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Jennifer Frey’s Finest Caps Columns
Jennifer Frey and her daughter, Ryan (via)
Former Washington Post sports and Style writer Jennifer Frey died in March at the age of 47. I had been reading her articles for years, but as a Caps fan, I primarily remember her for her work during the 1998 playoffs.
Until recently, few of her readers had any idea why she passed away so young. On Thursday, Deadspin published Dave McKenna‘s “The Writer Who Was Too Strong To Live.” It’s one of the saddest articles about a journalist I’ve ever read. For many of us, this was the first we knew of Frey’s struggles.
For Caps fans, these columns below obviously bring back bitter memories of Washington’s 4-0 series loss to Detroit. However, reading them now can also enhance our appreciation for what a brilliant writer Frey was. I also regret not compiling this sooner, since I shouldn’t have needed to read McKenna’s article to fully (re)appreciate her talent.
Please consider donating to her daughter’s college education fund here.
From Clowns to Nearing NHL Crown
Friday, June 5, 1998
BUFFALO — Yvon Labre, an original Washington Capital, likes to tell a famous story about the franchise’s first season. The team only won eight games that year — it’s still a record low in the NHL — and got its lone road victory in California in their fifth-to-last game. That night, Labre’s teammate, Tommy Williams, grabbed a garbage can in the visitor’s dressing room and inscribed his name upon it, as did many of his teammates. Then the players hoisted the can above their heads and paraded it around the locker room as if it were the Stanley Cup itself.
That was the first — and, until Thursday night, only — trophy parade in Capitals’ history. Twenty-four long years later, the franchise finally held a real one here at Marine Midland Arena. Dale Hunter, an 18-year veteran, was the one lofting the hardware. His teammates were howling in celebration. And though it wasn’t the Stanley Cup — the Capitals aren’t there yet — it was the grandest moment in this team’s history. The Capitals are the Eastern Conference champions. They now own the Prince of Wales trophy and, at long last, they are headed to the Stanley Cup.
A Long Wait for Capitals’ Hunter
June 7, 1998
Dick Hunter stood outside the visitors’ locker room at Marine Midland Arena grabbing every Capital he could find. He hugged Craig Berube. He hugged Joe Reekie. He hugged anyone he could get his arms around, no matter how tall they loomed above him in their skates and pads. Hardest of all, he hugged his son.
Dale Hunter has a salt-and-pepper beard and he has heard players teasingly call him “Grandpa” and sometimes he feels just as his father did Thursday night — he feels like a father to them all. He’s 37 years old, and he’s been around this league longer than any of them, and around this team for 11 long, often difficult years.
In Hockey, Detroit Is the Capital City
June 9, 1998
Welcome to the Stanley Cup finals, where no Capitals team has ever gone before. Want to know what it’s like to be in the Stanley Cup? Like it or not, it’s best to ask the Red Wings — the opposition — for they have been there not once, not twice, but three times in the last four years.
Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, the Capitals begin their bid to win their first Stanley Cup in their 24th year of existence. And the Red Wings, who still own last season’s Cup, are looking for their ninth.
For those Washingtonians who think it’s a bit greedy for Detroit fans to hunger for a second straight Cup while this city has waited 24 long years merely to get to the finals, it must be explained that Detroit is hockey’s team of the 1990s, and, for this group of players, one Cup does not satisfy.
For ‘Panicking’ Caps, Opening-Night Jitters
June 10, 1998
DETROIT, June 9 — Dale Hunter was nervous. Hunter is 37 years old, he’s played in the NHL for 18 seasons, and he’s seen about all there is to see in this game. Except this. Tonight, Hunter — and the Washington Capitals’ — played in their first Stanley Cup final game. And the butterflies were there. “I was nervous,” said Hunter, who grinned a little bit when admitting that fact. “I’m out there playing in the final for the first time. I was little nervous — everyone was.”
By George, McPhee Has Done It!
June 11, 1998
DETROIT — George McPhee had to smile Wednesday when he heard that Ron Wilson thinks they are very much alike. Wilson had a laundry list of reasons — reasons McPhee does not dispute — to back his premise. They both love practical jokes. They both laugh in similar situations. They both have the same goals — winning a Stanley Cup highest among them — and the same approach to hockey, and the same perspective on how a team should go about its work.
“And I think,” Wilson added, turning serious for a moment, “that we’re similar because both our dads died young.”
Scheduling a Life to Make the Game
June 11, 1998
DETROIT, June 10 — Brian Bellows was wandering the corridors of Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minn., while hundreds of miles away the rest of the Washington Capitals trickled onto the ice here late this morning to practice for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. After a difficult and somewhat risky pregnancy, Bellows’s wife, Tracy, was undergoing induced labor, and the couple was anxiously awaiting the birth of their second child.
Seven-pound Kieffer Bellows was born healthy early this afternoon, approximately 19 hours after his father played in the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series, and 29 hours before the puck is scheduled to drop at Joe Louis Arena for Game 2. And after kissing his wife and seeing Kieffer for the first time, Brian was planning to fly back to Detroit in time for Thursday morning’s pregame skate.
Capitals Have the Will, But Red Wings Find a Way
Sunday, June 14, 1998
After 24 long years, the Stanley Cup finals finally made it to Washington last night. The hometown fans are still waiting, though, for something to cheer about.
No one can fault the Capitals if they lose this series to the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are the best team in the National Hockey League, hands down. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions. They are supposed to win this series.
For Caps, Dream Is Over
June 17, 1998
Chris Simon tapped his stick gently and Olaf Kolzig wearily rubbed his hand through his damp hair as the Washington Capitals formed a quiet, lonely line across the middle of MCI Center last night. They waited, graciously, for the Detroit Red Wings — their conquerors — to break from an exuberant Stanley Cup celebration and join the Capitals for the traditional handshake at center ice.
After waiting 24 long years to make the Stanley Cup finals, the Capitals watched their dream season end abruptly here last night, when the Red Wings finished a four-game sweep of these Stanley Cup finals with a 4-1 victory on Washington’s home ice. Once hands were shaken and congratulations offered, the Capitals retreated to their dressing room to a standing ovation, while the Red Wings held an emotional celebration in front of the sellout crowd.
Capitals Learn a Cupful of Lessons
June 18, 1998
Brian Bellows wishes that he could explain to his Capitals teammates what it’s like — what it’s really like — to win a Stanley Cup. The Capitals watched the Detroit Red Wings win the Cup Tuesday night at MCI Center. They watched them celebrate at the far end of the ice, they watched them hug and scream and cheer, and, even in their dressing room, the Capitals still could hear the Red Wings as they took their celebratory trips around the ice.