Thursday, June 22, 2006

Olie Kolzig, the backbone of the Washington Capitals for nearly a decade, will be recognized tonight for his dedication to his community and team when he is awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy by the NHL.

Kolzig, who was chosen from 28 nominees, will be honored during the NHL awards show in Vancouver (8 p.m., OLN).

Meanwhile, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is expected to become the first Caps player to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. The 20-year-old left wing also is one of three finalists for the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s outstanding player as voted by members of the NHL Players Association. He probably will be named to one of the NHL’s two all-star teams.

The Clancy trophy goes “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities off and on the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” It is named after Hall of Fame defenseman-wing Frank Clancy, who played for Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal during the 1920s and 1930s. The trophy was first awarded in 1988.

Kolzig, drafted 19th overall by Washington in 1989, has been involved in charitable work associated with the Caps since he arrived, almost all involving children. He has been instrumental in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Children’s Hospital through a golf and tennis tournament held just before training camp every September and other endeavors.

After his son was diagnosed with autism, Kolzig founded Athletes Against Autism more than three years ago. The disease affects the developmental skills of children.

On the ice, Kolzig has been the team’s unofficial captain (goalies are not allowed to be captains) since Dale Hunter retired in 1999. No matter who has worn the “C,” Kolzig has been the person who has led the dressing room, scolding teammates when it was needed and gently restoring order at other times.

This season Kolzig won his 250th NHL game, one of 20 victories he posted during a rebuilding season that was written off before the first puck was dropped. It is possible the youthful Caps would have struggled to win 10 games (they won 29) had Kolzig not been there to backstop their efforts.

The 36-year-old, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie in 2000, also played for Germany in the Olympics during the season.

Ovechkin, the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, scored two goals in his first NHL game and was all but unstoppable from that point. He amassed a legion of fans in his native Russia and through the United States and Canada as he finished with 52 goals and 106 points in 81 games as a rookie.

While his fame was already growing, it skyrocketed after he scored a sensational goal against Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 16. Ovechkin was prone on the ice and somehow flicked the puck past the goaltender and a defender, leaving even the Great One shaking his head on the bench. The goal has been replayed hundreds of thousands of times online.

No Caps player has won the Calder, although Jim Carey (1995) and Ryan Walter (1979) were runners-up. Two Caps won the Clancy award while playing for other teams, Trevor Linden with Vancouver and Dave Poulin with Boston.

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