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Caps Clinic: Being a Child Once Again!
Being around hockey all my life, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a Washington Capital. From the first time I ever laced up my skates, as a 5-year-old learning the game from Capitals 1990 draft pick Rod Pasma, I knew that I wanted to play for the team that I now have tattooed all over my arms. Injuries ended my dreams, but luckily there was an alternative.
On Feb. 10, at Caps Care Casino Night, Mark Whiting and John Stortz won the bid for the Caps Clinic. A month in advance, I received a call from Whiting asking me if I was interested. Of course, loving the Caps as much as I do, I jumped at the opportunity and said, “Yes.” I was officially one of 20 skaters.
On Feb. 26, 2012, myself, along with 10 other male skaters, nine female skaters, and three goalies, stepped onto the ice to be schooled by Mathieu Perreault, Dennis Wideman, Marcus Johansson, Michal Neuvirth and Assistant Coach Jim Johnson.
The clinic itself had both defense and offense covered. Wideman worked on gap control, backward skating, d-man facing the play and penalty killing. Johansson worked on deflecting shots and screening the goalie. Neuvirth worked on shelfing the puck, cross-crease passing, driving the net, and rebounding, as well as working with the goalies. Perreault worked on working the corners, corner battles, body positioning while maintaining puck control, and cycling the puck. Johnson worked on defense agility, backward agility with the puck, heads-up shooting, mobility, and keeping the puck in the zone.
The group I was in started with Johnson and backward skating around cones. He then had us working on heads-up shooting, where he showed us the way we should have our bodies positioned. To finish our 10-minute session, Johnson had us working on keeping the puck in the zone when the puck is thrown up the boards. It was helpful learning how to work off our offside and moving from backhand to forehand while keep the puck in the zone.
Next, we moved on to Perreault’s station, and the first thing we did was start joking around. He then explained cycling the puck and we got to do the drill with Perreault as the defender.
On my first go, he tripped me up, but it was all good because the next few times I went, Perreault couldn’t get the puck off me, until I had a bad pass that he intercepted. Next we worked on board battles in which we paired off and took turns defending the puck. Perreault got involved and I got to have a board battle with him, eventually stripping him of the puck with the help of some of my group members.
Then we moved on to Wideman and we mostly worked on backwards skating and gap control. Because my group had someone new to hockey and skating, Wideman worked with her while we worked on backwards skating. Near the end we worked on gap control and learned techniques on how to close players out and strip them of the puck.
Next up was Neuvirth and we worked on wrap-arounds and getting the goalie moving by passing around the crease. Unfortunately, during the drill our goalie got hurt so Neuvirth placed his stick in the net and we played a game of Juice Boy. I have to admit, after watching the guys play it so many times at practice, it was a lot of fun to do it myself.
We finished the sessions with Johansson. We worked on deflecting the puck on net and would have worked on screening the goalie if ours hadn’t gotten hurt. When we were working on our tip-ins, we did it first by ourselves and then with a defenseman. Just like with Perreault, once the defensemen were added, the deflections got scrappy and a lot of fun.
To end the clinic we did a shootout, group photos, and an autograph and personal photo session with the players and Johnson.
This year’s Caps Clinic was a blast, and I hope I get to do it again next year.