Capitals’ John Carlson: “Whoever Wins Is Certainly Not Going To Say There’s Some Asterisk Next To The Championship”

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Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson appeared on a recent SVPod episode last week and discussed what it was like on the morning the NHL paused the 2019-20 season, the tough skating and conditioning preparation, his thoughts on the NHL’s Return to Play Plan, and the differences in this postseason than the norm.

The Morning the NHL Paused

March 12, the day the NHL officially paused the season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, will be a day all of us will remember about the 2019-20 season. The Capitals were set to host the Detroit Red Wings that night. At first, morning skates and practices were going on as planned but were soon canceled and it wasn’t long that news came of the NHL’s pause on the season.

That was the last time Carlson skated.

“I remember pretty vividly the morning meeting,” he said. The PR staff came in while the team was reviewing practice footage and announced the shut-downs. Carlson calls these recent few months “unprecedented times for sure for everyone.”

Skating and Conditioning Preparation 

The biggest factor of returning is players getting back into skating shape. Teams are preparing for Phase 2 (small group skates and workouts) of the league’s Return to Play plan, which could begin later this week. Carlson’s typical summer would be working out for a few months before spending 5-6 weeks on just skating before the start of training camp. He has not had access to a rink for practice as most players have not either due to closures.

Carlson explained that “it definitely takes a good three weeks” to get back in the norm. “It doesn’t matter how hard you train, you could be training four, five, or six months in the summer…that first day of training camp or the first time you get back on the ice, you do not feel good.” Handling the puck will be the easiest thing to come back, according to Carlson. “After the first week, you really will get a grip on things with that.”

“The skating and the conditioning— no matter how hard you run, how hard to play… when you get out there, it’s still different and that’s what we’re all trying to prepare ourselves for right now whether it’s mentally or actually physically.”

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The Return to Play Plan

“It’s definitely showing we do want to play as players, as the league…we want to get something done to be able to do this as safe as possible,” Carlson said about the overall “when” and “where” of the return. The Capitals have about six players, one of whom is Carlson, in the D.C. area currently who could possibly be ready to skate when Phase 2 begins. On Friday, general manager Brian MacLellan said on a conference call that July 10 is a target date for training camp as more players from overseas will return by then.

Each Conference is assigned a “hub” city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities, and in-market transportation. Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the hub city with only a small number of support staff permitted to enter the event areas.

Timing and sites will be determined at a future date and will be dependent on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability, and government regulations. “We’re learning more every day as talks continue,” Carlson said regarding potentially being away for an extended period of time from family during the playoffs. “It’s a difficult thing to ask, it’s difficult for each individual— everyone’s going through something different…there’s a lot to be decided upon and I’m ready to play hockey.”

Differences in this Postseason

“It’s going to be weird no doubt,” Carlson replied on playing in an empty arena. “I think at the end of the day, we’re competitors, we see these guys, we line up against them and don’t like a lot of them as it is, so it’s not going to take much to ramp yourself up.”

In May, Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene said, “You don’t want to have a COVID Cup. I’m worried that if we force this thing and try and it’s a little gimmicky or if it’s not quite right, whoever wins the Cup is going have people trying to take it away from them their whole lives and they don’t deserve that.” It’s an angle some players and fans deem as “putting an asterisk on the season”.

Carlson said he will not view the league’s extended playoff format any differently than the regular postseason. “We’ve put in so much work…we’re all dealing with the same thing, there’s no tactical advantage of one team versus the next…whoever wins is certainly not going to say there’s some asterisk next to the championship. I can promise that.”

You can listen to the full episode here. Carlson jumps on at the 5:55 mark.

By Della Young

About Della Young

Della Young is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter who earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from Regent University. Della comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for hockey in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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