- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

Jeff Halpern, the Potomac native who grew up a Washington Capitals fan and dreamed of someday just playing in the NHL, was named captain of his hometown team last night.

Halpern, the first Montgomery County native to play in the NHL, becomes the 12th captain in the 31-year history of the team, joining the likes of Dale Hunter, Adam Oates and Rod Langway to lead the club and serve as the link between players and management.

He also is the first captain of the team since Steve Konowalchuk was traded to Colorado in 2003. Yvon Labre is the only former Caps captain to retire as a member of the team. Halpern also served as acting player representative during the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

“Jeff has the talent, maturity and leadership to captain,” general manager George McPhee said. “He carries himself well at all times and is respected by his teammates and the coaching staff. We believe he will be an excellent captain.”

The 29-year-old Halpern went to Montgomery County public schools before attending a prep school in New Hampshire and playing a season of Junior B hockey in Ontario to advance his career. He graduated from Princeton after four years of hockey there.

He was a long shot to make it in the NHL because he was 22 when he turned pro, already considered almost too old to waste any development time on. He made the team for the start of the 1999-2000 season and has since played 368 games with 76 goals and 170 points, centering a checking or defensive line.

When he joined the Caps he was a rare rookie on a veteran team. While he was greeted warmly, he never knew he was really one of the boys until he came off the ice after a game in Calgary. His teammates had taken the only shoes he had with him on the trip, black dress shoes, and painted them white. The gesture was his membership card to the players’ inner circle.

Halpern said he watched teammates like Hunter and Oates, Mike Grier, Konowalchuk, Brendan Witt and others to get the necessary experience for his current job.

“Those are the guys who go about their business quietly, work hard and try to take care of the young guys as well,” Halpern said. “I would have liked to have been like Hunter but I think I’m more comparable to guys like Konowalchuk and Grier.”

The announcement of Halpern’s elevation to captain was made at a Fan Fest at the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, where the Caps’ new $42 million practice facility is being built atop the neighboring parking garage. More than 1,000 people were in attendance.

Notes — The Caps play the Flyers at 7 p.m. today in Philadelphia. … Tomorrow, the Caps are the home team at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., for a 5 p.m. game against Pittsburgh. It will be the first time Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin, the first pick in the 2004 draft, and Sidney Crosby, whom the Penguins took with the first pick in this year’s draft, have met since the IIHF world junior championship game in January in North Dakota. Crosby’s Canadian team won the title over Ovechkin’s Russian club. To make matters worse for Ovechkin, he was injured early in the championship game and played only one shift after the first period. The Caps will remain in Hershey on Monday and Tuesday, returning to Piney Orchard for drills on Wednesday.

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