[WashingtonCaps.com continues the summer series Alumni Spotlight, where WashingtonCaps.com interviews former Caps players. Previous Alumni Spotlights include Brendan Witt, Anson Carter and Jamie Heward.]
WashingtonCaps.com (WC.com): You signed with the team during the 2005-2006 season (Signed as a free agent by Washington, August 8, 2005). What do you recall about your thought process leading up to and following the signing?
Ben Clymer (BC): I remember talking to my agent. I had offers from Chicago and Washington and we discussed things and concluded that the team was going to be very similar to the first team I joined in Tampa and that it was kind of a rebuild and it seemed like a good opportunity.
WC.com: What are some of the major differences in playing hockey in the United States vs. overseas?
BC: That’s a pretty in-depth question. The entire game is different in terms of how physical, size of the rink, skill of the players. And although there are skilled players in Europe the depth of the skill in the NHL is second to none. It’s a different experience; the NHL is the best league in the world by far. There are some really good [players] in the KHL but in terms of top to bottom skill the NHL is second to none.
WC.com: What do you remember the most about suiting up for your first game as a Capital during the 2005-2006 season?
BC: I was nervous; it was kind of like the first day of school although you have training camp. It was different than my experiences in Tampa; we just won a Stanley Cup so I just wanted to make sure I got off on the right foot – play well and start doing well for the team and be part of the season because if you get off on the wrong foot it’s so tough to catch up in the NHL.
WC.com: Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
BC: I do with some of my Tampa buddies but I do have the same agent as Jeff Halpern so I hear how he’s doing and I certainly watched the playoffs this year. It’s different now being a former player versus a player. It’s hard to be a fan because you’re just critiquing everything because you have been in those situations sometimes with some of the players who are actually playing so that’s kind of how that goes.
WC.com: What do you recall the most about the atmosphere of the Capitals locker room and the team at that time?
BC: You know one thing [is] we had a lot of fun, I will say that. We had a great group of guys who really came and worked hard every day. We didn’t have the best team while I was there but we had a ton of fun and great people. And I think that’s why they’re having success now, you know, they really embedded that into their culture and acquired more skilled players and I know those players and I know they enjoy being Capitals and that’s great.
WC.com: It was reported that when you were interested in going back to school you consulted Ted Leonsis and he wrote a letter of recommendation for you. How would you describe your relationship with Mr. Leonsis?
BC: Ted’s a pretty hands-on owner. He’s around a lot more than the two previous owners I had in Tampa. I figured he has done so much in his life I sent him an email to see if he would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation to apply to the University of Minnesota business school for undergrad. He was kind enough to say yes and he really supported me which was great because he certainly didn’t have to do that. I feel so indebted to him for that because getting into the business school here is a really big deal, it’s a pretty competitive school and I’m really looking forward to broadening my horizons. As a player you are so focused on the game you don’t often take a step back and realize all the other things that are going on in the world. Now being retired I’ve had more of the time and ability to do that and I know this will further increase the breadth of my knowledge.
WC.com: Being in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, what is your goal after you obtain your degree in December 2013?
BC: Well I’m going to get a finance degree, at least that’s the plan right now. I guess the first fork in the road is do I want to stay in hockey or do I want to get out of hockey? Right now I’m getting a degree that can suit both things. There are a lot of things I’d like to do with hockey; there’s so much knowledge you gain and experience as a player, you kind of don’t want to give those experiences up because they’re worth their weight in gold. This is something I’m going to evaluate again with my personal goals and my family goals and needs and situation. Right now my first choice is certainly to stay in hockey in some sort of role. Obviously I would like to get into the management side of it [which was] my thought when I worked for Octagon, the company that represented me, and that’s still something I’m very interested in. So staying in the game or going out are kind of my two avenues. As I get outside the game maybe something in private equity or wealth management. Those would be my first two choices.
WC.com: We all know about your love for golf. Being a scratch golfer and being a part of the 2011 Golf Channel Amateur Tour for two events, how is your golf game these days?
BC: You know I stink right now [laughs]. It’s about peaks and valleys and right now I just seem to be in a valley. But it will turn around, it’s a ton of fun and I’ve been so fortunate to really meet some good friends playing golf. I’ve been able to spend some great times with them and now being retired I feel like that kind of gives me a little of my camaraderie and that locker room experience that I don’t have any more playing [hockey]. It’s something I enjoy so much and it has really been fun.
WC.com: How was finals week?
BC: Finals were rough. I took 18 credits this past semester and we had our second son so I probably bit off more than I could chew but I ended up with a 3.6 GPA so I was happy with that. It was rough but when it ended I was ready for a nap that’s for sure.