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Nearly 50 youth hockey players with disabilities took to the ice in Ballston this week to sharpen their skills with Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.

On Wednesday, members of the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) convened at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex to spend several hours learning various skating techniques and skills from Ovechkin and other Capitals players, including Aliaksei Protas, Matthew Phillips and Alexander Alexeyev.

Ovi has been hosting this Caps-sponsored clinic for ASHA — which supports individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities through hockey — for a decade, though it took a hiatus during the pandemic.

“Ovechkin has been an ASHA ambassador since the first skate in 2014 and most recently made a donation to the ASHA to help cover ice costs for 136 special hockey teams across the United States,” per a Capitals press release. “The donation supported more than 5,260 athletes and nearly 400 coaches.”

ASHA Executive Director Jennifer O’Brien told ARLnow that while the donation was vital for the organization, Ovechkin’s personal commitment — in terms of time, money and energy — is especially significant.

“The big thing people should know is that sometimes people donate things and they kind of do it through the organization or whatever,” O’Brien said. “He does this personally. And so we take it personally and appreciate him for that reason.”

Established in 2007, ASHA currently serves over 8,000 members, representing 136 special hockey teams nationally. There are three ASHA teams in the D.C. area, per the release.

Most ASHA members who attended the clinic came from either the D.C. region or other East Coast locales, said O’Brien.

In addition to his work with ASHA, Ovechkin established “Ovi’s 8’s” in 2006, a program dedicated to providing tickets to Capitals games for underprivileged children.

“Since then, more than 5,700 individuals have had a chance to see a game free of charge, including many ASHA participants,” the team said.

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It may not be regulation hockey rink size, but off-ice hockey drills could easily take place inside the rec room of a Ballston home that is now up for sale, with a notable seller.

After working up a sweat, you could grab a drink from the wet bar in the room or make a post-workout snack in the kitchen, outfitted with high-end appliances.

Such uses would be a fitting tribute to former Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, the soon-to-be former owner. He agreed to part ways with the team this summer and is selling his 7-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom home in walking distance of the Ballston Metro station.

The home at 608 N. Vermont Street hit the market today (Thursday) with a price tag of nearly $2.7 million. The listing on Redfin says the house is already “popular,” garnering north of 1,100 views this morning.

Realtor Danielle Johnson tells ARLnow she has a public open house scheduled for Saturday from 1-3 p.m.

“Obviously, the property in general is so special,” she says. “When they moved in, everything was almost complete. It was a custom built home and then, they came in and they added some amazing features.”

The Laviolettes extended out their paved driveway and added an interior and exterior security system, with an electric security gate, she said. They added custom closets, electric blinds and updated the landscaping, among other changes.

“So even though the house was unbelievable when they bought it, they put a lot of their own money into it with upgrades,” she said. “The Laviolettes left before they were really ready or hoping to, but that’s hockey.”

Laviolette and his wife, Kristen, bought the custom house in the fall of 2020, when it was almost complete and added those finishing touches. Johnson says it was their first “empty-nester” home, with few signs of wear and tear that come with kids.

“It is the first home they lived in while coaching with all the kids out of the house,”  she said. “They were excited to live closer to the city and out of the suburbs. They wanted to be able to walk to restaurants and shops.”

And, a year in, they told NBC Sports it felt like they were finally settling into the 28th home the family had lived in throughout Peter’s career. Before the Capitals, he coached the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers.

The real estate adage “location, location, location” was never more true than for the couple. From their Ballston digs, the head coach walked or took a bike to work every day, says Johnson.

“It’s steps away from Ballston Quarter,” she said. “It’s such an awesome location because you still get the feel of a neighborhood with all the beautiful homes around you but then you are literally a one-minute walk to Ballston Quarter and then to the Metro.”

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MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston (via Monumental Sports and Entertainment)

More than 800 Arlington Public Schools students are being invited to a special Washington Capitals practice later this week.

Caps star Alexander Ovechkin scored his 802nd career goal last month, passing Gordie Howe on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Now APS students will help Ovie celebrate the achievement.

“Ovechkin scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season and the 802nd of his career Dec. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets at Capital One Arena, passing Howe (801) for second place on the NHL’s all-time goals list,” the Caps said in a press release. “Ovechkin now only trails Wayne Gretzky (894) for the most goals in NHL history.”

“To celebrate the historic milestone, Ovechkin will host more than 800 children from Arlington Public Schools for a celebration at the Capitals Jan. 13 practice,” the press release continued. “Fourth- through fifth-grade students from five Arlington schools will be in attendance at practice. All students will receive special Ovi 800 T-shirts from Ovechkin and the Capitals. Leading up to the visit, the classes will participate in 800-related number activities in their physical education and other classes, such as math and reading.”

