Them Photobombin’ Capitals

I grew up on Long Island in the mid 1970’s, and became a hockey fan right around the time that the Rangers were perennial contenders and the Islanders were beginning their period of dominance. Needless to say, I was surrounded by Islanders and Rangers fans. Despite this… BECAUSE of this… I felt like I needed my own team. I’ve always marched to a different drummer.

I ended up a Capitals fan for a number of reasons, but there were three factors that had the biggest role in my adopting a team from 300 miles away:

  1. I’ve always been drawn to underdogs, and you don’t get much more underdoggy than the 1970’s Capitals.  Over the first 5 seasons I was a Caps fan, their best record was 26-36-18 in ’80/’81 and their best finish was 4th in ’78/’79.
  2. Their games were broadcast on a 50,000 watt AM station (1500, WTOP!), so I could easily listen to the play-by-play on my trusty Panasonic radio
  3. My interest in hockey coincided with my interest in hockey cards, and a lot of the hockey cards in the 1970’s featured photos taken on the Capitals’ home ice… which mean that Capitals players would end up on a lot of hockey cards, and I thought that was really cool.

It didn’t matter who you were or what team you played for, the Capitals were never far…
1981-82 Topps Rick Middleton SA

Always lurking…
1979-80 Topps Hockey Stan Mikita

…always watching…
1979-80 Topps Garry Croteau

…and watching…
1976-77 Topps Hockey Phil Esposito

…Always right behind you when you least suspect it…
1977-78 Topps Mike Murphy

…Always skating into frame…
1977-78 Topps Hockey Terry O'Reilly

…Always ready to enter a card through force, if necessary…
1975-76 Pierre Larouche

…Always ready to make an appearance, no matter how awkward or undignified…

1977-78 Topps Hockey Wayne Cashman

…And did I mention they’re always watching?
1981-82 Topps Hockey Mike Rogers

Not even The Great One was able to escape their photobombing.
1981-82 Topps Wayne Gretzky

But my love for the Capitals was not something that would last.  During the 1990’s my emotional attachment took several hits… First off, Captain and future HOFer Rod Langway retired…

1986-87 Capitals Police Rod Langway

Langway was the heart and soul of the Capitals for his 11 seasons in Washington, and it just wasn’t the same without him.

More damaging, however was my moving out of state to a part of the country that had little coverage of hockey and even less enthusiasm… this coming more-or-less at the same time that the Caps changed their branding and went with this ungodly monstrosity of a uniform:

2000 Pacific Paramount Hockey Brian Bellows

No, I’m not so shallow that I would dump a team just because I don’t like their uniforms, but when it suddenly becomes much harder to follow hockey at the same time that your team no longer looks like “your team”, it can take a big hit on your emotional attachment.  My fandom faded over the latter part of the 1990’s, and even when the Caps made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, it was not enough to revive my lagging enthusiasm.

A few years ago I pulled out my hockey cards thinking I would get rid of a part of my collection that I didn’t care about anymore… and it’s true that I didn’t have much of an attachment to the cards from the 1990’s anymore.  But pulling out my collection revived my interest in the 1970’s hockey cards of my youth.  I love the teams, I love the uniforms, I love the players, I love the card designs…

…and I love Them Photobombin’ Capitals.

1978-79 TOpps Hockey Eric Vail


7 thoughts on “Them Photobombin’ Capitals

  1. So true about them lurking all over ’70s and ’80s cardboard. Hey, the Caps are arguably the best team in the entire league this year and are poised to make a deep playoff run, seems like the perfect time to get back into hockey? ;-)

  2. That last card made me look up Eric Vail, as he’s dwarfing those two Caps on the card. Turns out he’s only 6’1″. So who are those two Washington lollipop guild members flanking him?

    • Good question! The guy on the right appears to be defenseman Larry Bolonchuk, who is listed as being 5’10” (although from this picture I’m guessing that’s a generous listing). Not sure who the other guy is because I can’t see his uniform number. The Caps had several guys listed at 5’9″, but it’s not Bernie Wolfe because he’s a goalie and it’s not Mike Marson because he’s… well, I was going to say African-American, but he’s Canadian. Ah, the heck with it, Mike Marson is black. Just a very quick guess, maybe it’s 5’9″ defenseman Bryan Watson.

  3. Great post… I becane an Orioles/Colts fan for much the same reason. I was surrounded by Yankee/Giants fans and wanted my ‘own’ teams. The Rangers? I think that’s genetics.

    Hey, have I mentioned lately how much I despise seeing Phil Esposito in Rangers gear?

  4. Pingback: FINALLY! The Finals! | The Shlabotnik Report

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