In the 35 seasons in the NHL, many a great name has worn the red, white and blue and/or the blue, black and gold of the hometown Washington Capitals. From the team originals like Doug "Diesel" Mohns and Yvon Labre to modern day superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom, 459 different players have worn the sweater of our favorite hockey team.
However, for every player who laced them up over 900 times like Calle Johansson and Peter Bondra, there are those whos tenure on the hometown ice was a bit more fleeting. It was Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu who noted that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Well, for these guys that single step was the extent of their Caps journey; they are the Caps one-hit wonders. The Knack of the Washington Capitals…
According to Hockeydb.com, 16 players have suited up for one, and only one, NHL game as a Washington Capital. For nine of these players, their cup of coffee with the Caps was their one and only bite at the NHL apple. For some it was the end of their NHL careers, still others went on to play for other NHL teams and achieved varying degrees of success in professional hockey. Regardless of whether this one day in a Caps uniform was their first, last or only game in the NHL, for one and only one night, they were our guys.
The list must start with perhaps the first of (unfortunately) many first round draft pick busts, Alex Forsyth. A 6’2" 190 lb center from Galt, Ontario, Alex was selected by the Caps with the 18th and final pick in the first round of the 1975 NHL amateur draft. Now, you are probably wondering how a team that just compiled the most putrid record in the history of organized sports would end up picking last in the first round while the Stanley Cup champion Flyers picked first. Well, we have our old pal Milt Schmidt to thank for that.
Milt felt that despite only 8 wins in the inaugural season, and finishing a mere 68 points out of a playoff spot, the Caps were just one veteran away from being competitive. [Fun fact-as it turns out, the Caps were mathematically eliminated from playoff competition in that 74-75 season after tying the Boston Bruins in their 41st game of that season. Yes, that was 1 game past the mid-point of the season.] What better veteran to acquire than a future mosquito repellent pitchman with a shiny new Stanley Cup ring? So he traded the number one overall pick to the Stanley Cup champion Flyers in exchange for their spare part, Bill Clement, and the 18th and final pick in the first round.
Welcome to Washington Bill! Here’s a big C to wear on your sweater and we look forward to you leading us in the future…or, the next 46 games, whichever comes first. Bill and his handsome head of hair were quickly shipped to Atlanta for 29 year old Gerry Meehan. Meehan played parts of four seasons with the Caps before retiring. That number one overall to the Flyers? Mel Bridgeman- who went on to play nearly a 1000 games in the NHL.
Touted as a "solid two-way player who could create offense and use his size effectively against opposing forwards", Alex put up some impressive offensive statistics in his last year with Kingston of the OMJHL, racking up 58 points in 64 games plus a chippy 72 pims. Alex would spend his first year as a pro down 95 with the Richmond Robins of the AHL. He was unable to duplicate his scoring touch from his major junior days, putting up only 7 goals and 23 points in 71 games. His teammates on the Robins included two future NHL coaches, Terry Murray and Paul Holmgren.
The next season Alex was off to the Caps new AHL affiliate, the Springfield (MA) Indians. Alex fared a bit better there, doubling his goal totals, but still not displaying the offensive talent that the Caps expected of a first round pick. However, during his stay in Springfield, he was fortunate to team up with this guy.
Who is this future NHL coach? Perhaps the lack of a well-developed mullet is throwing you off.
Alex’s day in the NHL sun finally came on November 12, 1976. It was a Friday night tilt between the visiting Chicago Blackhawks and your Washington Capitals. The Caps were fresh off the teams first ever three game winning streak and all fans were given lapel stickers which said, "More, more, we want four". (Appropriately modest goals for a team and fan base so devoid of any meaningful measure of success)
The "Original Alex" donned a classic white #24 Caps home jersey and took the ice in front of a no-doubt polyester-clad crowd of 11,457 (including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) who were seething to be part of a historic four game winning streak. Per the late, great Bob Fachet, the Caps were now the "in thing" in town…making perhaps the first ever reference to Caps "bandwagon" fanship. Alex’s NHL deflowering was made possible by an injury to center Ron "Newsy" Lalonde, who took a Rangers stick to the eye in the previous game.
All of the pressure of that three game winning streak must have gotten to Alex as his play in that game not only didn’t merit any mention in the box score, but his name was not even noted in Fachet’s gamer the next day. A bit odd considering he was a first round draft pick the year before making his NHL debut. Despite taking a 3-1 lead after one period, the Caps would give up 4 goals in the second and lose to Bobby Orr, Tony Esposito and the Hawks, 5-4.
Clearly ol’ number 24’s play did not impress head coach Tom McVie either as, despite being without forward Hartland Monahan, Forsyth was scratched for their next game against the Cleveland Barons. Alex’s NHL dream would end several days later when he was sent back to Springfield to make way for the now-healed Lalonde and his bulbous, Kazoo-like helmet.
Alex would spend one more year in professional hockey, playing for Tulsa of the CHL. His contract with the Caps expired on June 1, 1978 and was not renewed. Alex retired from the game shortly thereafter.
Fortunately for Alex, his record for the fewest games as a Capital by a first round pick would be broken in the 1994 draft by Alexander Kharlamov (15th overall and 0 games played). Of course, the 2005 guys will probably push Alex down to fourth on that list. However, Brad Church and Miiko Elomo still laugh at him.