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Olie Kolzig

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
Olie Kolzig has been the face of the Washington Capitals franchise on and off the ice for the last decade, and he has been a member of the Caps’ organization for half of his life and more than half of the organization’s existence. Although his role in goal became diminished after the Caps’ Feb. 26 acquisition of netminder Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens, it didn’t make it any less shocking to pick up today’s Washington Post and read that Kolzig believes he has played his last game in a Capitals sweater.

Kolzig has been a member of the Caps’ organization continuously since he was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. Among all players in the NHL, only Colorado’s Joe Sakic and Dallas’s Mike Modano have been with one and only one organization for a longer period. Kolzig holds virtually every Capitals netminding record there is; he led the team to the only Stanley Cup finals appearance in its history, won a Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 2000, the NHL Foundation Award in 2001 and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2006.

Kolzig ranks fifth among all active goaltenders in wins, and he became just the 23rd netminder in NHL history to record 300 victories when he defeated Calgary at Verizon Center on March 12. Including playoff games, Kolzig has won 321 contests for the Capitals.

History and media guides will record his deeds on the ice long after his departure, but his contributions to the community and the locker room cannot be quantified.

Kolzig founded the Carson Kolzig Foundation, named after his son, and he is a co-founder of Athletes Against Autism, an initiative of Cure Autism Now.

For most of his lengthy tenure as a Capital, he was the team’s de facto captain. Only an archaic NHL rule that prevents goaltenders from wearing the captain’s “C” kept Kolzig from having that letter sewn on his sweater.

“From the first day I met him through my year-end meeting with Olie,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “I was struck by his class. He always was respectful and a true professional in every sense of the word. He treated me like Scotty Bowman, and I couldn't ask for anything else.”

Officially, Kolzig is a Capital until July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. At that point he will be free to make a deal with any of the 30 NHL teams. In today’s Post, Kolzig also hinted at retirement.

The reality of the situation is that Kolzig believes his time in Washington has passed.

“Olie has been great for the Washington Capitals,” said Capitals general manager George McPhee earlier today, “and the Capitals were great for Olie. He has been a great leader and ambassador for the club. Olie can still play, and if he decides to continue to play, we wish him the very best.”

For the last several seasons, Kolzig has been very forthright in his desire to play two more seasons after the one that just concluded. Whether he has wavered from that desire remains to be seen, but he has always been consumed by one goal: winning a Stanley Cup. He told The Post that finding a good situation for his family and joining a Cup contender would be two keys in determining his playing future.

“I’ve always admired Olie Kolzig,” said Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis, “first as a fan and then as an owner. When I got to know him on a personal level, I was even more impressed. He is a charitable person and a great man, and I genuinely appreciate all he has done for this organization and this region.

“If he decides to continue his career with another team, I will respect that decision, and he will be missed. In my mind, however, he always will be a Washington Capital.”

Read more about Olie Kolzig at Mike Vogel's Dump & Chase...

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