End of an Era

There is a much different tempo to the off-season for those of us in the hockey business. During the season, you’re in a constant “go, go” mode because there are always practices, games, planes, buses, press conferences, scrums and dozens of other things demanding your immediate and/or constant attention.

The pace of the off-season is slower, more consistent. It has its own rhythm; there are the World Championships, there is the combine, there is the draft, there are qualifying offers, there is free agency, there is rookie camp. These events provide brief spurts of frenetic activity, but nothing like the constant and controlled (yet beautiful) chaos which characterizes the seasons themselves.

Shortly after the rookie camp has ended, there is training camp, when all is new and hopeful again and the frenetic 82-game NHL campaign — and, if you’re fortunate, the Stanley Cup playoffs that follow — looms directly ahead.

Every so often, a different day dawns, a day that does not belong in the context of the rest of the off-season, a day where that pace unexpectedly picks up again. Maybe it’s a trade, maybe a big announcement or a press conference of some sort. For a day or two, the pace picks up again. There is a flurry of activity and interest before our off-season hibernation resumes.

There was a Friday morning in May six years ago when one phone call turned a tranquil off-season Friday into a “red ball,” to coin a phrase from my years of watching “Homicide” and “The Wire.” Word came down that Ron Wilson would be relieved of his duties as Caps head coach; that was six years ago tomorrow.

Today is one of those days.

Tarik El-Bashir’s story in today’s Washington Post has Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig saying that he believes he has played his last game as a Capital. As is almost always the case when an athlete decides to move on from a city where he has played all or most of his career, there are reasons and circumstances for the movement, and those layers and circumstances hold their own layers and degrees that run as deep or deeper than the athlete’s roots in that city. Those layers and degrees can’t always be adequately untangled in the space of a newspaper article, or even several newspaper articles. 

And more often than not, time is the most necessary element in making sense of it all.

At the conclusion of Washington’s season, much was made of Olie Kolzig’s “unwillingness” to talk to the media and his decision to take his nameplate down from above his locker at Verizon Center. I didn’t address either of those issues in depth. I actually believed it was good for Olie to take as much time as he believed he needed to take before talking to any of us. And he did that before sitting down with Tarik yesterday. 

As for the nameplate thing, it was nothing as far as I was concerned. Olie is not the first nor will he be the last player to remove his nameplate. When a guy has spent as much time with one organization as Olie has with the Capitals, it would be more of a story if he didn’t take his nameplate, or some other small memento of his time with the organization.

Today brings more of a sense of finality; of the end of an era. And for me, it’s personal, too. 

Kolzig is the last remaining player from the 1995-96 team, my first year as a day-in and day-out regular on the beat. He was a single guy, a backup goaltender with two NHL wins to his credit back then. Now he has a family, 301 regular season NHL wins and legions of fans everywhere who adore him and wish him the best.

Years ago, my kids did a photo shoot with Kolzig for a “Reading is Cool” community event. Those pictures of Olie and my kids are still on the mantle here in our palatial estate in Baltimore. Hell, Olie played in Baltimore before he went on to establish himself as an excellent NHL goaltender. He’s always been a first-class guy from my standpoint, and that point was driven home again today when he agreed to meet with me later on the middle of today’s maelstrom of activity. I’ll have more on caps.com later, after I get back from our meeting.

There is certainly a sense of sadness and a sense of getting older that accompanies today’s news, at least for me. But there is also a sense of appreciation and good fortune. Kolzig’s rise was not that probable. It was a story of perseverance and belief. And to me, that’s why we are where we are today. Kolzig believes he can still play in the NHL, and he is now setting out to prove that.

Like many others, I wish him the best and I won’t be betting against him.

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33 Comments on “End of an Era”

  1. Jenn Says:

    It’s going to be heartbreaking to see Zilla playing in another sweater. I hope he knows how many of us love him and will cheer for him whenever he comes back to VC. We’ll miss ya’ Olie.

  2. Bill Says:

    Ted Leonsis needs to have Olie’s number ready to hang from the rafters of the phone booth, because in my mind no one else needs to wear #37 for the Washington Capitals ever again. Olie all of us are hoping you raising Lord Stanley next season.

