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Stanley Cup Odds
Free LCS 1997-98
Reader Hockey Pool
Langway Still a Favorite in Washington
by Meredith Martini, Correspondent
The three words heard most often at the USAir Arena on November 26, 1997: "It's about time." And much as some people might like to believe it, those words didn't refer to the impending move to the MCI Center.
They referred to the long overdue retirement of Rod Langway's Number 5, a sweater which had been unofficially retired since Langway left the Capitals in 1993 after a stellar 11-year career with the team but had never quite received the formal closure it merited.
Rod Langway was the first American to win the Norris Trophy and he won it in two consecutive years; he appeared in six All-Star games, and remains both a model defenseman and the most honored player to have worn a Capitals jersey. And on November 26, he finally had his night.
"It's been talked about for the last couple of years to honor me and have my number retired," said Langway, now 39 and an assistant coach with the AHL's Providence Bruins. "It was great...just a great honor."
The lone number retired prior to November 26 was Yvon Labre's Number 7; Labre, who now works in the Capitals' front office, presented Langway with a personalized set of golf clubs and a personal golf cart for "our favorite scratch golfer."
"I'll probably give it to charity, 'cause with this job here [in Providence] I don't have much time to play golf," Langway remarked. "But we'll see what happens, the boys [his two teenaged sons] will probably use it more than I will."
Also presented to Langway were a silver plated hockey stick and a portrait given to him by the Montreal Canadiens. The date for the ceremony was chosen in part as Montreal was the Capitals' opponent for the night and the Canadiens' GM Rejean Houle was a participant in the celebration. During his youth hockey years, Langway had an opportunity to meet Houle and "I became an admirer. Later we became roommates," joked Langway.
Most of Langway's praise, however, was reserved for the fans. "I can remember looking out into this building and seeing 17, 18,000 of you, 15,000 here on freebies," Langway described to knowing laughter. "And this was the loudest place!"
"It's about time, they should have done it a long time ago," says Langway fan Barbara Parker. "I was happy they finally did it...I wanted to see that ten years ago. I would like to see him more involved with the Capitals organization."
Despite Langway's stature in the Capitals' organization and certainly among Washington area fans, where his presence remains in the form of Langway's Restaurant, Langway hasn't had anything to do with the Caps since leaving the team. Which is not to say he hasn't been busy.
Langway spent his first full season out of the NHL as a player/coach for the IHL's San Francisco Spiders. The financially troubled team went under after just one year, so Langway reprised the role for the ECHL's Richmond Renegades, a team whose GM, Craig Laughlin, was traded with Langway (and Doug Jarvis and Brian Engblom) from Montreal to Washington in 1982 in one of the NHL's all-time blockbuster trades.
It was that trade which made Langway's career. The new players made the perennially hapless Capitals a contending team after some ten years of expansion futility and no playoff appearances. The Capitals would make it into the playoffs for the next 14 years. The transformation of the Washington Capitals remains Langway's favorite memory of his time in the nation's capital.
"I think just realizing that I was part of the building of a franchise, a winning franchise, I should say," says Langway. "Back when I got there in '82, they really didn't know what was going to happen, whether they were going to fold or whatever, and it just turned out. They've got a good, solid foundation there now and hopefully in the future they'll win a Stanley Cup."
Langway never won the Cup with Washington, but he learned his trade (and won the Cup) with an organization that had plenty of Lord Stanley's Cups in the dressing room. Although the Massachusetts native left high school with no intention of playing hockey professionally (he opted to attend the University of New Hampshire as UNH offered him both a football scholarship and permission to play hockey and baseball if he wished), both the Montreal Canadiens and the WHA's Birmingham franchise drafted him after two years at UNH. Montreal didn't need him right away, so Langway spent a year shuffling between Birmingham and the AHL until the Habs did need a defenseman. And the rest is history.
Langway never played for his boyhood heroes the Boston Bruins, but after his retirement he still hoped he could work for the organization and alerted Boston to his interest. While it took over three years, the Bruins finally called him back. "They called me this summer and offered me a contract and I took it," says Langway, who now assists one of his coaches when he was a Capital, Tom McVie.
Providence has a very young team and in particular a young defense, so Langway's work is cut out for him. But he's enjoying every minute of it. "I love it!" he says.
And back in Washington, plenty of people still love him.
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