New Role With Caps Suits Alzner Well

By Dan Steinberg | Excerpt From The D.c. Sports Bog
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In his short hockey career, Caps rookie Karl Alzner has used Snoop Dogg's fake mustache as a good-luck charm, concocted an elaborate ritual involving exactly 88 taps of his stick on the ice, and became famous among teammates for both his special smoothie recipes and his homemade baseball hats. And now that he's a top-six defenseman for the first-place Caps?

"I stay away from all of that," said Alzner, whose solid start to his NHL career continues tonight when Washington hosts the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins. "I don't have time for it. I'm pretty plain Jane now. I try to be, at least."

Does that mean that Alzner's personality has receded into the barren steppes and smooth-as-ice uniformity of the typical NHL dressing room? Well, maybe. Not counting the fact that he still refuses to say the "F" word, owing to an eighth-grade New Year's resolution.

"And he's kept it?" asked Coach Bruce Boudreau, who admitted never having made a similar resolution. "Isn't that fabulous? I mean, that says a lot about what kind of person he is, you know? It's why his reputation of not making mistakes is probably so good, and you can see it. Unless he's only in the ninth grade now."

And so what does this professional athlete say when he gets particularly frustrated?

"He says, 'Frick,' " noted teammate and roommate Sean Collins.

"I just decided I didn't want to do it," said Alzner, whose decision was based neither on religious conviction nor a particularly dramatic childhood scene. "Of course your parents get mad if you swear when you're young, so I decided to make a resolution. That way, I'll have to do it for myself."

Other than that, though, the 20-year-old is just your typical professional athlete. The kind whose love of fine clothing has already drawn him to Tysons Corner six times in the 14 days he's lived in Washington.

"Four days in a row last week," he said proudly. "First I went because I wanted to look for suits, but I was with a bunch of the guys so I didn't want to walk in, I take quite a while. So the next day I went and bought my suit, the day after that I picked up my suit and then the following day I went and bought dress shirts. I thought I had one that was going to be okay to wear with it, but it turned out it didn't go, so I had to go back."

Since he could make nearly $1.7 million this year, with bonuses, and he likes nice clothes, and he goes to the mall once every 2.3 days, you'd think he owns quite a few suits, right?

"Just two," he said, before correcting himself. "One and a half. One's ripped. The guys made fun of me last trip, I ripped the pockets. My suit fits fairly tight and I bent down too quick to pick up a ball and I had stuff in my pocket and ripped the pocket pretty good."

See, he still feels funny spending a lot of money on any one item, and usually tries to concentrate on bargains, but he made an exception because the guys in the NHL seem really into their suits. As for his purged superstitions, turns out they weren't that great, anyhow.

"I do know one kid who's way worse than me," Alzner said. "He tapes his stick a little bit, then he untapes it all, then he rips the tape off and throws it away and rips more tape off, and if he doesn't rip it perfectly he's got to rip more off. It's unbelievable. He kicks my butt."

Capitals Notes: Mike Green (bruised shoulder), Tom Poti (groin muscle pull), Alexander Semin (upper torso strain) all practiced yesterday, though their status for tonight is questionable. Sergei Fedorov (sprained ankle), John Erskine (concussion) and Eric Fehr (shoulder) are out.

Staff writer Tarik El-Bashir contributed to this report.

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