Saturday night the Washington Capitals took care of business, beating their Division foe, the Florida Panthers in front of a sold out crowd at Verizon Center. The Caps have now beaten every team in the Eastern Conference and hold a 13 point lead in their division. Although Washington is 22-4-1 on home ice, all is not well at the Phone Booth.
Constant complaints have been made by Capitals players to the media in the past few seasons about the condition of the ice, with the most recent coming from Tom Poti, a top penalty-killer and mild-mannered ‘D’ man:
“The ice was disgusting. Every game here, it is an embarrassment. That’s why so many guys get hurt with groins. It is a shame to be honest with you. The puck was like a bouncy-ball out there, jumping around and banging around. It is tough to handle the puck when it is like that. I can’t imagine a guy like Alex Ovechkin on a decent sheet of ice how many goals he could get. A guy like Mike Green as well — you look at the puck and it bouncing and rolling and flipping all over the place. The only good thing we have is that it’s the same for both teams.”
Poti is not the first Cap player to speak up, captain Chris Clark (who missed most of 2008 with a groin injury in the past two seasons) had something to say a few weeks ago as well:
“[The ice at Verizon Center is] the worst. Today, [talking about Nassau] it just stayed wet for a little while. You could tell with the referees coming out and moving the water around a little bit. But I still say Verizon, playing on it all of the time, is the worst.”
When the captain speaks up about a probelm with such strong emotions, it should be time that someone listen. Caps management should really be paying attention to this seeing how they could be losing an advantage by having guys like Ovechkin and Green playing in the “slush”:
“Another thing that favored us was the condition of the ice,” Briere said (after game 7). “It was so bad that it was tough for guys like Semin, Backstrom and Ovechkin to get anything going, the ice was so bad. That was another thing that went our way.”
Verizon Center is home to so many events, from basketball games and concerts, to circuses and Monster Truck shows. Maybe its time that Ted Leonsis figures out a way for Capitals games to be the only event scheduled on the day of the game. Yesterday’s game was scheduled seven hours after Georgetown faced off against Cincinnati. That game went into overtime, so the ice wasn’t ready until about 5 pm.
Ted Leonsis isn’t stupid, and he’s acknowledged the problem before. Lisa Hillary even reported that the temperature felt unusally warm while she was reporting between the benches last night. Its been estimated that de-humidification system installed was around $4 million. That’s chump change when it comes to the health and performance of a playoff calibr team with MVP and Norris Trophy Candidates. Will an injury to Ovi or Green be the cause to do something about the ice, or will it be the cause of an early playoff exit by the Caps? Something, anything needs to be done before its too late.
Matt Leighton is a marketing student at Penn State with a passion for Washington Capitals hockey. You can contact him and find all his work on his personal site here.