Over the years, the Washington Capitals have been known for finding talent early and late in the NHL Entry Draft. While a younger generation of fans may be more familiar with draft picks such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Evgeny Kuznetsov among others, older fans will recognize names like Peter Bondra, Brendan Witt, Olaf Kolzig, Michal Pivonka and Sergei Gonchar. The mastermind behind finding those Capitals greats? Longtime scout Jack Button.
Before delving into Button’s work with the Caps, it’s important to note that the Button family is a name that has been involved in the NHL for years. Button’s wife Bridget was the Secretary for famous Toronto Maple Leafs GM and Head Coach George “Punch” Imlach. Button’s two sons, Craig and Tod, have both worked in the NHL in similar and different aspects. Craig was a scout with the Dallas Stars (and won the Stanley Cup with the team in 1999), and served as the General Manager of the Calgary Flames from 2000-2003. Tod was an Assistant Coach, Video Coordinator, and Director of Team Services with the Caps, and currently serves as the Calgary Flames’ Director of Scouting.
Jack Button served as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM from 1974-75 and founded the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, serving as its first director from 1975-1979. He joined the Caps in 1979 as the Head of Player Recruitment, and was named Director of Player Personnel and Recruitment in 1992, a role in which he served until his death in 1996 from leukemia. Button has been credited with discovering famous Capitals such as Brendan Witt, Sergei Gonchar, Peter Bondra, Olaf Kolzig, Michal Pivonka, and Jim Carey. Alongside then-General Manager David Poile, Button helped the Caps become a Stanley Cup contender; many of his discoveries were key pieces in the team’s run to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final.
After his death in 1996, the Capitals wore a memorial patch on their jerseys in his honor. While his time with the Caps was relatively brief, his mark on the franchise and its history cannot be forgotten. Without the eye of Button, fans would never have had the privilege of watching franchise greats such as Bondra, Kolzig, Gonchar, and Pivonka. For that, Caps Nation is forever grateful.
By Michael Fleetwood