City. It was a move to save on money as those seats were a “non-food” section. Long-time broadcast Ron Weber mentioned the flight during his Hall of Fame speech, revealing that Garnet “Ace” Bailey told the flight attendance to slow down as they brought the food forward so the team could at least smell it.
  • Possibly the most painful playoff moment: Esa Tikkanen.
  • The arena known as the Capital Centre was one of the first to feature luxury boxes and boasted that no seat was further than 200 feet from the ice.

(Thanks to Scotty Wazz for his research help.)

Editors note: Jen from will be providing history lessons to the fine readers of Capitals Hill from time to time. Give her a follow on Twitter @NHLHistoryGirl