ARLINGTON – T.J. Oshie stood ready and tightened his grip on his stick. He took careful aim at his target before pulling his stick back and WHAM! He released a good solid whack right into the keister of teammate Tom Wilson. Oshie then assumed the position and waited for the return shot. Wilson delivered a whack of his own that dropped Oshie down to his knees in fake agony.
Pregame rituals are an important part of the preparation for every NHL team. The vast majority of them happen before the players ever take the ice. One tradition, however, has become a staple of the Capitals’ game-day preparation during the pregame warm-up.
Oshie, one of the Capitals’ most energetic leaders, will find each and every teammate and tap them with his stick always saving Wilson for last. Oshie then delivers a whack right to the butt of Wilson. They then switch positions with Oshie on the blue line and Wilson standing behind. Wilson replicates the strength and intensity of the hit with Oshie dropping to his knees.
“That goes back since he got here,” Wilson said. “I honestly don't even remember how it started. But obviously it took off and I think now he goes right down the line and gets everybody.”
Sometimes it is a whack, sometimes a tap. Over the course of the team’s current seven-game win streak, Oshie and Wilson exchanged gentler taps.
“We switch it up based upon whether we won or lost,” Oshie said. “Sometimes it's harder, sometimes there’s more slaps than one.“
The origin of one of the team’s most famous rituals is organic. Wilson, Oshie and former teammate Michael Latta took turns delivering whacks to one another prior to games. It was never meant to become a big deal or spread to the rest of the team. That was evidenced by the fact that both players had to stop and think to remember exactly how it all began.
“I think I hit Lats and then Tom and then Lats hit me and then Tom hit me,” Oshie said. “I think that's how it started. I don't know. Originally, it was very violent, but now we have a little fun with it.”
From there it just sort grew to include teammates.
“Over the years guys felt left out or something so he wanted to get everybody and always comes back and finishes,” Wilson said. “If you watch it, it's the exact same almost every time. It's just routine, I guess.”
“I don't even know if some guys want to be involved, but they're involved,” Oshie said. “Just something fun to kind of get going.”
As silly as it may seem from the outside looking in, it is an example of the energy Oshie brings to the team. It is infectious and greatly appreciated by his teammates.
An 82-game season is a grind and it is hard for everyone to bring energy for an entire campaign, but Oshie is a player you never have to worry about. He is someone you know can count on to be up for every single game. The point of bringing this specific ritual to the rest of the team is to provide an energetic spark that sometimes a player may need to get themselves up for the game.
“Osh, that's just who he is. Lots of energy,” Wilson said. “On a day like today, you have a game last night, you come in, he's just one of those guys around the rink that you're so lucky to have because he's always got energy, he's always keeping it light, just such good teammate.”
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