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Adam Oates unplugged: The early years

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Adam Oates unplugged: The early years

With the NHL lockout delaying the start of training camp and threatening the Oct. 11 start of the regular season, Capitals coach Adam Oates agreed to sit down for an exclusive interview with CSNWashington.com Insider Chuck Gormley.In Part One, Oates discusses his life as a young hockey player, his athletic battles with Wayne Gretzky and his life a teenage punk.

Tomorrow: Learning the ropes as a college player.
CSN: Were you introduced to hockey at a young age?
Adam Oates: Yeah, I started playing when I was 4, a typical Canadian kid growing up in Toronto, where hockey was everything. I grew up in Rexdale, but I consider myself a Toronto guy. My older brother Lawson played, so Id play my game, then watch his. We actually played together at one time, so I was exposed to a lot of hockey at an early age.

Do you have any other siblings?
Two younger sisters, Laurel and Michelle, one three years younger; one 10 years younger.

What was it like growing up in Toronto?
A very close family. My brother and I played a lot of hockey. I played lacrosse as well growing up. Back then I was kind of a typical kid. I played sports every day. My toys were my sticks.

Was there a point when you had to decide between lacrosse and hockey?
Yep, it was pretty late. I was a decent lacrosse player and probably around 15 or 16 I had to make a decision. There was no pro league in lacrosse. I really wanted to be a hockey player so it was an easy decision. I might have been a little better lacrosse player than a hockey player. I was a center, the same type of player. I set a few scoring records, but its a hockey world in Canada. Dont get me wrong, I loved hockey.

Which was tougher physically, lacrosse or hockey?
Lacrosse. Probably one of the reasons I dont think it makes it as a big sport. I played indoor, not outdoor. It was too rough and its a tough game to televise. The balls in the air all the time. We played in the hockey arenas. Very fast game, a lot of checking. Gretz Wayne Gretzky played. Gretz was good. Its so funny. I ran track against him, I played baseball against him, hockey, lacrosse. He beat me in everything.

Seriously?
Oh, yeah. I think he was a pitcher in baseball. I played against him in lacrosse a bunch when we were young. Its funny how I know that but he probably doesnt. Thats how famous he was already.

As a hockey player or as an athlete?
Hockey player. We knew about him at 12 years old. He was a year older than me. I remember running track against him in the mile. He beat me. It was in Toronto, maybe an Ontario meet. It was a long time ago, but yeah, he beat me in everything. Gretz was an awesome athlete.

Were you an elite hockey player all the way through high school?
I would say I was the kid who was always a little smaller than everyone else. I was a late bloomer. Every year Id struggle to make a team in Toronto but Id always contend for a scoring title, thats why Id keep advancing. I would say when I got to Tier II of junior hockey I really turned it on and grew as a player and then I got to go to college Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which really helped me.

You were not drafted by an NHL team as an 18-year-old. Was that a big blow to you?
Yeah, for sure. I had a couple kids on my team that I was better than that got drafted because they were bigger and when youre in juniors theyre drafting size and I was small. It was so hard. Youre going to high school every day and all of a sudden everybody knows about it. It was a blow to the ego. I dont remember talking much about. It hurt me and I kind of hid it. You act like its no big deal. Youre a kid, youre macho. I acted like it didnt bother me.

So youre 18. Youre not drafted. What did you do at that point?
I kept playing. I guess I fought through the adversity a little bit. Maybe I was a little stubborn. Maybe I was a little nave that I thought I was going to make it at all costs. I really sacrificed my schooling. I warred with my dad David about it. My dad said, You didnt get drafted. Who are you kidding? I ended up playing Tier II, a college coach RPIs Mike Adessa came up to me and I was illegal because I played two games of major exhibition, so I lost my amateur status.

Did you get paid for those two games?
No, so they appealed my case. The NCAA board suspended me seven games as a freshman, but they let me into school. I ended up getting my grades up and got a scholarship to RPI.

How were your grades in high school?
Terrible.

Because
I couldnt care less. Hockey was my life. I was a punk, I really was. I was your typical guy from that Rob Lowe movie.

Youngblood?
Yeah. That was our life

What about school?
Couldnt be bothered. Unbelievable. Im a lucky man, I really am.

Why?
Because I was that close to not making it. And then I would have had nothing to fall back on. No school, no nothing.

What was your relationship like with your dad at that point?
My dad and I were warring at that point. He wanted me to stay in school and get my grades. If youre not going to make it youve got to have something. We butted heads big time. Big time. He kicked me out, the whole deal.

Where did you go?
I lived with buddies, a little bit of a vagabond.

You were 18 at the time?
I was getting a stipend as a junior player, I was working at a gas station, making a few bucks, and couldnt care less. I was playing hockey. I mean, it would have been over that summer. Its so funny. I played with retired NHLer Steve Thomas on my team and he was in the same boat. I ended up getting a scholarship to RPI and he ended up playing for the Toronto Marlies as an overage, because hes a year younger than me. We both didnt get drafted and we both ended up playing 20 years in the NHL. We were both in the same exact boat. And hes actually in the movie Youngblood.

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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