  3. Mike L Says:

    Olie will do what is best first for his family and then for hockey. I wish him nothing but the best. Where he lands is unknown at this point, but I am kind of hoping that if CuJo retires (again!) from Calgary that Olie could step into that spot with the Flames…it’d be a good fit for Olie and Calgary. I expect the Flames to compete for the Cup in the next few years…

    Meanwhile, They need to move the flags a little farther apaet at the Phone Booth to make room for a #37 banner and a #12 banner…

  4. Benjamin Says:

    I agree with Mike L, by retiring his #37 would show a little class by the Caps organization. And any hockey fan knows, he’s more than deserved it. I would like to add that if Olaf does call it quits …. comes home, man!! We need you here in Tri-Cities. I’d love to see him work with the Tri-City Americans, the WHL team the Olie spent a couple of unforgettable seasons between the pipes. Though, I don’t even know if that is possible now, being he is a part owner of the franchise (along with former American teamate, Stu Barnes) –

    Come home, Olie – We miss you!

  5. Danny Says:

    More than any player to ever wear the Caps’ jersey – Olie personifies the greatest achievements of the organization – and its most heartbreaking moments. I’ll never forget during the Stanley Cup run – the countless Godzilla toys, shirts, hats, posters – all hand crafted – all sported by long-suffering fans who were getting their first taste of hockey’s promised land. And it was on ‘Zilla’s mighty shoulders that we got there.

    His hatred of losing – his temper – his disappoint all mirror those of the most ardent fans. Everything he was feeling on the ice – I felt in the stands, or at home watching on TV.

    To me – this is eqivalent of Sonny Jurgenson’s retirement. I was a young kid at the time…and it nearly moved me to tears. I’m older now, with kids of my own, and it makes me equally sad to think of a Caps team with out Olie leading the way.

    Best of luck and a fond farewell to #37. He epitomizes the concept of heart and soul.

  6. -pants Says:

    Wow… the last great Capital hits the road. No offense to Ovechkin, but Olie Kolzig was there when I was a pup…. and stood there the whole time making sometimes marginal teams a lot better (like, AO, of course). But Olie is different…… he’s earned everything he has and a lot of things he doesn’t have. He’s had a loooong career here and I can’t really imagine him not being a part of my team anymore.

    His jersey should rise opening night if he indeed leaves our club. But hey! Dale Hunter, Gartner, Dino, Bondra etc etc etc….. were all given a shot at the big chalice. I think it’s the right thing for him to do.

    Thanks for the effort, O. Good luck!

    –pants

  7. Ken Says:

    My son,Ryan first followed Olie back in the 96/97 season….when Ryan was a 12 year old goalie who happened to have his mask painted by the same guy. We live in Boston and Ryan was an Andy Moog fan…until that day. Over the years, Ryan would try to meet Olie 2-3 times per year…waiting outside Boston hotels, going to the Caps games in Boston and we traveled to DC a few times to see Olie play and attend his practices. Olie was always very nice to Ryan….even remembering his nam which in unbelievable in today’s game. Ryan and I were lucky enough to see Olie’s 300th win vs. Calgary and saw him at Kettler the next day. Ryan is now 23 but still a massive Olie fan. When Olie saw Ryan, he said….”Hi Ryan…are you on vacation this week?” I took a few pictures of them together. As Olie was walking to his car, I said…”you know Olie…Ryan is 23 now.” Olie said….he looks it…hey, Ryan….we first met about 11 years ago didn’t we?” As we drove back to Boston…Ryan said…what a perfect trip….talking to Olie, getting a few pictures and seeing Olie win his 300th game!”
    Olie is a first class guy and my son sure picked the right athlete to follow and admire. Whatever Olie’s next stop is…..we will be watching him and wishing him all the best.

  8. Chris Says:

    I appreciate all Olie did for my favorite hockey team. However, he wasn’t gettin’ it done. It’s nothing personal its just business. The caps will retire his number and all will be forgiven.

  9. Grant Says:

    i can’t belive it
    i’m confused why he would do that i mean he is an awesome goalie
    i sorta think this is bruce’s fault for not playing him
    i also think that olie should help the caps if he does retire
    but i just want olie gettin playin time and he will always be one of my fav. players
    he will be extremly missed by the caps
    WE LOVE YOU OLIE!!!!!!!!!

  10. James Says:

    the first hockey game i ever went to i went to see my favortie player ron hextall at a flyers agem in philly. That night i watched Olie take on the flyers and take them down and from that day he has been the player i have watched most. he is the classiest man to ever step foot on the ice and has done more than any one else for the caps. i wish he was staying there and it looks like im gonna be cheering for two teams next year. we’re gonna miss you olie. good luck wherever it is that you go!


  11. Truly a class act who will be missed even more by the community then the team. We should all wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his life and career, I know I do. The story by Ken about Olie and his son Ryan says it all. In this day of shameless acts by some athletes, Olie Kolzig’s charachter and generosity stand out all the more. Good Luck Olie and if you continue playing I’ll be rooting for you!


