- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Washington Capitals have existed for 29 seasons, yet there is no place honoring former players or team officials. Nor is there a truly active alumni association.
Instead there are a lot of hard feelings, relationships that were severed when it was most convenient, usually by the club. That could happen again this offseason with another keystone of the franchise, defenseman Calle Johansson, who has toiled 15 seasons with the Caps.
The potential for another ugly divorce is no surprise. Mike Gartner and Rod Langway are the only two players in the Hockey Hall of Fame who played a significant part of their careers with the Caps, and both left the organization under strained conditions. The fence has been partially mended with one sort of while the other has not returned.
Only Dale Hunter, the heart and soul of every team he played for he was with the Caps for 12 seasons, including four as their captain left with both sides feeling good about themselves. A host of other players who approach his stature departed with a sour taste.
Why? Perhaps it is the nature of professional sports today, when there is almost no loyalty, something that governed athletics in decades past. Perhaps sports are just a business, pure and simple.
This isn't a problem that exists solely with the Caps. Only some of the NHL's Original Six and a handful of other clubs have private lounges for alumni and wives. It also would be wrong to suggest that in some cases there was not sufficient reason to send a player packing for the good of the community, the team or perhaps both.
But if Johansson walks away, into retirement or unrestricted free agency, because of a conflict with the coaching staff, he will join an impressive list of players who do not have totally fond memories of their days in Washington. Among them, starting with the two Hall of Famers:
Gartner. Traded to Minnesota on March 7, 1989, after 758 games, 397 goals and 789 points. He finished with 1,432 games, 708 goals and 1,335 points. A lack of chemistry in the dressing room reportedly forced the move. A scheduled Mike Gartner Night at MCI Center last season never took place.
Langway. There are those who maintain his presence was the only thing that prevented the franchise from being moved. When age slowed his game, he was asked to accept less ice time. There was a clash of wills, and he retired prematurely. Rod Langway Night took place, but the wounds are still visible.
Jason Allison. He was a can't-miss first-round pick in 1993 who played 86 games over four seasons with seven goals. His reputation here, to put it politely, was as a nonachiever of the first magnitude. After being traded to Boston, Allison benefited from more forceful motivational techniques and became a star.
Jim Carey. He arrived as a goaltending genie and won a Vezina Trophy. But as quickly as his star rose, it crashed after a bitter holdout. He was dealt to Boston and was in the minors within a season.
Bobby Carpenter. The original can't-miss kid, picked third overall in 1981. He fought constantly with coaches over where and how he should play. After he was finally thrown off the team, he bounced around for years before ending up in New Jersey, where he won a Stanley Cup.
Dino Ciccarelli. He arrived with a murky reputation and soiled it more while he was here, but he became one of the biggest fan favorites in team history. He asked for more money and was gone.
Byron Dafoe. His career was proceeding on course, battling Olie Kolzig for positioning on the totem pole. Then he asked for more money, and he, too, was gone.
Bengt Gustafsson. One of the top three centers to play for the Caps. A strong, hulking player, he could take care of himself but hated NHL violence. Denis Potvin broke Gustafsson's left leg just before the playoffs one season, and Gus went home, never to return.
Al Iafrate. The Wild One possessed a huge, wickedly fast slap shot and was a good defenseman when he was in shape. He also would sneak out of the dressing room between periods to grab a cigarette. He was traded, obviously.
Larry Murphy. He will enter the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible but not for his years with the Caps. The fans booed him out of town, and he went on to win Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Adam Oates. Outspoken and probably selfish, he also will enter the Hall of Fame right when he becomes eligible. He may possess the best hands of any player in Caps history and the sharpest tongue.
Michal Pivonka. Miscast as a scoring machine, he was in fact a typical European center far more concerned with preventing goals than scoring them. He was standoffish and elitist but could play when motivated. He refused a buyout and was banished to the minors.

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