Langway passes 'C' to Hatcher 10-year tenure as captain ends

February 09, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Washington Capitals defenseman Rod Langway sat at a table at the Piney Orchard Ice Rink in Odenton flanked by general manager David Poile, coach Terry Murray and teammate Kevin Hatcher. He looked out at the bank of television camera crews and reporters and grinned.

"Gee, I hope you're all not disappointed because I'm not retiring," he said, drawing a laugh.

What Langway was doing was handing over the team captaincy to Hatcher. On some NHL teams, captains come and go, but Langway's tenure in the role for the Capitals covers 10 years. And, until he gave it up yesterday, he was the longest-serving team captain in the league.

Hatcher, a defenseman, had served as captain early in the season, when Langway was recovering from injury and later, while he was determining his future when the team offered him a part-time role. Now Hatcher will wear it full time.

"I've looked up to Rod for eight years now," said Hatcher. "And I've learned from his dedication and enthusiasm. It's a real honor just to say I hope I can wear it as well as Rod has."

And Langway, 35, will begin exploring a different role with the Capitals. Murray said now that Langway has handed over the captain's role, he will be used as an unofficial assistant coach. Murray said he thinks Langway will be able to teach the team's young defensemen, such as Jason Woolley and Shawn Anderson, a great deal.

"Now we can sit down and talk about what he wants to do after he stops playing hockey," Murray said. "We couldn't do that while he was captain. He was the captain. It wasn't the time to sit and talk about his goals after the game. Now, Rod and I will go to dinner and talk about how much he wants to be involved."

Murray called Langway "an ordinary guy who made an extraordinary commitment," making himself into one of the NHL's best defensemen.

"It's time to do this," said Langway, who is expected to play in his 1,000th career game later this season. "I'm going out of the game soon -- hopefully, not this year, but soon. It's my decision. There has been no pressure from the organization to take the 'C' off. Kevin has worn the 'C' well when I've been out, and I know he will continue to."

It was a funny kind of news conference. If any reporter thought Langway was about to hang it up, it was not because of any wild stretch of the imagination. It was the serious expressions and the accolades being lavished on the former All-Star defender as if he were retiring.

"Rod changed this whole franchise around," said Poile, who made the trade for Langway Sept. 10, 1982. "A franchise that had never made the playoffs has never missed the playoffs since he arrived. Rod gave us definition, foundation and character. He gave us the desire and found us ways to mature and win hockey games."

Hatcher, 26, seemed a logical choice to assume the role, according to Murray, who chose him to wear the "C" in Langway's absence, by-passing assistant captains Dale Hunter and Kelly Miller.

"Kevin is 26, a star player and he can be a captain a lot of years," said Murray. "I think the team is pleased."

* The Capitals have eight defensemen on their roster, now that Woolley has been recalled. Murray said he doesn't mind having that many because the team will enter a period of games nearly every other day beginning Feb. 28. That means Woolley and Anderson will stay.

* Murray said Reggie Savage, who has been recalled from the Skipjacks -- again -- will be in the lineup tonight.

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