The Washington Capitals and the Curse of the #14

Often used as an excuse for a franchises’ unfathomable repeated failures, curses have always been prominent in sport.  Curses have said to be behind every aspect of athletics, from the demise of a singular franchise (the Cubs’ Curse of the Billy Goat) to an entire cities misfortune (The Curse of Billy Penn)- and even been said to target specific competitors (a la the Madden Curse). With the recent whispers attempting to explain the woes of the Washington Nationals, we couldn’t help but wonder if the Washington Capitals might be plagued by some form of pestilence. You know, aside from the mice droppings.

Put Flash on alert, and allow us to present the case of “The Curse of the #14″


Examining the careers of the 18 Caps’ who wore #14 through the teams’ 36-year history, it appears the digit is an ill-fated number:

Tommy Williams led the Caps in scoring in 1974-75 and played another season in DC in the #14, but was traded away and never played in the NHL again, finishing -81 in DC.

Gerry Meehan took up the #14 mantle and wore the number from 1975-79. He was released in 1979 and never played in the NHL again.  He finished -62 in 4 years in Washington.

Blair Stewart picked up #14 after Meehan’s departure, only wearing it for 45 games before he was claimed by the Quebec Nordiques in the expansion draft.  He only played 30 more NHL games.

Antero Lehtonen played his only 65 NHL games in #14 in 1979-80 as one of the few Finns to don a Capitals sweater.  He never played in the NHL again.

Dwayne Lowdermilk only played 2 NHL games in the #14 in 1980-81.  He never played in the NHL again.

Errol Rausse payed one of his three partial Caps seasons in the #14 before giving it up to Gaetan Duchesne in 1981.  Rausse only played 2 more games with the Caps after giving up #14 and then never played in the NHL again.

Duchesne had a decent stint with the Caps wearing #14 between 1981-87.  He played 451 of his 1028 NHL games with the Caps and played on two miracle playoff teams, the 1990-91 North Stars and the 1993-94 Sharks.  He is one of the few success stories in #14.  Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at age 45.

Mike Richard played 4 games in the #14 in 1987-88.  He played only 3 more games in the NHL, all with the Caps, all in #34 in 1989-90.

Geoff Courtnall only played two seasons with the Caps in #14, but he had two dandy seasons including helping the Caps to the 1990 Conference Final.  He was, however, undone by fried chicken in a limo in an unfortunate incident that caused the dismantling of the Capitals, and never played in DC again. He did go on to play 8 more productive seasons in the NHL.

Dave Tippett played 91 games for the Caps over two seasons, finishing -11.  He played two more seasons in the NHL.

Kevin Miller wore it in 1992 as he completely crashed and burned, making all DC fans pine for the return of Dino Ciccarelli.

Pat Peake had a serious injury wearing #14, a kind of freak injury, and then freak re-injury, that ended a very promising NHL career.

Patrik Augusta and Patrice Lefebvre had brief tryouts with the Caps in 1998-99, but didn’t last with the Caps, or with anyone else, for that matter.

Joe Sacco‘s career quickly down-spiraled in DC in the #14 , going from 23 to 14 to 7 points (0 goals) in three years before washing up in Philadelphia for 34 games prior to retirement.

Kip Miller‘s DC tenure was brief, but his two seasons were by far the most productive stretch of his career.  He, however, never played in the NHL again.

Both Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann have had injury issues while wearing that number, including a back injury for Fehr that cost him most of two seasons and a freak blood clot for Fleischmann that cost him the beginning (and some say the end) of his season in 2009-10.

Pic via Chris’ awesome site, CapsSnaps

Also be sure to check out JP’s take on the curseunbeknownst to us, from 3 years ago – over at Japers’ Rink