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Capitals name Oates captain for 1999-00


Friday, Sept. 3, 1999; Page B9

By Dave Fay

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Adam Oates' hockey career has reached another plateau at a time when many former teammates his age are a few years into retirement.

Oates, who turned 37 a week ago today, was named captain of the Washington Capitals yesterday, succeeding the retired Dale Hunter. Oates assumes his post when camp opens Tuesday at Piney Orchard.

"This is a huge, huge honor for me," Oates said at a news conference staged on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. "I know what it means to be a captain. To have the opportunity to be the captain of an NHL team is something that is very special."

The center is only the ninth captain in the 26-year history of the Caps and only the fourth since 1982-83, when the club finally shook off the chains that hold back expansion teams and made the playoffs.

The position of captain is one with special duties and responsibilities in hockey and is not handed down lightly. The captain is a bridge between the front office and coaching staff and the players, ensuring rules are obeyed in the best interest of the team and negotiating with officials during games.

Mending personality disputes is not the least of his duties.

Oates takes over at a time when the Caps are trying to recover from missing the playoffs for only the second time in 17 seasons and have experienced a significant personnel turnover, much of it veteran players. Only a year before that, Washington was in the Stanley Cup finals.

"I think it's going to take someone like Adam to bridge the gap as we move forward," coach Ron Wilson said. "Adam can handle the pressure and he deserves the captaincy. He's had an outstanding career, been an alternate captain on almost every team he's played on and I think this appointment is overdue."

This will be the veteran's 15th NHL season, a pro career that started late because of three years attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (he returned to earn a degree), where he won an NCAA title. He played in Detroit, St. Louis and Boston before coming to the Caps in a trade in March 1997.

"I've played a long time, played with some great captains and to have this opportunity is nothing but a huge honor," Oates said. He played for only five captains -- Steve Yzerman in Detroit, Scott Stevens and Brett Hull in St. Louis, Raymond Bourque in Boston and Hunter in Washington. All taught him important things, he said.

"They were great captains, all of them, and I feel honored to join them," Oates said. "I don't think I'll do anything different than they did. They were soft-spoken guys, guys who just went out and played hard every night. That's how I approached the game and how I will continue to approach it."

Oates is a master at setting up his wings with excellent scoring opportunities. He has 838 assists in his career. His longtime goal has been to reach 1,000, a plateau within reach if he stays healthy and the Caps find snipers for him. He has 1,126 points and is just 33 games short of reaching the 1,000-game milestone.