- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2005

Olie Kolzig is booking passage to Germany. Brendan Witt had booked passage to England but had to make a sudden and unexpected return to the United States. The comings and goings of the Washington Capitals sometimes are hard to track.

Goalie Kolzig, who had put off playing in Europe until it became official or patently obvious the NHL will not have a season, is making final preparations to play in Germany. He had narrowed his options to a few teams yesterday and was clearing up details before departing.

Defenseman Witt left for Bracknell, a city about 45 minutes southwest of London, a few weeks back to play for that city’s entry in the top British hockey league. But two days ago he learned his home in Jupiter Beach, Fla., had been damaged in a fire, so he, his wife and two daughters quickly returned to assess the damage.

“The good thing is, everybody’s OK,” he said yesterday. “Can you imagine what would have happened if the kids were in the pool and that live wire came down in the water?”

Witt played just three games for the Bracknell Bees before the team had a few days off. He took that opportunity for a very brief family vacation in Paris and was flying back to London, he said, when he was informed of the fire.

“My wife’s best friend is house sitting for us,” Witt said. “She called and said a truck backed into some electrical wires and knocked one of them down and into our yard. It started a fire that damaged the patio and some of the house and caused a lot of smoke damage. Thank goodness my neighbor was home, saw what happened and called 911.”

Witt said he was not sure when he would return to Bracknell.

“I told them I would be back, but that depended on how long it took to fix the damage,” he said. “I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before, so I don’t know how long it will take. I’d like to go back because I was having fun playing there.”

He had five points in his three games, equaling his offensive output in each of his first two Washington seasons, and was playing about 40 minutes a game.

“They only dress four defensemen,” he said.

Kolzig said he put off his decision to go to Europe as long as possible; as of yesterday 342 locked-out NHL players were competing. Today is Day 121 of the lockout by the league; no talks are scheduled, and none have been held since mid-December.

“I’m disappointed that it’s come to this,” Kolzig said. “The league hasn’t budged one bit from its stance and won’t negotiate. Of course the [union] had chances to negotiate in the past, but it didn’t. There’s enough blame to share in this, but I think [NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman should initiate talks. Too many people are being hurt by this.”

Kolzig, the 1999-2000 Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie, said he was having a few problems getting insurance to his liking and that was holding him up. He is 34 and conceded he had to get some action in to prevent rust.

“We’ve talked to a few teams, but they really don’t want me saying anything until a deal is done,” the goalie said. “A couple teams are interested, teams that are up in the standings and very profitable.”

Kolzig was born in South Africa, the son of German nationals who were working in that country, so he retains German citizenship. He has represented Germany in world championships and Olympic Games.

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