After all the talk of how much better the Pittsburgh alumni team was than the Washington one, I set out to find exactly how mismatched the two teams were. It turns out "very" is an apt description as can be found by this roster comparison spreadsheet of mine. Basically the Penguins alums are twice as good as the Capitals. Sorry about that Caps fans.
However there is one name on the Capitals alumni roster that boggles my mind; J.R. Reich. Who is this man? Nobody seems to know who he is or how he has a connection to the Capitals organization so I decided to put on my detective's hat and solve this mystery. Here we go.
From the article on NHL.com regarding the final alumni roster, J.R. Reich's name links to an NHL.com player bio page where he's identified as a 44 year old goalie from Huntsville, Alabama. A quick Google search results in zip for the guy, as does a search on hockey-reference.com. However his LinkedIn profile lists him working the Washington D.C. area and as having been a player in both the Washington and Tampa Bay farm systems; but with little else of value. Then I searched for Reich on hockeydb.com and it turns out he played 2 games for the Hampton Road Admirals of the ECHL during the 1989-90 season. In those 2 games, Reigh played 10 minutes and let it 2 goals on 6 shots for a 12.00GAA and .667sv%. Wow. But where is the connection to the Capitals organization?
The Hampton Road Admirals began life as an ECHL expansion team in 1989, became the Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths in 2001, then ceased to be a team in the ECHL after the 2003-04 season as they became a charter member of the Southern Professional Hockey League in 2004. But let's go back to the Hampton Road Admirals, their 89-90 season, and figuring out who in the hell J.R. Reich is and how he's a part of the Capitals franchise history.
The Hampton Road Admirals were franchised by ECHL commissioner Pay Kelly to New York businessman Blake Cullen in the summer of 1989. Their first season was impressive enough that even after losing in the first round of the ECHL playoffs, the Admirals garnered interest from the Detroit Red Wings and the, wait for it, Washington Capitals with the Capitals offering to "send a goaltender and an unspecified number of players" to Hampton Road. Was this goaltender J.R. Reich? No, no it was not. This Capitals goaltender offered to the Hampton Road Admirals was none other than the Capitals' 1st round pick in the 1989 draft, Olaf Kolzig who played a total of 35 games for the Admirals over two season.
So that was a dead end, let's go back to the Hampton Road Admirals' affiliations. According to hockeydb.com, the Admirals had no official affiliations with any AHL or NHL team during their inaugural 1989-90 season. Their first affiliation came in 1991 with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL, and later with the Washington Capitals directly in 1993. The Skipjacks were the farm team for the Capitals from 1988-1993, but they didn't have a simultaneous partnership with the Admirals or Capitals during the time in which J.R. Reich was a member of the team.
What then does all of this tell us about J.R. Reich and his "direct" connection to the Washington Capitals, thus warranting a place on their alumni team for the Winter Classic?
He played two games for an ECHL during a year in which that team had no official affiliations with the Washington Capitals, but which later did develop ties with that organization. So in essence, J.R. Reich got grandfathered in to the Capitals organization but never had direct contact. For something as big as the Winter Classic and something as memorable as an alumni game between such legends as Mario Lemieux, Peter Bondra, Kevin Stevens, and Dino Ciccarelli that's a pretty big stretch for someone like Mr. Reich, as much of a good guy as he seems to be, to be a part of. That's just my two cents.
The biggest question I have about J.R. Reich's inclusion in the WC Alumni game is this:
How in the hell did the Capitals ever remember they sort of had ties to J.R. Reich in the first place?