Caps open season against defending champs
CHICAGO -- The last time the Chicago Blackhawks raised a Stanley Cup banner in 2010, Troy Brouwer let it go from his hands and watched it rise to the rafters of the UnitedCenter.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Brouwer, who was traded to the Capitals nine months later. “On one hand you’re celebrating the Stanley Cup, but on the other hand you’re giving it away, giving it back to the League and trying to fight for it again.
“It’s a cool little affair, but it can be distracting.”
Tonight at the UnitedCenter, Brouwer and the Capitals will be in the dressing room during most of the pre-game hoopla as the Blackhawks celebrate their 2013 Stanley Cup victory with another banner-raising ceremony.
Capitals left wing Brooks Laich said he’s never been part of a banner-raising and is less than thrilled with the idea of witnessing it.
“I’m sure it’s going to [tick] me off watching it,” he said. “I’m not going to sit there and clap for them. We’re not going to pay much attention to that.”
Brouwer started his NHL career in Chicago and makes his summer home there. But he said he spent most of his summer trying to avoid the WindyCity, especially during the Stanley Cup Finals.
“When they were in the Finals I got out of the city,” he said. “The worst thing that could happen to me this summer was having to play them opening night and see the banner.”
Asked if seeing that banner will pull at his heartstrings, Brouwer, who is the only member of the Caps who has won the Cup, said it will.
“I’m happy for the city because I’m still a resident there,” he said. “But a lot of the guys I played with got traded away. It’s a completely different team. I knew Rocky [Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz] really well and I’m happy for him and his franchise. But beyond that I’m happy to be here and I want to help this team get a win.”
As part of the pre-game hoopla, the Stanley Cup will also make an appearance at UnitedCenter. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings gave it one last skate around StaplesCenter before giving it away.
Laich, 30, said it will be the closest he’ll be to the Cup since visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame when he was 15 years old. Even then, he held true to the Canadian tradition of not touching it until he wins it.
“You can’t touch it. It’s something you gotta earn,” he said. “I didn’t touch it, I was too scared to. Hopefully, this year.”
Capitals captain Alex was said he also about 15 when he last saw the Cup up close, also at the Hockey Hall of Fame. He can’t remember if he touched it that day.
“Maybe I touch it, maybe I not,” he said. “I don’t believe that kind of stuff, but right now I not touch it because all these guys going to kill me.”
Ovechkin said he’s hoping that seeing the Stanley Cup will provide the Capitals with the incentive they need to win it nine months from now.
“I know if you’re a hockey player in the NHL and you don’t win a Stanley Cup you cannot touch it,” he said. “But I plan on trying to touch it.”
“Yeah, this year,” Ovechkin said with a smile.
As for tonight’s celebration, Ovechkin echoed the thoughts of Laich.
“It’s nice if you’re a fan, but you don’t want to see a different team to celebrate because you want to be that team to celebrate and do that kind of stuff,” he said. “They did a great job to win last year and of course they’re going to be a big test for us, to play our first game against the best team in the league last year.”