[WashingtonCaps.com continues the summer series "Alumni Spotlight," where WashingtonCaps.com interviews former Washington Capitals players. Previous Alumni Spotlights include Scott Walker, Brian Pothier, Chris Clark, Ken Klee, Matt Pettinger, Ben Clymer, Bryan Muir, Jamie Heward, Brendan Witt and Anson Carter.]
WashingtonCaps.com (WC.com): You were traded to the Capitals in the 78-79 season; what was going through your head as you were headed to a relatively new team that had only three full years in the NHL to that point?
Dennis Maruk (DM): Well, first of all, to play in the National Hockey League was the most important thing for me, but when you’re there you have to go do what they expect you to do. With that trade, it was a matter of having a team wanting me, and getting a first-round pick. My whole time there I just wanted to go do what I do best.
WC.com: What can you remember about the team’s atmosphere and mindset as you came into the organization pretty close to its inception?
DM: When I got there, it was a matter of them trying to improve their team, and the late Abe Pollin was making trades, making moves to get a stronger team there. The one negative thing I had during my time was during the year with the “Save the Caps” campaign when people thought we weren’t going to have a hockey team there, but it did survive and continued on, and now it’s one of the top teams in the league.
WC.com: In 1982, you set franchise records for assists, 76, and points, 136, both of which still stand today. What does it mean to you for these records to still be standing 30 years later?
DM: Well during the points season I played with two great hockey players. Anytime you have a successful season, you have to have help; you can’t just do it yourself. Ryan Walter and Chris Valentine were my line mates, and we played together almost the entire year; worked together in practice and tried a few things in the games. It seemed to blend. Ryan was a good, strong up-and-down left-winger who could score, and Chris had really good hands, and I was kind of the scorer/playmaker. We really worked well together as a line even though we didn’t do as well at the end of the season it was a pleasure. As for records, records are made to be broken. When Ovi broke my goal-scoring record from ’81 I was cheering him on. As a matter of fact, when they called me I said, ‘Well geez, just tell him to keep going’. He’s a great hockey player, and he can score 50, 60 goals a season. For the point one, at 136, that’ll be tough to beat, but someone at some point will take that. It was just an honor to be involved with that list of crew who were top-10 in scoring that year, and having my name up there representing the Washington Capitals with Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Peter Stastny and I was fourth. It was kind of an elite group of hockey players, and to have this Toronto boy up there was an honor to my friends and family.
WC.com: You were a part of this franchise’s first playoff berth in ’83. What can you remember about that season, and how you and the team were feeling heading into the playoffs?
DM: Our division was a very strong division with the Rangers, Flyers, Islanders, the Devils, and ourselves. I think that it being the first time for the Washington Capitals was a treat, knowing that we’re going up against tough competition. Being involved with the first time for the Capitals was an honor. Abe Pollin and the staff had worked extremely hard to get a team into the playoffs because it’s very important to do that. We ended up going up against the Islanders, which were a very hot team, we just weren’t able to get enough goals and they were a tough team. It was just an honor to be a part of getting into the playoffs, especially with it being the first time for the Caps.
WC.com: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
DM: As a matter of fact I was with Wes Jarvis just yesterday. I see a few of them around, and then I come down, like the last few years, to Washington. I’ve come down like four or five times so I see them when I come down, we’ve done a few things and we travel. We’ve been over to Prague and had a great trip. I don’t keep close with any one of them, but we usually team up when there’s an event or if I’ve got some availability I’ll come down to Washington and do some things with the alumni.
WC.com: Can you tell me about what you’ve been doing lately?
DM: I moved back to Toronto four years ago, I was living in Aspen, Colorado working with kids in hockey and skiing. I’m back in Toronto though. My family is here, my dad’s here and he’s getting up there in age so I wanted to be close to him. I became a grandpa for the first time in March, so I’m pretty excited to have a grandson from my son in Minneapolis so I’ll probably do some travelling in a little bit. My oldest daughter just got married in September so I’ve been busy with a lot of things lately. In Toronto, I still play hockey. I play about 25, 30 games with the NHL alumni so if any of the Capitals fans want to see some good hockey they can come, we play in Ontario. I skate about once or twice a week, and I have a hockey school called Winning Technique just outside Huntsville, Ontario. I’m there July and August on the ice every day and I direct the hockey program, and give back to the kids, ages five to 16, girls and boys.