  12. […] End of an Era There is a much different tempo to the off-season for those of us in the hockey business. During the season, […] […]

  13. Chris Says:

    In Germany, we tend to always see the negative things. The American positivism is impressing — and great. I’m following that espcially in this year’s playoffs. Hasek is removed from the net and replaced by Osgood; in Germany, they would pick on Hasek for failing, but in America they praise Osgood.
    It’s great to read a sentence like “it would be more of a story if he didn’t take his nameplate”. German newspapers just complained that he lost all his credit he had at the Caps’ crowd.

  14. Dan, Jr. Says:

    I will miss Olie Kolzig as much as any other sports hero I’ve ever been a fan of. He’s always been a hero on and off the ice. It’s amazing how much it bothers me whenever someone has something bad to say about him or how he plays. He doesn’t always get the credit he deserves from others. He will from me. I thought he kind of got the shaft, when he didn’t get a single game in this season’s playoffs, even when Huet had a couple shaky games. It may have been his last chance. I hope not.

    Whatever he ends up doing, I want to wish him the best of luck. I’ll always be a fan. I’ll probably always get a sentimental tear in my eyes when I watch any of the many wonderful highlight videos that include Olie Kolzig. I’ve never been to a hockey game without Olie in the net. Even if he’s in someone else’s net the next time I see him, he’s going to get a standing ovation from this fan. I’ll always love him as much as a straight man can love another man. Just like family, because that’s what it feels like to me.

  15. KR Says:

    Ollie was the reason I began to watch hockey over ten years ago. I’ve got to say, I’ll cheer for him no matter what. He played through all the crap of having a bad team for the last few years and I really hate to see him leave now that the Caps are good again. Hopefully, someone will see what he has to offer. I also hope to see him announcing someday. Ollie, thanks for being such a classy guy and a great role model. You will really be missed. My husband and I are crushed; you’ll always be welcomed back to DC.

    TL- the least you can do for his efforts to honor his commitment to his charity….

  16. Jim V. Says:

    Ollie was the backbone of the franchise for so many years. I would never have paid those pitiful teams any notice if it had not been for Kolzig and his fight and hatred of losing. Their good teams were nearly unbeatable when he was rolling. No other team(except the Pens) really wanted to play those good Caps teams. I do understand the organizations wanting to play all of the goaltending talent that they have stockpiled over the years and spent high draft picks on. Huet was great. I just wish that Boudreau would have given Ollie a start or two in the playoffs as a curveball for the Flyers to have to swing at. I still have memories of those heartbreaking losses the Kolzig endured as a the Caps lost to the Pens in those awesome series with Lemieux and Jagr. I feel the same way today as when Art Monk left the Redskins. You are all class and talent Ollie, so please know that we will always remember you fondly! God Bless you and your family.

  17. twf Says:

    Reality check folks… Olie was a good goalie. He was a great person in the community. He was the best we had, not the best in the league. I wish him well, but I think the future holds backup duty or retirement.

    As a Caps fan, Huet makes far more stops than Olie. Olie just cannot move well enough to carry a team in todays NHL.

  18. Sandra Mazliah Says:

    I have been a fan of Ollie’s since before the Cup race oh those many years ago. My 9 year old’s first chant was not “let’s go caps,” but “let’s go Ollie” when he was 2. He’s a goalie today because of Kolzig who is everything I want in a sports hero to my son. A caring family man, a loving father, a giving person, and a classy athlete. We will miss him more then he knows.

  19. Chris Says:

    Maybe we’ll see Olie come up to Canada, he’s exactly what the Sens need in the net to make that franchise unstoppable.

  20. Slooptorious Says:

    I agree with Bill and Mike, there needs to be room made for number 37 to hang from the rafters, next to Dale’s 32, Rod’s 5 and Yvon’s number 7. And more room made for Peter’s number 12, those numbers don’t need to be, nor should they be worn by anyone else ever again in the Capital’s organization. I’m sad to see Olie leave, especially the way it’s happening, with little or no contact at all with anyone from the office, just letting him go like that, not even specifying what their plans are, just letting him figure it out on his own, it’s just wrong. He was a great player for almost 20 years, be it at the NHL, AHL or ECHL levels, and he’s been a memeber of the Capitals since I was old enough to love and appreciate the game of hockey, let alone the Caps. You’ll be missed greatly Olie, you’ve provided us with alot of memories, and we’ll never forget you for it. Whatever team picks him up, will be fortunate to have the likes of him on their roster, and seeing him hoist Lord Stanley, would be the ultimate end for such a great man on and off the ice, but he will now, and forever, always be a Washington Capital in the hearts and minds of all his fans. We’ll miss you Olie, it won’t be the same around D.C. without you..

  21. Tommy Chittick Says:

    It is nice to read all the great things people have to say about Olaf. I played in the same minor hockey association with Olaf as a kid in Dartmouth Nova Scotia and to see what a great career he has had makes me smile. I think if he continues to play I would love to see him play north of the border for a canadian team. Cheers Olaf and congrats on a great career and I hope it continues for a few more years.

  22. suzanne Says:

    I know it’s selfish, but I really hope Olie doesn’t play for another team. It would be gut-wrenching to see him in another sweater and reflect on how different things would be if McPhee had treated him with the slightest bit of respect. Olie’s the reason that so many of us still believe that superstars are good people. He’s approached life with the same passion that he approaches hockey, and I want nothing more than to see him celebrated for all that he’s done for the team– and the community. Other goalies may have had better statistics or positioning, but none had more loyalty or integrity. Olie was full of talent, but even more full of character. We are all lucky to have had him for as long as we did. From what management has shown us these last few weeks, washington certainly didn’t deserve him.

  23. rockOn Says:

    A story about Olie. In the 90’s, when I would go down to visit my folks in Florida, we’d usually take in a Panthers’ game. One year it was the Cats against the Caps. I had my camera at the game and was shooting it. Olie stopped a penalty shot and I got a sequence of three photos of the sequence and sent a photo copy of it, (it was at the far end of the ice, so the shots were not ideal). I didn’t ask for it, but he sent back an autographed picture. It may be time for him to leave the Caps, but a lot of us are going to miss him. I wonder who’s going to fill in the leadership he’s provided.

    In terms of players who have most positively impacted this organization, I put him up there with Langway, (Hunter and Ovechkin too obviously-though OV hasn’t been here a long time yet).

  24. Slooptorious Says:

    I’ll have to agree with Suzanne too, if he plays elsewhere, it’s going to be hard to watch, but if he decides to play, I’ll be right there cheering him on. I don’t think anyone could provide the leadership and class that Olie did for so long, he played through the best and the worst, when emotions and morale ran high, and when they were so low no one was at Verizon Center a.k.a. MCI Center, and even the old USAir arena, a.k.a. the Caps Center. Olie’s passion for the game and his fiery temper made him a joy to watch for years on end, there’s no one quite like him and I’ll continue to hope the best for him and his family. I’m proud to say that I’ve finally just received my Olaf Kolzig jersey, only wish I had gotten it earlier, to show my support before he left, but I’ll wear it proudly for years to come, to any arena, to any game, regardless of who’s playing, I’ll show my support for Olie the Goalie..

  25. JW Says:

    Truly a class act. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for management. It’s true that it’s sports and you expect stuff to happen, but they did have the chance to at leaast give him another shot at it when they were down 3-1.
    Ya get what ya deserve Caps. Unfortunately, the fans deserve much more for what they’ve been through. Damn good fans! Too bad the same can’t be said of McPhee!
    It would be sweet if he ended up on a team that knocks out the caps next year!
    Olie will be forgotten next year by McPhee and the fans…too bad!
    LGO!

  26. JW Says:

    Truly a class act. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for management. It’s true that it’s sports and you expect stuff to happen, but they did have the chance to at leaast give him another shot at it when they were down 3-1.
    Ya get what ya deserve Caps. Unfortunately, the fans deserve much more for what they’ve been through. Damn good fans! Too bad the same can’t be said of McPhee!
    It would be sweet if he ended up on a team that knocks out the caps next year!
    Olie will be forgotten next year by McPhee and the fans…too bad!

  27. Rick Says:

    I’m not gonna repeat all the good things that have been said, already, as it all becomes mud after a point. Having a son with Autism, though, I have an extra special place in my heart for Olaf. It’s nice to know there’s someone like Olaf “in our corner” of this very trying life.
    Game-wise/”business-wise”: dunno if he was tired of being here (Washington), tired in general, or what, but his last few season performances have dwindled. You’d have to reach back 12 yrs to get a worse Sv% than the 07-08 season.

    Olie, you will truly be missed in Washington, and if they do not hang your numbers up, well, then the Caps’ administration is even worse off than I thought! You’ve got years left in you, between the pipes! Find that desire you used to play with, and show us what you are all about!

  28. Kai Says:

    I remember watching Olie play in Portland 14 years ago, winning over fans, and seeing him win the Calder Cup. During that season, I was interviewed by a sports writer in the Portland paper, and when asked which pro hockey player I would like to meet the most, and my answer was Olaf Kolzig. To a young goalie in 4th grade he was larger than life. I watched him play, and went to Pirates practices just to see him. I tried to be like him as best I could, legs set wide apart, challenging shooters, coming waaay out to play the puck. I wore the number 37 all through high school and college because of him. When he came back to Maine for hockey camp, I learned a great deal from him. He cared about us, and gave us detailed write ups. He even hunted us down for photos on the last day, and gave us personalized photos. When the Caps played an exhibition game in Portland, Olie was mobbed after the game for autographs, and he didn’t stop til everyone was satisfied. He’s a great guy, and he is the reason I love the Caps. I know he may not have been the very best goalie ever, but he led the Caps through thick and thin, for so many years. I wish it didn’t have to end like this, and that he could have played at least one game in the playoffs, after all, he helped them get there.

    Thanks for everything Godzilla.

  29. Rodan Says:

    So Olie and Peter Bondra both played their last game as a Cap, in Chicago. I was at both games. I live in Chicago and was back in DC for Thanksgiving at which time I also saw Hanlon’s final game. The two games that I went to this year were the worst two of the season. Maybe I’ll stay away from the rink next year.

    Ottawa is a likely option for Kolzig, which would make for another strange Bondra connection, if he went there.

    I’ve been a Caps fan since the 1st season (Back when guys could smoke cigars at their seats and they always called the ref a “Bum”). I can’t think of any Caps player over the years, that deserves his number in the rafters as much as Olie. I hope he ends up working for the Caps organization when he does retire.

  30. Miranda Says:

    Back in the 90’s, when I was about 14, I went to a Pens/Caps game in Pittsburgh. Being a Caps fan was hard in that town, but I was decked out in Washington gear head to toe. We had good seats, right near where the Caps came out on the ice, and about 5 rows up. I got to watch Olie front and center in the net. He was my all time FAVORITE Cap. He didn’t have such a great game, and it was hard listening to the fans yell things like “holey olie”, he even got pulled from the game. BUT they didn’t have room for him on the bench, so he had to sit in the walk way out to the ice. I was a scared, 14 year old girl, and my hockey hero was sitting about 20 feet away. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. EVEN IN HIS MISERY….this man SIGNED MY PROGRAM after being pulled from the game. I asked “Olie, will you sign my program” and he replies “sure, what else do I have to do”. HAHA…….I’ve never forgotten that night.

    He is truly a staple to the Capitals organization. And I can only hope they hang his jersey where it belongs, for no one else can live up to the #37.

  31. bears...bears...bears...wooooooo Says:

    Only one word comes to mind to describe Olie. CLASS. Who gives two poops if he took his nameplate I probably would have to, who knows. What he gave to this organization was a name when we didn’t have many left. One constant was Olie in the pipes. I can remember when he played for Portland and they would come to Hershey we all thought “who’s this guy in net”. Well we all found out soon enough. Tenacity, grit, poise and determination I guess are some other words that you can use, but those words are left for the defencemen or Hunter type forwards not goalies. I have been a caps fan all my life but it will be hard not seeing #37, raise a glass lads for a truly great player and person as well.

  32. Rob Says:

    Well, this reminds me of the way Rod Langway’s run with Washington ended.

    I am not close to the inner workings of this team, but I am its biggest fan. It is my NHL team … I first saw as a 12 year old in their first year, 1974. Now 34 years later, I follow them as close as I can from TX through DirecTV and online.

    Rod Langway brought class, guts, respect, consistency, leadership, and results to the frachise. Olie took it to the next level. Rod was let go before he wanted to go, with management claiming or appearing to claim, he was too slow, the game had changed. Frustrated and bitter, he wandered off to explore other options. It seems Rod has bounced back some, but it took 10+ years. Not sure he is over it yet, IMHO.

    Olie has similarities and I am not sure what the next chapter of his book will read. I wonder how this could have played out differently. I know the current leadership had a vision and it seemed to have lost a bit of trust that Olie had what it would take to get this team in a position to win the Cup. I think this was purely based on results, short term results. I wonder if Huet can reproduce his string of wins and if the team can roll the way they did. This ownership team sold off/traded every one except Olie during the rebuild. They effectively built this team back up around him. The actions at the end of the season weren’t consistent with Olie’s experience/views, … that is what he is strugglng with in my opinion.

    I wish him the VERY best. He deserves it.

  33. Sharon Says:

    My Son tucker loves olie every game we go to he allways wonts olie to play. Tucker plays goalie on ice and on the street Kolzig is tuckers insperation and if he retiers who knows what will he do.Tucker made a poster that said 37is a leganed he brought to a game that we where sure that olie was going to play but he didnt so he cried on the metro all the way home.Thanks Olie for all you did in this town you changed the world.


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