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As the Washington Post‘s Tarik El-Bashir posted on his blog earlier this week, Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark has publicly stated what many Caps fans have been grumbling about all season: The ice at the Verizon Center sucks. Like, it really, REALLY sucks.
As for Clark, here’s what he said about the ice at VC:
“There’s a lot of ruts in the ice. It’s soft. It’s wet half the time. I could see a lot of injuries coming from the ice there. It could cost [players] their jobs.”
“I”ve been trying to get it fixed. I’ve been going over the ice reports. I’ve been trying to tell them that it’s [a problem]. But it’s been three years since I’ve been here, and it’s the worst in the league. It’s tough to play on. Even guys on other teams say the same thing. When we’re facing off, they say, ‘How do you guys play on this?'”
If you’ve been to a game at the Verizon Center this year, you’ve probably witnessed the post-intermission puddles of water on the ice that Clark is talking about. But you don’t need to blow your hard-earned dollars on over-priced nachos and Miller Lites at Verizon Center to see the rest of the evidence: You can watch the puck constantly bouncing over players’ sticks from the comfort of your own living room.
Clark is obviously not trying to make excuses for his team’s pathetic record so far this season. But “home-ice advantage” is supposed to count for something in the National Hockey League: The home team gets to make the last line change, allowing it to control on-ice matchups—-which, in theory, should make it easier for the home team to dictate the style and tempo of the play on the ice. And—-with the addition of offensive-minded talents such as Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, and Tom Poti, as well as the continued maturation of young stars Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green—-this year’s Capitals look to play a puck-control game as opposed to the muck-and-grind game of years past. (Sure, the opposing team has to play on the same terrible ice, but it’s customary in the NHL for the away team to play a more conservative game and hope to capitalize on mistakes, bad breaks, and lucky bounces.)
So, how exactly is a team with a puck-control game plan supposed to succeed when it can’t even complete a pass due to terrible home ice conditions? The answer: It doesn’t. Instead, it winds up with the worst home-ice record in the league.
Ted Leonsis’ response? They’re working on it. At least Verizon Center has that shiny new high-definition scoreboard on which fans can watch the players falling all over themselves every time they try to make a tight turn.