WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals have put a white decal with the initials 'CR' in red on the back of the helmets they will wear in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Thursday to honor Clint Reif, the Chicago Blackhawks assistant equipment manager who recently passed away at the age of 34.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the idea to put the sticker on the helmet came from the Capitals training staff.
"I think what you find in this community--the hockey community--it's a lot smaller than people think, and the trainers are very close. They're very tight just like all the players are across the league, the coaches; all that," Trotz said. "When a member goes down they all want to show the respect."
Trotz said he called Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville to run the idea by him, and that the Capitals trainers called the Blackhawks trainers to get the OK from them.
"We didn't want to take anything away from what Chicago was doing, but our trainers wanted to do it so we reached out to Chicago and they were gracious enough to let us," Trotz said.
The Blackhawks are honored that the Capitals have made the gesture to put the 'CR' decal on their helmets.
"I didn't know that, but that is a pretty cool gesture," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We've heard over the last couple of weeks the influence and the effect that Clint's had not only on the guys in this locker room, but guys that he's worked with or gotten to know in the past with other teams. I think everyone at this point knows that he had that personality that he was kind of sociable, a very happy person, a connector and everyone enjoyed being around him. They're chipping in, showing their thoughts, and it's much appreciated."
Quenneville said he appreciated it when Trotz called him, to know that the Capitals were thinking of Reif and the Blackhawks in a difficult time.
"The support that has been shown to the organization and the family is outstanding," Quenneville said. "It's one more show, one more way to express what he meant and the type of guy he really is."
In addition, the Blackhawks have a special locker with a 'REIF' nameplate and a white jersey hanging in it in its locker room at Nationals Park. It's a reminder for how important Reif was to the team.
"I don't think people realize that much how hard our trainers do work and what they do on a daily basis," Toews said. "When your team wins a Stanley Cup you go from day one all the way to the end working day by day, and every day you're with those guys. You get in late from a road trip and their up a couple hours later putting stuff away. You come back to the rink and you expect things to be a certain way so you can resume your routine so you can just focus on playing hockey. Well, they're making sure you can do that. They're with you every step of the way. A lot of our success starts with their work ethic. Clint meant a lot not only for what he did as far as his job in this locker room, but just the guy that he was. Absolutely he is part of this team, he will be for a long time."