Ciccarelli honored before Caps game

Ciccarelli honored before Caps game
February 1, 2011, 11:12 pm
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 6:11 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
CSNwashington.com

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Around the hockey world, Dino Ciccarelli is associated with the Minnesota North Stars (where he played nine seasons) or the Detroit Red Wings (where he reached the Stanley Cup Finals).

Few outside of Washington think of him first and foremost as a Capital. Yet in this town, few former players are recalled as fondly as Ciccarelli, whose No. 22 jersey still can be found throughout Verizon Center.

So it was only appropriate the Caps honored the recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee before Tuesday night's game, giving Ciccarelli and local fans alike a chance to reconnect.

Why does Ciccarelli, who spent only three full seasons and part of a fourth in Washington, still resonate around these parts?

"I've always had a passion for the game," he said. "I was pretty feisty, didn't back down from anybody. ... The fans aren't dumb. In all the cities, there's 20,000 people in attendance. They know who's working hard and who's not working hard. That was my simple approach every night: Just do something to get noticed."

Acquired from the North Stars along with Bob Rouse on March 7, 1989, in exchange for Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy, Ciccarelli quickly put his personal stamp on the Capitals franchise. He scored 12 goals in his first 11 games, helping lead his new team to the Patrick Division title. And the winger continued to help the Caps reach the playoffs each of the next three seasons, though one particular postseason failure in his final stint in D.C. still haunts him.

In the first round of the 1992 playoffs, Ciccarelli and the Capitals held a commanding 3-1 series lead over the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Before anyone knew what hit them, Mario Lemieux and Co. rallied the Penguins back to capture the series, including a Game 7 victory at the Capital Centre.

Pittsburgh went on to win another Stanley Cup while the Caps endured another in a string of early playoff exits.

"That's still kind of a sore spot," said Ciccarelli, who was traded to Detroit that summer. "We were up three games to one, and I believe we were winning in the third period, too. So that one kind of hurt. ... Who knows? We win that series, you never know what happens."

Hockey has enjoyed a renaissance in Washington the past three years behind Alex Ovechkin, but Ciccarelli remembers a strong and passionate fan base during his time in town. He's glad the franchise has made a point to embrace its history, switching back to traditional red, white and blue uniforms and on Tuesday night wearing the same throwbacks that were on display at this year's Winter Classic.

Ciccarelli believes D.C. has always been, and will continue to be, a hockey town as long as the home team wins.

"It seems like the fan support is here," he said. "Obviously when No. 8 got here, things have really taken off. But this city would go crazy if these guys ever won around here. If these guys are down to the last four teams or the last two teams, I think this city and obviously this building would be rocking pretty loud."