I hold a special place my heart for hockey history. Putting A Roof On Winter is one if my favorite non-fiction books (after The Game, of course) and the Legends Of Hockey Series is on my DVD shelf in the Caps-themed man-cave I call a basement. But the Caps are “My Team”, so I hold an even more special place for the Capitals as I have known them, 1984 to the present. I remember my first game at the Capital Centre, against Winnipeg. I remember John Druce going nuts in the playoffs. I remember my first Skipjacks game, where I sang the team’s fight song and met a really young Oil Kolzig in a post-game get together with the team’s Kid’s Club. The Caps are part of my identity as a hockey fan.
And of course I remember the team’s stars throughout the years, from Mike Gartner to Ovi, with some Bondra thrown in for good measure. But through it all, I remember the unsung heros; the no-names and random 4th liners that no one ever booed because half the arena didn’t know who they were. The Working Class of the NHL. The guys you have to look up to make sure they were actually Caps. Some guys sniffed a spot as a top-six forward or top-four D. But mostly, they worked hard to stay in the big leagues as long as they could. The Bobby Goulds and Jim Hrivnaks and Ken Klees and Ben Clymers ofthe team.
So when my wife presented me with an Abbotsford Heat jersey with Quintin Laing’s (one of my personal favorite Role Guys since the lock-out) name and number as an anniversary present this week, I found myself thinking about the guys who “filled out” Caps’ rosters throughout the years.
So I pose the question to Caps fans throughout the years: who is the Best Role Player the Caps have ever employed? Depending on when you started rooting for the Caps, it’s a tricky question. There have been so many different types of role guys throughout the years.
It could be a fighter like Alan May or Kevin Kaminski, a role model/coach in the making like Craig Billingsly, an unsung scorer like Todd Kryger or Keith Jones or a guy modern Caps fans know and love like Boyd Gordon or Matt Hendricks. Everyone has a guy that they love to root for who isn’t a household name. Third and fourth liners, bottom-four defensemen and career-backup goalies make up half the average NHL team. Some of these guys are one step away from a car ride back to the AHL or worse, finding their way in the real world as our colleagues instead of Ovechkin’s.
So, who is your favorite role player for the Caps?