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"The Goal" at The Gallery

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
On the morning of Sept. 1, 2005, Alex Ovechkin sat in the lobby of the Hotel Monaco on F Steet, chatting with a reporter just before a news conference to introduce him to the Washington media. Less than a year later, he has made it to the other side of the street. We’re not talking about the Verizon Center here, we’re talking about the National Portrait Gallery.

The Portrait Gallery, situated directly opposite Hotel Monaco on F Street, recently reopened after years of refurbishing and remodeling. The gallery currently houses an exhibit of sports personalities titled “Champions.” The exhibit consists of a few dozen wonderful portraits and an accompanying video presentation, narrated by The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon.

In the video Wilbon discusses Wayne Gretzky and how unlikely it is that anyone will ever match or even approach many of his on-ice achievements. He goes on to mention young Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals as one of hockey’s rising stars, at which point the video segues into the clip of Ovechkin’s amazing goal against the Coyotes in Phoenix last Jan. 16. Gretzky, of course, is shown standing behind the opposition’s bench and staring at the overhead scoreboard, looking at the replay in awe.

Comcast SportsNet’s Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin can be heard in the audio portion of the clip.

Original Caps Honored
Last weekend in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Mike Marson and Bill Riley were among inaugural inductees into Black Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame. The second and third, respectively, African American players to play in the NHL, both Marson and Riley were members of the original Washington Capitals expansion team of 1974-75.

Marson was Washington’s second-round pick (19th overall) in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. He became the NHL’s second African American player when he suited up for the Caps’ first-ever game against the New York Rangers on Oct. 9, 1974. Marson was all of 19 years old at the time. He played in 193 games in five seasons with the Caps, totaling 24 goals and 48 points. Marson completed his NHL career with a three-game stint with the Los Angeles Kings in 1979-80.

Riley signed a five-game tryout contract with the Capitals just before Christmas in 1974. He played in one game with the Caps that season before being sent to Washington’s Dayton farm club in the old International Hockey League. Riley returned to the Capitals in 1976-77 and ended up totaling 28 goals and 56 points in 125 games during his four seasons in Washington. Riley concluded his NHL career by playing 14 games with the 1979-80 Winnipeg Jets.

The Backup Plan
Many were amazed and some were even shocked when the New York Islanders hired last year’s backup goalie, 36-year-old Garth Snow, as the team’s new general manager in July. It turns out the Isles nearly had a precedent for their surprising hire of Snow.

A piece authored by Dave Sell in the May 13, 1992, edition of The Washington Post mentions Hartford Whalers firing of general manager Eddie Johnston, and notes that Capitals backup goaltender Mike Liut, 36 at the time, was among those to be interviewed for the vacant post.

“I think Mike is a quality person, bright and articulate,” said Whalers owner Richard Gordon at the time. “He knows Hartford as well as anyone. He’s a very positive guy, so we’ll be talking to him.”

Asked what his response would be if Gordon inquired, Liut was blunt.

“I would say, ‘Sure, are you crazy?’” said the veteran netminder.

Brian Burke ended up getting the job as Hartford GM, and Liut ended up becoming a players’ agent.
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