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Capitals try a different kind of hat trick

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2008

Brooks Laich sat at his stall, surrounded by about a dozen media members shortly after Saturday night's 4-2 win over Chicago at Verizon Center.

Sure, Laich had netted the game-winner late in the third period, but somehow he was asked four questions before the topic turned to the dark-red hard hat resting on his head.

Moments earlier, Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark presented Laich with the headgear - normally reserved for people on a construction site - and assistant equipment manager Craig Leydig placed a No. 21 on the front.

"[Clark] said it goes to the guy who works hard and does something to help the team win," Laich said. "He also said I had to wear it during all of the interviews."

This isn't Clark's first experience with something like this. When he was a member of the Calgary Flames, the team had a similar reward during the 2003-04 season.

"I thought it was an awesome thing," Clark said. "It helped out with our run [to the Stanley Cup Finals]."

The rule is that the hard hat will be awarded after victories. Clark handed it to Laich, and it will be Laich's responsibility to decide who gets it after the next win. One stipulation is that a player cant pick himself.

Whoever earns the hard hat will have his number slapped on it somewhere, so if the Caps are as successful as all of the pundits have predicted, the hat will begin to resemble a college football helmet as the season progresses.

"It is not always going to be the goal scorer," Laich said. "It might go to somebody who does something that the fans might not see that the players appreciate to help this team win."

Considering the style of game Laich enjoys playing, there could be several No. 21s on the thing before the season is over.

"Actually, if we had won the night before I was going to give it to him, too," Clark said. "He was in front of the net causing trouble the whole time. ... He is that type of player, so it will be coming back to him again, Im sure."

For the guys who played for Bruce Boudreau in Hershey, this isnt their first experience with a hard hat in the dressing room. The Bears passed one around during the Calder Cup playoffs. The hat had 16 stars on it, and whoever earned the hat that night had the privilege of peeling off a star.

"It's always a good memory when we break out the hard hat," Caps center David Steckel said. "I think it's something we are going to pride ourselves on."

Added Laich: "It is a nice little memento at the end of the game for a guy who puts in a solid effort. Ill be looking forward to getting again later in the season."