“If he cares about his daughter as much as he does about his training and diet, he’ll be a good father,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “He’s been a good role model for a lot of teammates for the last probably five, six, seven years.”
Erin Orpik had gone into labor Monday morning but didn’t deliver until hours later, leading several Capitals to rib the veteran blue-liner that he technically could have attended their workout. Instead, he stood by her side, welcomed fellow defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who brought him lunch and dinner – Carlson came bearing the team meal at the facility, Alzner a bison burger from his favorite restaurant, True Food — and eventually returned a proud first-time father.
“I think you’re a little bit nervous because you don’t know what to expect,” Orpik said. “Then when it comes your instincts take over. I’ve been really nervous holding other people’s babies, and I think when it’s your own, some of those nerves go away. It all happened really quickly, it seemed like, and I was waking up after a half-hour of sleep to come to practice, so hopefully I’ll feel a little bit better tomorrow.”
Here, Orpik can thank Coach Barry Trotz, who gifted the team a surprise day off Wednesday, rewarding the Capitals for a strong practice that reached 75 minutes in length. But Orpik insisted he wanted to skate after missing one day, so he will come to the practice facility anyway and work beside injured teammates Jay Beagle and John Erskine.
“It’s another addition to a big family when you look at it,” Trotz said. “I think Brooks and his wife will be great parents. He was sitting with a couple guys having kids, and I said things are going to change. You can fill them in. He’ll be great. Just his personality and he’s one of those guys that cares about the group and has a caring personality, that he’ll be a great father.
“Life will change. He’ll like going on the road, when you get your own bed and all those things. It’s the strength of the women when the kids are born, especially if you’re involved in hockey in any way.”
Orpik has company in the fatherhood department. Alzner, Beagle, Erskine, Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer, Curtis Glencross, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Braden Holtby and Tim Gleason all have children, and John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are expecting their firsts soon.
“I think we were pretty ready for it, pretty prepared for it,” Orpik said. “There’s a lot of younger guys with kids on the team here. I think we’re a little bit older. We’re ready for it. Yeah, it’s a lot of responsibility. I know both of us are really looking forward to it.”
(This, if you’ll recall, is a slightly more confident approach than Alzner took when Stella Raay was born in December.)
The timing worked out perfectly too. This week, after returning from a two-game road trip halfway across the continent in Minnesota and Winnipeg, the Capitals are enjoying their longest break between games within the regular-season calendar.
“We haven’t had a great schedule this year for whatever reason, and if we could’ve planned it, I don’t think we could’ve planned it any better,” Orpik said. “I was a little nervous I’d get stuck in Winnipeg there when we were up there on Saturday. Hopefully we’ll get some rest the next couple days, get right back at it here Thursday.”
As for the name, Orpik deferred to his wife.
“I didn’t have much input in it, to be honest with you,” he said. “That was my wife’s creativity. I just had to agree to something. She did a good job with it. She’s got everything organized and prepared months in advance. I know a lot of people wait to see what the baby looks like, but she had that picked out and it seems fitting.”