On The Road Again
I got up this morning to take out the trash and bring the kids to school. For the first time since April, you could feel a little chill in the air. Not enough to make me put shoes on yet, but enough that you can feel summer’s days dwindling down to the single digits.
So it’s appropriate that today is also the first day I’ll pack my notebook and laptop and venture off to watch my first contest of NHL team-vs.-team tilt of the 2007-08 season. That would be today’s rookie camp-concluding scrimmage pitting the young Caps against the Philadelphia Flyers’ rookies. The game will take place at the Flyers’ camp complex in Voorhees, N.J. Next season, the clubs will face each other in another rookie camp game, but the venue will shift to Washington’s camp home, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
To make today’s trip even better, I’ll have company aside from my summertime shotgun seat occupant: an i-Pod blaring the likes of The Drive-By Truckers, Big Joe Turner, The Bottle Rockets, the Radio Nationals and Chuck Prophet. Today, I’ll be cruising up I-95 with scribing pals Corey Masisak of The Washington Times and Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post. From September to (hopefully late) next spring, we’ll be spending a lot of time together at home and on the road. We should be in for a fun and interesting season.
Today’s game will help determine which of Washington’s 27 rookie camp participants will remain in the Disctrict when the team’s regular training camp begins on Friday. The pace, tempo and level of competition at this week’s camp has been spiking in the red. That’s what happens when you dangle a significant carrot out there, namely a chance to vie for a spot on the Caps at an NHL training camp.
Spots themselves will be hard to come by this season. More of the Washington roster is set than in the last two camps. The goaltending tandem is set. The top four defensemen are more or less established. The top eight or nine forwards are more or less set. Competition for the few remaining roster spots figures to be fierce, and it figures to trickle down. The Hershey Bears open their camp on Sept. 20 and the South Carolina Stingrays follow suit early in Oct. Plenty of talented Caps prospects will dot the rosters of both of Washington’s affiliate clubs.
Much is made of the relative lack of media coverage the Caps get in these parts, but today brings plenty. Team owner Ted Leonsis was a guest on the Feldman and Maloney Show on SportsTalk 980 this morning. WUSA-TV (Channel 9) did a feature on goaltending prospect Michal Neuvirth that is likely to air on the 6 p.m. newscast this evening. And finally, defenseman Karl Alzner will tape a segment that will be shown on tonight’s 5 p.m. airing of Washington Post Live on Comcast SportsNet. My own personal feeling is that the 2007-08 edition of the Capitals will provide the kind of excitement that the local (and national) media will not be able to ignore for long. Optimism runs rampant at this time of year in 30 NHL cities of course, but we Caps sympathizers have more reason for our optimism this fall than in years past.
Players will report for medical exams and media guide photos tomorrow, and the local media and blogosphere will be out to take the temperature of the team as it prepares for the start of training camp on Friday. After just two days on the ice, the Caps will dash off to Raleigh for a 3 p.m. Sunday date with the Hurricanes. I’ll be on that flight, too, safely tucked in the luggage compartment.
Hockey wanderlust is back, and the long summer is over. See you at the barn.