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Remembering comic genius Don Rickles, who turned 'hockey puck' into an insult

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Remembering comic genius Don Rickles, who turned 'hockey puck' into an insult

Iconic comedian Don Rickles passed away on Thursday afternoon due to kidney failure at age 90.

The longtime standup comic and actor was famous for his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carons and The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as a longtime actor in television and movies. Rickles was one of the first prominent "insult comics,"  a brand of comedy that now floods comedy clubs and stadium venues around the world.

While the list of Rickles' accomplishments and accolades warrant lengthy discussion, we are here to talk about Rickles' contribution to the game of hockey.

Rickles himself was not a hockey player, but early on in his career, he coined a phrase that has remained in the cultural lexicon for more than half a century.

When Rickles began appearing on stage in the 1950's, he would rile up temperamental audience members by calling them "hockey pucks." The term became a key catchphrase of his and was part of the title of his 1975 stand-up special "Buy This Tape, You Hockey Puck."

Rickles even lent his voice to the "Mr. Potato Head" character in the hit Pixar movie series "Toy Story."

Hockey and insults have long gone hand-in-hand, and it's hard to imagine the phrase "You hockey puck" having much meaning at all if not for Rickles.

 

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Even after last year’s Stanley Cup run, there’s still ‘something extra’ in the Capitals-Penguins rivalry

Even after last year’s Stanley Cup run, there’s still ‘something extra’ in the Capitals-Penguins rivalry

The Capitals finally changed their playoff narrative last season with the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship and they went through their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, to win it. Washington’s run last season changed the nature of the Caps-Penguins rivalry, but if you think it made it any less meaningful, you are very much mistaken.

“No, I don't think they process it as a normal game,” Caps head coach Todd Reirden said of his player’s preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Penguins. “I think there's always a little something extra there.”

For many years, Pittsburgh was the major obstacle that stood in the way of Washington’s Stanley Cup dreams. Prior to last season, Alex Ovechkin had never defeated the Penguins in the playoffs despite facing them three times.

It is also not out of the realm of possibility to suggest the Caps could have hoisted another Cup before last season if not for Sidney Crosby and company, as Pittsburgh beat Washington in the playoffs in all five of the team’s Cup runs.

Things changed in 2018, however, as the Caps finally did the unthinkable. For just the second time in 11 postseason meetings, Washington defeated Pittsburgh.

“Being able to finally get through them last year was a huge part of us being able to win the Cup in the end,” Reirden said. “That's one of those watermarks in terms of your team growing and finally getting past something that's been in your way and that's a little bit of the same relief we talk about with winning a Stanley Cup, the relief you feel. It's also a little bit of a relief when we beat them.”

With that obstacle no longer hanging over their heads, it changes the narrative surrounding the rivalry this season. But it doesn't make it any less intense.

This time, the shoe is on the other foot. This time, Washington is the defending champ, and Pittsburgh is the team that’s chasing. The Caps are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, and Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down as the league’s most dominant scorer.

This year, the Caps have set the standard for the Penguins to try to match.

“It's taken on a different look to it now because we're the defending champs now so we know how that feels to be in their shoes and how much you're trying to gauge where your team's at,” Reirden said.

Wednesday’s game no doubt will feel very much like a rivalry in the stands. Amidst the sea of red, there will be pockets of black and gold clad fans with their terrible towels. There will be dueling “Let’s go Penguins” and “Let’s go Caps” chants, and plenty of boos for Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

But that intensity won’t just be limited to the people off the ice. The players will feel it too.

“It’s 32 games into the year so I wouldn't expect it to be a playoff game,” Reirden said, “But I always think there's a little something extra in those games.”

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What’s Christmas like in North Pole, Alaska? Cold, says Pheonix Copley of his hometown

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USA Today Sports

What’s Christmas like in North Pole, Alaska? Cold, says Pheonix Copley of his hometown

Ever wonder what Christmas at the North Pole is like? Just ask someone who’s been there like Capitals goalie Pheonix Copley.

Copley calls the North Pole home. North Pole, Alaska that is.

North Pole is a small town outside of Fairbanks (population of 2,232). Copley wears two candy canes on the bottom of his goalie mask in tribute to his hometown.

As you would expect, Christmas is a big deal back home, not just in December but year round. Santa Claus Lane cuts through the center of town and visitors can see the Santa Claus House located on St. Nicholas Drive.

“They definitely try and make it a theme in the town,” Copley said. “Light poles and stuff are candy canes, Christmas lights year round at places, businesses.”

Christmas itself, however, is more low-key for the people there than you would expect, according to Copley. As fun as the town name may be, there is one big drawback to December in North Pole: the weather.

“It's so cold up there, it's like not much really to do outside [at Christmas],” Copley said. “They do do ice sculptures and stuff so they go a little bit with it, but it's so cold and dark that not a whole lot going on up there.”

According to The Weather Channel, the forecast for Christmas day calls for a high of -8 degrees. That is a veritable heat-wave considering it is not supposed to get above -13 degrees in the five days leading up to Christmas. You can also expect there to be less than four hours of daylight.

That may sound miserable to some, but Copley always enjoyed making the trip home for the holidays.

“Especially growing up when I first started leaving, I was going home at Christmas and it was nice to see the whole family again and get to celebrate the holidays and stuff,” he said. “For myself, Christmas has always been a fun time. Just being from North Pole, I always get a lot of jokes and stuff about it.”

Now on the other side of the country and with only a few days between games, Copley will not make the long trip back home during the team’s Christmas break. Instead, he will remain in D.C. and, as he admitted, will enjoy a warmer Christmas.

But he still wouldn’t mind a little snow.

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