The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Capitals wear Abe Lincoln-inspired playoff T-shirts and hats

Not long ago, defenseman Karl Alzner heard the Washington Capitals’ video coach, Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt, say something about snapback hats, which Alzner figured was something they had planned for the 2015-16 season. Instead, when Alzner and his teammates arrived at their locker stalls Tuesday morning, one day before their postseason opener against the New York Islanders, they found two hats and one T-shirt awaiting them, by Leonhardt’s design.

“We weren’t expecting to have this at all,” Alzner said. “It’s always fun when you get a new little toy to have.”

Brushing aside the issue of whether clothing can be considered toys — “kinda,” Alzner said — the surprise married the Capitals’ post-win “Honest Abe” award with something their captain, forward Alex Ovechkin, started saying with forward Joel Ward in recent weeks, most likely taking after Denzel Washington’s character from “American Gangster.”

Behold, the Abraham Lincoln beard and hat, awarded after each victory to the player who gave the most “honest” effort — though the criteria fluctuates based on the previous winner — and Ovechkin and Ward’s new slogan, “My man!” Most Capitals donned them after practice and gave them positive reviews, but defenseman Matt Niskanen said he was holding out for a better model and forward Curtis Glencross declined to have a picture taken in his gray hat, because it was too big for his head.

“They’re great,” said Coach Barry Trotz, taking care to tell reporters that they would not be receiving any garb. “The playoffs are fun. So we tried to have some fun with it. We don’t want to get too wrapped up in the other stuff. Wer’e having some fun with it, because that was something that players wanted an honest effort and they got the hat, because of that honest effort, and we used obviously in Washington, D.C., all the great history and Abraham Lincoln was a difference-maker in his time, so we used that metaphor to say hey, who’s going to be a difference-maker for us each night. That’s sort of what we grasped onto.”

(Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the night Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater, something Trotz did not know, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The Capitals also sported new T-shirts with wolf eyes on the front — a nod to one of Trotz’s go-to expressions, “Feed the right wolf” — and another Abraham Lincoln outline on the back, filled in by the word “Together,” in the three languages represented inside the locker room: English, Russian and Swedish.