Players are skating, and NHL training camps begin soon. So we are warming up our emotional engines to conjure all the irrational excitement, hatred and other strongly worded feelings that accompany an eight-month devotion to watching men making billions playing a game.
We've begun with an easy fan game: On even our worst rivals, which player(s) do you (grudgingly, or guiltily) appreciate? And of course, to cleanse your soul of such impure thoughts, which player do you hate most?
Love Envy and Hate: The Caps
Hate: By the end of the 1980s, looking back at many strong finishes and heartbreaking endings like the Easter Epic, I actually felt bad for the Capitals. If there was a Patrick Division team I didn't mind seeing succeed a little, it would be them. They had a lot of good teams that history will forget because the Islanders, and to a lesser extent the Flyers and Bruins, were always there to keep them from getting all the way to the alter.
Then 1993 happened, when Dale Hunter committed the worst act of cowardice and pathetically sore loserhood I've ever seen on the ice. That any adult could be trusted to "captain" a team and still behave that way as a response to his own failings is, well jaw-dropping. And obviously not to be forgotten.
I've harped on this before, but it's just so jaw-droppingly spineless, this immature child reaction in a man's body, and his "justification" in the days that followed were equally indicative of a person with a tenuous grip on reality.
And they have a banner for this guy.
As for the purpose of this "exercise," I brought up H*nt*r in part because he's what comes to mind -- still to this day -- for "Capitals hate," and in part because the current roster doesn't have many villain candidates. Brooks Orpik is rather detestable, but he hasn't played a game yet and the weight of his own contract and the loathing he'll receive from Caps fans is a decent punishment.
Love/Envy: I have mixed feelings on Alex Ovechkin, though I'm certainly not one of his haters. But smooth Nicklas Backstrom is whose all-around game I truly envy, and Evgeny Kuznetsov looks like he will be a joy to watch as well.
And you? Which (current) Capital do you hate most, and which one to you kinda, you know, privately, think is an alright guy? (You can base this on talent, admiration for a certain skillset, traditional passion-fueled fan hate and jealousy, or, I don't know, facial expressions.)