I've been a Capitals fan since I started playing and watching hockey back in 1987. My first Caps game was actually in 1986, before I started playing. I think my dad was trying to get the bug planted in me, by taking me to the Capital Centre for a game between the Caps and Winnipeg Jets. I don't remember a whole lot about that game, but the next year, me and my dad started our tradition of always going to the New Year's Day Caps game, this time featuring the Caps and Pittsburgh Penguins. Saw a young Mario Lemieux and current Caps broadcaster Craig Laughlin play, as well as the wonderfully named Pens goalie, Gilles Meloche.
Anyway, digressing. The point here is that just because I've been a Caps fan for so long, doesn't mean I couldn't admire some of the players that did not ever suit up in the red, white and blue. So here now, is a brief list of some of my favorite non-Capitals.
Cam Neely- Boston Bruins
There wasn't much NOT to like about Neely as a hockey player. He could score goals, he hit, he fought, he could do it all. I also remember the badass mullet he sported at the 1991 All-Star Game. How awesome was Neely as a player? Every year at the draft, you still hear commentators talking about some kid being "The Next Cam Neely." My favorite Neely play was one where he went to took a pass in his feet and briefly had his head down. Montreal defenceman Petr Svoboda came up to take him out. Neely saw him at the last minute and dropped Svoboda like a bad habit. He got back in the play and scored a one-timer, top corner on Patrick Roy. It was just the ultimate in "get-in-the-weight-room-cause-you-can't-stop-me!" alpha dog-ness.
Alas, his career was wrecked in the 1991 playoffs by hockey's anti-christ, Ulf Samuelsson. But there is justice in the world. Neely is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame, had his number 8 retired by the Bruins and was the architect of a Bruins team that finished 1st in the Eastern Conference. Samuelsson meanwhile, got knocked the fuck out by Tie Domi and is now the assistant coach of a bankrupt franchise (Phoenix Coyotes).
Doug Gilmour- Lots of teams, most successfully with St. Louis, Calgary and Toronto
Gilmour was a hockey player's hockey player. In fact, if you look up "hockey player" in the dictionary, you should find Gilmour's picture. He had the whole package: the missing front teeth, the mullet, the cool nickname ("Killer").
I myself liberally borrowed a few things from Gilmour. For instance, I started tucking in the right side of my jersey like he used to do (I know Gretzky started that but Gilmour made it look cooler) and I named this here blog after Dougie's number in Calgary.
Two more things about Gilmour. He was part of hockey's first Bromance, between himself and Don Cherry, which was"Daniel-san and Miyagi in Karate Kid III"-level uncomfortable, culminating in Cherry kissing Gilmour (really).
And, he once shattered the glass going into the penalty box. Now that is cool.
Brendan Shanahan - New Jersey/St. Louis/Hartford/Detroit/NY Rangers
I liked Shanny more from his early days with the Devils, Blues and the mighty Whale. He was a big, physical player that could score. He was certainly the missing piece when he went to Detroit and they soon became the Red Wings juggernaut we know today. But Shanny lost a little of the snarl that made me like him. Still, the guy was a warrior and has been a winner every place he's played. Even though he was a bit more of a finesse guy with the Wings, he could still kick ass when needed.
Sergio Momesso - Lots of teams, notably St. Louis and Vancouver
Probably my favorite hockey name ever. After him it would be Garth Butcher and Danton Cole. But Sergio Momesso sounds like an Italian hitman. He even looked like a gangster.
Momesso was always a bit of a disappointment as a player actually. He was a high draft pick by Montreal and looked like he should have fit into that Cam Neely/Rick Tocchet group of power forwards but he never did. Still, I always liked Momesso for his name and the fact that he was a tough, hard-nosed player. As an example, here's a clip of two members of this list having a go.
Milan Lucic - Boston Bruins
Next to Alex Ovechkin, is there a bigger YouTube legend than Lucic? I think not. I won't even bother to write a bunch of stuff, Looch's body of work speaks for itself.
Pavel Bure- Vancouver/Florida/NY Rangers
Before Alex Ovechkin, there was Pavel Bure. The only difference is that Ovie is a little bigger (6'2 compared to 5'10 for Bure) and that Ovie plays with a little bit more of a physical edge. But what they have in common is that both had the ability to make an arena hold its breath in anticipation of what they were going to do once they got the puck and hit full speed. I think Bure's career has been grossly underrated. For a 2-3 year period there was nobody, and I mean nobody, that was more exciting to watch than Bure. When he got the puck in full-flight, literally anything could happen. And remember, he and Kirk McLean carried a mediocre Canucks squad to one game from the Stanley Cup in 1994. I think the reason Bure is not remembered as fondly as he should be is because he was a bit of a diva and he pouted his way out of Vancouver in 1999. He had a couple of good seasons with Florida and then knee injuries wrecked his career for good. He's almost like hockey's version of Shawn Kemp: you remember the other stuff more than how great they were. In Bure's case, the pouting, the injuries and the brief romance with Anna Kournikova. Well, here's a reminder of the awesomeness that was "The Russian Rocket."