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A day in the life of an NHL team

Alexander Ovechkin

Over the past week, I had the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital. During that time, I was able to get an inside look at the lives of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL).
Last season, the Capitals took the sports world by storm and completed a run for the Stanley Cup, the NHL’s equivalent of the Super Bowl and the most aged and famous sports trophy in the world. It took the Capitals more than 40 years to win the esteemed prize, and the win was one of the biggest sports feats in Washington D.C. history.
As I settled in with the team at practice on March 4 to get an inside look at their daily lives, the work ethic and commitment of these players became crystal clear.
The players began their day with an 8 a.m. arrival at their practice facility at the MedStar Ice Plex in Arlington, Va., followed by breakfast, changing of clothes, team meetings with coaches, stretching and suiting up for morning skates.
The practice rink is surrounded by media organizations such as ESPN, NBC Sports, NHL Network and various newspaper reporters who are desperately awaiting the top stories from the team.
Practice is long and filled with players taking shots and practicing drills that will help improve each player’s individual performance. Shooting drills, passing drills, goalie drills and skating are worked on constantly and the players are always moving.
The Capitals’ roster includes some of the best hockey players in the world. No. 77, T.J. Oshie, led the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal during the 2004 games. No. 8, Alexander Ovechkin, is considered the best and most popular player in the world.
And No. 26, Nic Dowd, is the only player from the state of Alabama playing in the NHL.
“It’s neat to know that fact, and I am proud to represent the state,” said Dowd, who is from Huntsville. “Hockey is more evident and popular than people think in Alabama, and there is a great youth program in Huntsville.”
Dowd, 28, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings as a 7th-round pick in 2009. Since that time, he has seen action with the Kings, the Vancouver Canucks and the Capitals.
Upon finishing morning skates, Dowd and the rest of the Capitals retire to the locker room to conduct more team meetings, press conferences and player interviews and to watch video from prior games.
After finishing the video session, the team signs autographs and heads to lunch.
When it comes to lunch, every hockey player has a certain routine on game days. This routine is not broken, ever.
For instance, Ovechkin has the same lunch every home gameday. His meal consists of chicken parmesan, spaghetti noodles, bread, meat sauce, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce and a mushroom sauce that is prepared by his favorite local restaurant.
Everything on game day is an art, and for a team that just won the Stanley Cup, the weird routines work. When the meals were finished, the team packed up and headed to Philadelphia to face the Flyers.
As soon as one game ends, preparation begins for the next. Life for any professional athlete is not an easy one, but the game must go on.