Capitals forward Joel Ward wants to make something clear: He is not just another Johnny come lately on the Baltimore Ravens bandwagon.
Instead, the self proclaimed ‘Ravens groupie,’ has followed the team for the better part of the last decade. Ward was naturally all smiles the day after the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47.
“I literally sat in the same seat for the whole game,” Ward said of his viewing experience at the Capitals’ Super Bowl party at Mike Ribeiro’s home.
“I had my Ray Lewis [jersey] on with a hat and a scarf. I kind of have some winter gloves and a touque but I didn’t wear that during the game. I’m kind of a big groupie fan.”
The Toronto native who played university hockey in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and has played professionally in such NFL markets as Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville and Washington says that he was drawn to the Ravens because of their blue collar brand of football.
“I took a liking to their style,” he said. “I was more of a defensive forward and I kind of just took a liking to their style and how they played defense back in the day and just the guys they’ve had like Ed Reed and [Lewis] and [Terrell] Suggs.
“Then it just so happens that I end up coming here to the Caps and I’ve been fortunate to get close to [the team] and see quite a few games, and meet some of the guys, so it’s been good.”
Thanks to longtime Nashville Predators trainer Pete Rogers, who has a relationship with members of the Ravens training staff, Ward received plenty of Ravens paraphernalia while still a member of the Predators organization. Among the items he tucked away was an autographed jersey from Ray Lewis- Ward’s favorite player.
“I was a big Ray Lewis fan for a long time- for many years,” he said.
“One thing that’s tough to do is to be a leader- to go out of your way and to lead a team is very tough to do. That’s the part that I really admire the most, how one individual can inspire a whole group and a whole locker room like that. You definitely have to dig deep within yourself and sometimes you may have to say things to your teammates that may not be the nicest things [in order] to get them going and it’s definitely a tough thing to do.
“I definitely try to do my share and lead, I’m not as vocal I guess you can say as Ray Lewis, but I just try to show it through work ethic and I think that’s part of his strategy too the way he goes out there and plays…. To see what he can still do at his age and play the game football is pretty inspirational.”
As much as Ward may try to emulate Lewis’ intensity and leadership, don’t expect the Capitals’ leading goal-scorer to come out with Lewis-like eye black or face paint any time soon.
“I think the guys think I’m really obsessed already, so coming in with face paint is just another way that [teammate Jason Chimera] can say something to me and make fun of me in some sort of way."