WASHINGTON, D.C. — I’m writing from the friendly and spacious confines of the Verizon Center press box here in the nation’s capital, about two hours before the Washington Capitals host the San Jose Sharks. Here’s the view…
So far, the day has been absolutely amazing. I left New York City around 1:30 in the morning, and the bus (no expense spared here, kids) got into DC at around 5:30 AM. I took a cab from the bus station over to the arena, where I had breakfast at a fancy little restaurant people like to call McDonald’s. After a trip to Starbucks (I hate coffee, but wanted somewhere warm to sit for a little while), I headed on over to…well, hold your tongue and try to say Boston. Ballston? Yep, you got it. I went to the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, VA, which is where the Capitals practice facility is. It’s always open to the public if you’re ever in the area. Here’s what the inside looks like…
Anyway, I got to watch the Capitals morning skate — San Jose skated here, unfortunately — and it was from there where I realized that outgoing media relations director Nate Ewell (his last day is tomorrow, I’m not saying the guy goes out a lot) and his staff would inexplicably be treating the ECHL guy like gold for the rest of the day.
I prepped for nine Capitals players and coaches with ECHL time; Michael Neuvirth, Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, D.J. King, Tyler Sloan, Dave Steckel, Bruce Boudreau, Bob Woods and Arturs Irbe. Neuvirth doesn’t speak on game days and Beagle got sent down this morning…but I got everybody else, as well as Nicklas Backstrom’s thoughts on a few of those players. If you think you can pull that off without the help of a really good PR man, think again.
I got one on one interviews with all eight men, including Boudreau…not bad to get a Jack Adams Award winner to yourself after his post-morning skate media scrum, which looked like this…
But really, my favorite chat had to be with Arturs Irbe. Big shocker for those of you who know I’m a huge goalie nerd. I honestly wasn’t expecting to get any of the coaches, so my prep for Irbe consisted of three lines: “Talk about Neuvirth/Johnstown/Coaching Career.”
That was it. So when I knew I was going to get him, I had to scramble to come up with stuff in the five minutes I had between knowing I was going to speak to him and actually speaking to him. I grew up watching Irbe play, saw him in person once with the Hurricanes, and knew enough about him to where I could get something halfway decent. It turned into an absolutely outstanding 15 minute chat, as well as one of the best I’ve done in my career in recent memory…can’t wait to share it with you guys. We talked about San Jose’s famous 8 seed vs. 1 seed upset of Detroit in the playoffs, his run to the Stanley Cup Finals with Carolina, why he wore the old-style mask and would leave his glove and blocker on the bench between periods and so, so much more. I think you’ll be really surprised to hear his thoughts on playing in Johnstown as well. Was an absolute privilege to speak to him…really enjoyed watching him as a kid.
So after I got done with all that, I headed back to DC just as I’d left it, on the very easy to use Metro, and headed over to the movie theater that’s just next door to the Verizon Center to check out a 1:20 showing of The Fighter. A little known fact about me is that I love watching boxing and MMA, and firmly believe the Micky Ward/Arturo Gatti trilogy contains some of the most entertaining action you’ll ever see — like a longer version of the Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar Ultimate Fighter Final — and have seen the late, great Gatti live (sadly, never Ward), so I had wanted to see this one for a while.
Very, very solid movie. Great performances by Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams inparticular…if you read what I just wrote, you’ll know why the ending was a bit surprising, but never the less…very solid movie.
After that got out, I headed back to the arena, had the free media dinner — pulled pork with potato salad, a roll and some root beer — and headed up to my front row spot in the press box to prepare for the game. I’m hoping to speak to a few more Capitals players after the game *cough* Ovechkin *cough* and will be back in the city around 6:00 AM. That’ll have me home around 8:30 AM, and yes kids…your grateful, but beleaguered scribe is anticipating being in the SNBC press box around 4 PM or so tomorrow to cover Trenton’s game against Kalamazoo.
I’ve instructed Dan D’Uva to have pillows and blankets at the ready at my spot in the press box. Hope he knows I’m only half kidding.
Anyway, thanks for indulging me on all that…really am having one of the better days of my career, and thought you guys might enjoy me sharing the details with you.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98 AT gmail.com