In a Caps-Rangers showdown that was full of storylines, one shined brighter than the others. And ultimately, the narrative wasn’t about the fighting, the raw emotion that spilled over between both sides. It was about T.J. Oshie and “Coach.”
Oshie suited up for Washington’s Wednesday tilt with New York after missing Monday’s game due to a family matter. The next day, he announced that his father and Tim, lovingly referred to as “Coach Oshie,” passed away. Tim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in 2012.
To pay tribute to Oshie’s father, the Caps sported black stickers with Tim’s nickname, “Coach,” while the 34-year-old made his way back to New York Tuesday and guaranteed his return to action for Wednesday’s showdown with the Rangers.
“There was no way he wasn’t playing tonight,” head coach Peter Laviolette said.
Coming back into the lineup, Oshie did what he was expected for Coach: he scored a hat trick en route to a 4-2 victory over New York. He struck twice in the second period and sealed the deal with an empty netter.
“It was such an emotional night for T.J.,” teammate Nic Dowd said. “He’s been such a big leader for our team. We’re trying to be there for him to take care of him and he ends up taking care of us and leading us to win the game.”
An emotional TJ Oshie on the bench after scoring a hat trick in his first game since his father's passing pic.twitter.com/zGRfGF2YPP— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 6, 2021
After his empty-net tally, Oshie was surrounded by his teammates and visibly emotional on the bench. It was at the end of the game that Nicklas Backstrom embraced his long-time teammate.
“I felt like he needed a hug. I think I told him, like, ‘You’re the strongest person I know.’ First of all, it’s impressive that he actually played today and how he led the way. It’s got to be so tough, I can only imagine. Just as I said earlier, we’re a family, we’re in this together. His loss is everyone’s loss. We’re feeling for him.”
Their father and son bond was built on the game of hockey, and from the early days in Everett Washington to college hockey in North Dakota to the NHL, “Coach” helped shape Oshie’s hockey career.
It was in June 2018 that the two saw their dreams etched forever in silver, as Oshie hoisted the Stanley Cup and got to share that moment with his father, a moment the first-time Stanley Cup championship insisted his dad would never forget despite his condition.
“Coach’s” impact went beyond his relationship with his son as he made his mark on the Capitals and the hockey world as a whole.
“Over the years, a lot of us guys got to know him well and he’s a great guy. He’s got lots of stories and he’s just a fun guy to be around,” Backstrom said. “We’re proud of that. That sticker, anything we can do to support and be here for T.J. and his family, I think that’s what teams do. We stick together, we’re a family, all of us. Anything we can do to support and be there for them, we're going to do it.”
With his performance, Oshie hit the 20-goal mark for the third straight season and now has 21 goals (second among Caps skaters) and 42 points through 51 games this season. However, his performance — and the victory — goes beyond the ice.
“Spectacular. To go through what he went through and want to be back here and be with his teammates and play a game for Coach, and the game that he played, outstanding,” Laviolette said. “It says a lot about him and what he means to this team.”