ARLINGTON, Va. -- In the Washington Capitals' continuing quest to educate their players on and off the ice, they have invited military and sports figures to address the team on numerous occasions.
On Tuesday, former Baltimore Orioles shortstop and Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to watch some of the Capitals practice and address the players afterward in an informal question-and-answer session overseen by coach Barry Trotz.
"We're big on trying to learn from some of the best in the game," Trotz said. "We've done team-building, and we've had different speakers in the past … and, obviously, Cal is one of the greatest players in the game, especially in this area, which it made total sense. So we reached out, and he was very good and came to talk to our players because we've talked about what makes teams and what makes individuals great."
The deaths of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe in June caused the Capitals to ponder the impact those iconic figures had inside and outside of their sports. Ripken, who is from Aberdeen, Maryland, reached immortal status by setting the Major League Baseball record of playing in 2,632 consecutive games over 17 seasons before he voluntarily ended his streak in 1998.
"We lost a couple of really great people, sports figures in the last year, not only sports figures, but people that had an effect on and off the ice - Muhammad Ali, and Gordie Howe in our sport," Trotz said. "That sort of had us [asking] when we were talking this summer, 'What can we learn from some of the great people in the game, not only our game, but people in other sports?' So we reached out to Cal knowing he's in the area, and he was so gracious to come.
"It was very informal. He just talked about different things. Guys asked different questions and it was real good. He did a wonderful job."
Trotz said Ripken, 56, discussed "many topics," and all of them can potentially help the players individually and as a team.
"He talked about everything from dealing with slumps to dealing with different situations, dealing with careers, dealing with longevity," Trotz said. "I don't know if there was anything specific, but he had some great anecdotes and great things from a professional athlete to other professional athletes. And to do it as long and to articulate it from a different sport to our sport, I think it was really good."
In some cases, having those words come from someone like Ripken carries more weight than coming from Trotz or someone else with the Capitals.
"The message I think was about the professionalism, the commitment, the dealing with being in professional sports in general," Trotz said. "I can't describe it as a coach, you can't describe it as the media, even though we try. You have to be a player to know what you're going through on and off the ice or the field or whatever. So it was quite enlightening."