[Ed. Note: We would never tell hockey fans how to express themselves. That’s one of your Constitutional amendments, we’re pretty sure. But, if we were the type to suggest how to treat a returning fan-favorite, it might look like this.]
Karl Alzner, the Washington Capitals’ all-time franchise leader for consecutive games-played (532), is set to make his return to Washington on Saturday night when the Montreal Canadiens face the Capitals in a match de hockey at Capital One Arena.
Alzner, 29, signed with Montreal in free agency over the summer after the Capitals reportedly did not make any serious offers to re-sign the left-handed defenseman. Washington drafted Alzner in the first round of the 2007 NHL Draft with the fifth overall pick, and from then until basically the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, he was an absolute fixture on the Washington blue line, eating up high-risk top-pair defensive minutes and falling upon more grenade-like penalty kill time per game last season (3:03) than any other Capitals skater.
Yes, Alzner fell apart towards the end of last season, and his abysmal 46.3 CF% possession numbers at even-strength were worse than every single Capitals player not named Jay Beagle. Yes, Alzner is not as fleet-footed as he once was, due almost certainly to nagging groin and hernia injuries. Yes, Alzner made some pretty petty, poopy comments about the Capitals after the door hit him in the ass on the way out, citing a desire to actually win and repeated second-round exits as the impetus for his departure. And, yes, Alzner had not exactly been carrying the team to victory himself in recent years.
But the man was a legend in D.C. while he was here, and deservedly so. He took boundless time for fans and children, signing autographs and taking pictures everywhere he went. He quite literally sacrificed his body for this team, breaking a hand, ripping his groin, and popping a hernia in the process (that sound you heard is 100,000 men collectively reaching for their crotch in vicarious agony). His “Movember” campaign led to some lasting laughs for a good cause, including, well, this look:
Alzner, for a decade, was the face of the Capitals blue line. And a good face it was.
Which is exactly why there should be absolutely NONE of the following from fans when Alzner makes his return to Capital One Arena on Saturday night:
1. No Whooping or Hooting
The most curious of hockey fans’ shows of displeasure and derision, DO NOT WHOOP OR HOOT at Alzner when he touches the puck. He deserves better than your simian and avian impressions. HE RIPPED HIS GROIN FOR YOU, DAMNIT.
2. No Booing
Look, booing an opposing player is your birthright as a hockey fan. It’s in the Hockey Talmud, right next to “Cite statistics loudly so people know you’re a real fan.” But don’t single out Karl just because he’s now aligned with Axis forces. If you aren’t going to boo Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, and Shea Weber, you shouldn’t give it to Alzner. That said, I do support those who choose to boo literally the entire opposing team. That’s pretty bad ass.
3. No Acting Like You Didn’t Love Him
How many of you son-of-a-whos-a-whatsits own a Karl Alzner jersey? Hands up, I want to see them. Go ahead, turn on your webcam. I can wait.
For a decade, longer than you’ve probably loved your current significant other, you’ve loved Karl Alzner. He was probably your favorite player at one point or another over the last ten years. And that’s fine and good and righteous and just! He deserves that reverence, wistful and fist-shaking though it may be.
But so help me, God, if I hear any of you 400-level bums (my favorite people, mind you) grumbling about how you “never liked him anyway and always knew he was a no-good slice of Canadian bacon...” I will reach down from the press box and slap you with a pancake.
4. No Cheering Any Potential Injuries
This one applies to any professional athlete (or fellow human being), but there is no place for celebrating injuries. Not here, not in Washington. This ain’t Philly, folks.
Injuries suck. They hurt, they’re mentally crushing, and they can rob a talented person of his or her future earning potential. Alzner has fought through plenty of injuries in his past, and he did it for the Washington Capitals, your Washington Capitals. If he finds himself hurt on Saturday night, the only applause should be for when he successfully makes it back to the bench.
If not, well......here’s a link you may be interested in.
Karl Alzner’s return to Washington should be a fun, celebratory time, with requisite Jumbotron tribute videos and kind words from teammates. It should not be an ugly episode in Capitals history, when fans of the team showed their lesser colors.
I trust you, Caps fans! Let’s hope the Capitals can go get the W on Saturday night, and then they can all go out for pizza afterwards.
Of course, you’re free to do what you want! You paid for that seat, after all. But ask yourself: have you done as much for the Washington Capitals as Karl Alzner has? Hmmmmm?