T.J. Oshie will admit to feeling jealous. During his 10-year career in the NHL, he watched friends and former teammates play in dazzling outdoor games — Winter Classics at baseball parks and football fields, or Stadium Series on college campuses. He played in St. Louis for seven years, but the city didn’t host a Winter Classic until he was already with the Capitals, and Washington hosted the Winter Classic the year before Oshie arrived.
“I was pretty jealous,” Oshie said. “They always look pretty cool. I always thought the 24/7 [HBO show] that they used to do for the Winter Classic — I don’t know if they still do it — I thought that was really sweet leading up to it. It always brought a really dramatic side of hockey that you don’t really feel when you’re playing. So, yeah, I was jealous.”
Oshie is the most tenured player on the Capitals’ roster to have never played in an NHL outdoor game. That’ll change Saturday night, when the Capitals play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, and considering Oshie’s connection to the Navy, the wait for his first outdoors experience may have been worth it.
His grandfathers, Richard Oshie and Dexter Moen, served together on the USS Saint Paul in the Navy.
“Sure enough, my mom and dad are from different cities north of Seattle, and they had met through my mom’s cousin,” he said. “He was a basketball player, and my dad helped out at Everett Community College with the basketball teams. One thing led to another. They met. My mom told her dad, my grandpa Dexter, who she was dating, and sure enough he was like ‘Oh, one my best friends in the Navy was a Richard Oshie.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, that’s his dad.’ It kind of came full circle there. They were good buddies on the ship together, and then their kids ended up getting married without them knowing.”
Oshie said several relatives from the Seattle area are flying in for the game. His earliest memory of playing outside was shortly after he moved to Warroad, Minn., when he was 7. “Uncle Henry,” who’s actually a cousin, had a rink in his backyard.
“I remember one night, I woke up too excited to sleep,” Oshie said. “I think it was 3 a.m. I was young, so I went out and put on my skates and went out there by myself for about five hours before everyone else woke up. That was my first real experience on an outdoor rink, and it’s been that fun ever since.”
Though Oshie has maintained his positive and upbeat demeanor, it’s been a trying season. Coming off a career year with 33 goals, he has scored just 12 through 58 games, never quite rediscovering his form after suffering a concussion in early December. Eight of his 12 goals have come on the power play, and he hasn’t scored an even-strength tally in 28 games.
“I’ve had a couple conversations with Osh,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “When he’s really going really good, his blades are active. He’s got that really persistent, sort of hound dog mentality, that he brings naturally, but it’s more prevalent when he’s moving his feet and having fun and enjoying those battles he’s right in. … He’s getting looks, and he put one off the crossbar a couple games ago. So, it’s coming, and when it does, it’ll be fine. For T.J., when he’s going really good, there’s a joy in his game and a spirit about him that you can tell right away when he’s going to have a good night.”