Today is the championship game in the quest for the Gaetan Duchesne Challenge Cup. The contest pits the "Group A" squad, led by Alex Ovechkin and the rookie goaltenders, Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, against the "Group B" team, led by Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin, and Jose Theodore.
We cannot be there in person for this climactic encounter, but we can imagine if "The Voice of God," John Facenda was introducing us to the contest...
On the frozen tundra of Kettler Capitals Iceplex, two squads with dogged determination take the ice in an epic stuggle to become the first winner of the Gaetan Duchesne Challenge Cup. Like the man for whom the trophy is named, every player taking the ice today will leave his all on the ice-covered field of battle.
The names resonate with character…
Alex Ovechkin, what some refer to as the “whole package,” who is re-writing the dictionary entry under “all-everything forward.”
Sergei Fedorov, equal parts artist and assassin, with Stanley Cups and individual awards, and for whom the Duchesne Cup will be the last step, perhaps, before winning the ultimate prize for his new team.
Alexander Semin, the enigmatic one…economical with his words off the ice, he is Mozart on it. The deft deke, followed by his signature quick release, and all that is left is for the beleaguered goaltender to turn and scrape the puck from the back of his net.
Nicklas Backstrom – The “Professor” – he might have the baby-faced look of a youngster, but to watch him processing the play as it unfolds on the ice, it is as if he has been doing this for Cheliosian decades.
Milan Jurcina…the name glides over the lips, but the man punishes opponents relentlessly.
Tom Poti, whose well-traveled career has left him with a sense of stability, of being a player who plays within himself, a man whose contributions on this day will be indispensible to his teammates of “Group A.”
Hockey honors its goal scorers that bring people out of their seats. It bequeaths accolades on those who can make the no-look pass through defenders for the tap-in goal. But it also reveres what it calls its “grinders” – those men who wear hard hats and carry lunch pails, who do the difficult work in the corners and in the trenches, who suffer the abuse of sticks and body checks to emerge with the puck and make it possible for the passers and the scorers to thrill their fans. Gaetan Duchesne was such a player. Those who know the game speak his name with a certain reverence, for he was the epitome of what it meant to play “Capitals Hockey.” Those who would triumph today and carry the trophy named for him will have to exhibit the quiet, relentless skills Duchesne exhibited over the more than 1,100 regular season and playoff games for which he dressed. Those who would triumph today will have to play the sort of game that would make him proud.