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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Walter E. Carter Jr.

U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent discusses Stadium Series game, love for Capitals, growing up Bruins fan

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs each Tuesday throughout the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.

The latest edition features Vice Admiral Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent.

ANNAPOLIS -- Before Tom Cruise was "Maverick", Anthony Edwards was "Goose" and Val Kilmer was "Iceman" in the 1986 film "Top Gun", Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr. was the real deal flying jets under the call name "Slapshot" at the Navy Fighter Weapons School - the flight training program commonly known as "Top Gun" that the movie was based upon.

Now a Vice Admiral and Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, Carter was a junior on Navy's men's ice hockey club team when he picked up the sarcastic nickname after taking a bad slap shot.

 

[RELATED: Complete NHL Stadium Series coverage]

 

"I almost got benched and was told if I ever raised my stick above my knees I'll never play again," Carter said. "The movie 'Slap Shot' had come out around that time, so the two just came together and it stuck with me and I kept the call sign all the way through flying in jets for 37 years."

Carter's two worlds will come together again at the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, NHL.TV). It will be the first time a U.S. service academy will host an NHL game and Carter, a 1981 graduate of the Naval Academy and highly decorated pilot, is understandably thrilled.

The 58-year-old Burrillville, Rhode Island native still plays each Friday in a pickup game at the McMullen Hockey Arena on the Naval Academy's campus, and was on the ice at Capital One Arena for an informal Army-Navy game following the Capitals' Military Appreciation Night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 20.

"I'll put those blades on whenever somebody will let me," Carter said.

Apparently, Carter's flight skills far exceeded his slap shot. After graduating "Top Gun" in 1985, he was deployed around the world, landing on 19 different aircraft carriers.

Video: 2018 Stadium Series time-lapse in Annapolis, Maryland

Carter flew 125 combat missions in support of operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, accumulating 6,150 flight hours in F-4, F-14, and F-18 aircraft and safely completing 2,016 carrier-arrested landings, a record among all active and retired U.S. Naval aviators.

Through it all, his call name served as a reminder of the game he loves.

"It's always a conversation starter," Carter said. "I'm very fortunate to have been blessed to be in Navy jets all my life and be connected to this great sport."

Here are Five Questions with … Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr.

 

What does it mean to the Naval Academy to have the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium?

"It's additional visibility. It's a chance to showcase what's really good about the Academy, performance and excellence at the highest level, which I think these two teams represent and bring from Toronto and Washington, D.C., It's also a chance to bring the community together here for an event that's not football or lacrosse that really will be a high-visibility event. It's Hockey Night in Canada, it's going to be on NBC, so the entire continent will have a chance to see the Naval Academy in an outdoor hockey arena. I mean, how cool is that?"

 

You're from Rhode Island. Were you a Boston Bruins fan when you were growing up?

"Of course. Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Pie McKenzie, I grew up on those household names. But I lived all over the world in all different cities and I've always become a fan whatever baseball or hockey program that was local. So, I've been a Washington Caps fan since I came here in 1977. I even played after a game back in 1979 when they played in Landover, Maryland, at the Capital Centre. So, I've been following the Caps for most of my adult life."

 

Why do you still play?

"It's still fun. It's a team sport. I love the energy that it brings. After I play, even though sometimes it's hard to get everything set up and I'm not as fast as I used to be, it just reminds me of what a cool sport it is. I'm fortunate I was brought up with it. I think I'll play the sport as long as I'm able."

 

Does a vice admiral get special treatment on the ice or do they treat you the same as every other player?

"They love to not treat me with any special treatment (laughs). No, the guys are great. We skate in a really wonderful collegial group on Friday mornings. In fact, (Capitals alumnus) Peter Bondra skates with us on occasion and (Capitals alumnus) Sylvain Cote skated with us last week. So, we have some of those folks, but the guys that play every Friday, they're professionals. They're doctors. They're businessmen. Most of them played in college. Even some of them played some semi-pro. It's just a fun, fun group of guys that get together on Friday and skates hard."

 

Non-hockey question: What do you think of the movie "Top Gun" and what is your favorite scene?

"Here's an inside-baseball or inside-hockey [answer]. I was there. When the movie was being filmed, I was a "Top Gun" student. In 1985, I was there when Tom Cruise and Tony Edwards came. So, I was there in the initial filming and then I was an instructor when the movie came out in May of 1986. So, a lot of famous scenes there. Some of the flying scenes, I think, are still the best, but the opening sequence of the flight deck working and launching and landing airplanes by far is my favorite."

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