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Why Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky started tossing a football before games

(AP Photo / Luis M. Alvarez)

It started out of boredom. With too much time to kill before the Washington Capitals played the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden last month, Swedes Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky grabbed a football and walked out into the hallway.

What was fun for Johansson and Burakovsky turned dangerous for anyone in the vicinity. One throw by Burakovsky clanged off the wall and nearly decapitated a reporter. Johansson expressed remorse as he picked up the football and then continued the exercise with Burakovsky. Eventually, the two moved into a different hallway, one with fewer people around.

“It’s pretty hard,” Johansson said. “We haven’t really grown up throwing a football, so it’s a little different. But we’re getting there.”

“It’s kind of fun,” Burakovsky said. “In the beginning, we actually sucked, but right now, we’re actually good.”

Since that Dec. 20 game in New York, Johansson said he and Burakovsky haven’t thrown a football before every game. But especially on the road when there’s often too much time to warm up at the arena and visiting locker rooms are cramped, this new activity keeps things interesting.

A large contingent of Capitals often get into a circle before games and kick a soccer ball around as part of their pre-game routine. Perhaps Burakovsky was inspired to try something new after going to his first Redskins game, a 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

“It’s not like football is a big sport in Europe,” Burakovsky said. “It was kind of new. We didn’t really know how to hold a ball, but we worked on it. We’re getting there. We’re actually a lot better.”

Fortunately, a few of Johansson’s and Burakovsky’s teammates helped them with their form. Maybe it was their pre-game passing that set up this goal: