ARLINGTON, Va. -- Playing in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NHL.TV) will be special for Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie on multiple levels.
The outdoor game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, will be Oshie's first and had him reminiscing Thursday about his days skating on the outdoor rink in his Uncle Henry's backyard in Warroad, Minnesota. It also led to him sharing the story of his family's amazing connection through the U.S. Navy.
Oshie's paternal grandfather, Richard Oshie, served in the Navy from 1957-1961 and met his maternal grandfather, Dexter Moen, while they were stationed together aboard the USS St. Paul. Both were from north of Seattle -- Richard Oshie was from Everett, Washington, and Moen was from Stanwood -- and they became good friends but parted ways when their tours in the Navy were over.
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Years later, T.J.'s father, Tim, was working at Everett Community College helping out with the basketball teams when he met Tina Moen through her cousin, a basketball player.
"One thing led to another," T.J. Oshie said. "My mom told her dad, my grandpa Dexter, who she was dating and sure enough he was like 'Oh, one my best friends in the Navy was a Richard Oshie.' And she said, 'Yeah, that's his dad.'"
When Tim and Tina got married, the family Navy connection was complete.
"It kind of came full circle there," T.J. Oshie said. "They were good buddies on the ship together and then their kids ended up getting married without them knowing. Pretty sweet."
On Saturday, Oshie, 31, will play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and much of his family, including nine relatives who flew in from the Seattle area, will be there to watch.
"It will mean a lot to me," he said. "It's going to mean a lot to my family just watching that we'll be playing there. You can never show enough for the military for what they do for us and I happen to like hearing stories and follow along closely. I've had the advantage of meeting a lot of really interesting people [in the military] with some pretty amazing stories that you don't get to read in the newspapers and stuff like that.
"So, it's going to be really cool for me as an American to be there to see the history and now maybe to be a little bit of a part of that history."
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Oshie has watched with envy while many of his friends and former teammates have played in NHL outdoor games. He played for the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons before they traded him to the Capitals on July 2, 2015. The Blues hosted the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium.
"I was pretty jealous," Oshie said. "It always looked pretty cool. … So, always jealous, really excited to get out there and have my first experience out there with all my family watching."
Oshie grew up in Everett until his parents divorced. He then lived with his mother in Stanwood until moving to Warroad to live with his father in 2002. He remembered visiting Henry Boucha, a second cousin he calls Uncle Henry, who won a silver medal with the United States at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"My Uncle Henry had a rink in his backyard," Oshie said. "I remember one night I woke up too excited to sleep. I think it was 3 a.m. I was young. I put on my skates and I went out there by myself for about five hours before everyone else woke up. So, that was my first real experience on an outdoor rink and it's been that fun ever since."
He expects the feeling to be similar when he takes the ice Saturday.
"I don't know if it matters or not that it's an NHL game and there's refs out there, but it seems like every time you get on a pond or you skate outside it turns into pure joy and fun," he said. "So, I'm hoping that we get that here on Saturday."