The rookie dinner has become a bedrock tradition for NHL teams, and the Washington Capitals will partake in the bonding experience tomorrow night in Vancouver. The premise is simple — the rookies, or players who haven’t been apart of one before, treat the rest of the team to an expensive dinner and night of merriment.
Chris Clark still vivdly remembers his rookie dinner with the Calgary Flames. It was at the Morton’s across the street from the team hotel in Phoenix. Bruce Boudreau said teams didn’t do rookie dinners when he was a player — he just got his head shaved.
For their rookie dinner in October 2006, David Steckel and Jeff Schultz dressed up as the two main characters from “Blades of Glory,” Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy.
“It was in New York and it was Halloween, so we figured why not dress up,” Steckel said. “We wanted some respect from the veterans and that’s the way you do it. It is the rookie dinner for a reason.”
Steckel and Schultz split the meal with Tomas Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom … eventually. Steckel said Schultz and Fleischmann had to pay him back because they didn’t have enough room left on their credit cards.
“I got a substantial amount of bonus points through AmEx for that,” Steckel said. “They paid me back, but that night I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve never spent 15 Gs on a dinner before, so that’s pretty good.”
In some years there aren’t as many rookies to help break up the bill. This year won’t be a problem. Rookies Karl Alzner, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth and veteran Quintin Laing (because he’s never been to one) will split the bill. Vancouver native Shaone Morrisonn was in charge of picking the establishment.
A couple of players said Kyle Wilson, who was just recalled Monday and made his NHL debut Tuesday, will likely be exempt because of his circumstances. Tyler Sloan will also pitch in because he didn’t have a full share last year because he had been recently called up.
“I’d pay for dinner every night if it means getting to play in the NHL,” Wilson said.
Not only is the dinner a way to help bring the team closer together, it produces memories that last a lifetime.
“I also remember eating bread for dinner that night instead of the steak I ordered, so that’s how that went,” Steckel said. “We had a lot of fun. We had Olie [Kolzig] and we had a lot of great guys. As a rookie going into it, you are a little nervous but in the end you look back and it was one of the best times of your life.”