Students will take photos with Ovechkin after Friday’s skate, the Capitals said.

It’s one of several community initiatives launched by the team to help mark the milestone, including a donation to the American Special Hockey Association, programming at local ice rinks, and Ovechkin granting “multiple wishes later this season through wish-granting organizations.”

Contacted by ARLnow, a Washington Capitals spokesperson declined to saw which APS schools are among the five that have been invited to the event.

“We are not disclosing which schools are attending,” the spokesperson said.

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Capitals practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex (via Monumental Sports and Entertainment)

Oakridge Elementary will get to cheer on the Washington Capitals heading into the playoffs.

More than 280 third through fifth grade students will participate in a pep rally at the Arlington Ridge school tomorrow (Friday), just days before teams begin facing off for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The event, dubbed “Soar to the Playoffs,” is being organized by the Caps and sponsored by Boeing, which has its D.C. headquarters in nearby Crystal City. The event will run from noon to 1 p.m. and feature street hockey, as well as an appearance from Caps mascot Slapshot.

As the season winds down and playoff matchups are firming up, there’s news swirling around Alexander Ovechkin’s injury and ability to start in the playoffs. He sat out of Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders. The team is set to play the Islanders again tonight at 7 p.m. on Long Island.

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Morning Notes

Aerial view of Rosslyn (staff photo)

County Board Wants Camp Revamp — From County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “More from the Board on expectations for reforming summer camp registration, below. Importantly for this year: 6,000 spots are still open for this summer, and families who need DPR camp can continue to register online or w/ customer service team, [email protected].” [Twitter]

Jobs in Arlington Increase Slightly — “Year-over-year employment within Arlington County improved in the third quarter of 2021, according to new federal data, but lagged the overall national rebound. There were a total of 172,600 jobs recorded in Arlington for September 2021 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported Feb. 23. That’s up 0.4 percent from a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

New ACPD K9 Graduates — From the Arlington County Police Department: “Join us in congratulating Cpl. Doescher & K9 Wilson on their graduation from basic patrol K9 school, which includes training on conducting building and area searches, advanced obedience and tracking!” [Twitter]

Yorktown Hockey Is Undefeated — “With blowout victories in their final two matches, the Yorktown Patriots completed their first undefeated regular season since 2003 with a 10-0 record in high-school club ice hockey. In its final match, Yorktown blanked Flint Hill, 10-1.” [Sun Gazette]

High School Hoops Update — “Two Arlington teams advanced to the semifinals and another lost in first-round action of the girls and boys 6D North Region high-school basketball tournaments the night of Feb. 22. Moving on are the Washington-Liberty Generals in boys action and the Yorktown Patriots in girls, each Liberty District tournament champions. The Wakefield Warriors (11-10) had their season end with a first-round 69-56 loss to the host Madison Warhawks in a boys game.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. ABC Removes Russian Vodka — “In the spirit of Gov. Youngkin’s call for decisive action in support of Ukraine, Virginia ABC is removing 7 Russian-sourced vodka brands from our store shelves. Russian-themed brands not produced in Russia like Stolichnaya and Smirnoff will not be removed.” [Twitter, Axios]

Nearby: Bailey’s Xroads Arson Suspect Sought — “Fire investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying a person of interest related to a fire that occurred on Tuesday, February 22, at approximately 6:30 a.m., in the 5600 block of Columbia Pike.” [Twitter, Fairfax County Fire/Rescue]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 43 and low of 31. Sunrise at 6:43 am and sunset at 6:01 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Washington Capitals are hosting a women’s hockey tournament and a series of clinics at the Capitals’ practice facility in Ballston next month.

The four game showcase from the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), part of the association’s “Dream Gap Tour,” will take place from March 4-6 at the Medstar Capital Iceplex on N. Glebe Road. It will feature teams from Minnesota, Boston, Calgary, and Toronto. This is the sixth stop for the tour, but the first time in the D.C. area.

The intention of the tournament is to bring attention to the “dream gap” that exists for young girls who want to play hockey.

“Essentially, a boy can lace up his skates and dream of playing in the NHL one day whereas young girls don’t have a league that pays a livable wage where they can solely focus on hockey to dream about,” a PWHPA spokesperson tells ARLnow about why this is an important program. “There’s a dream gap that exists that we’d like to close for girls.”

This is also part of the Capitals’ ALL CAPS ALL HER initiative with the aim of providing access and support for female hockey players across the region. There are 5,332 registered youth hockey players in Virginia, according to statistics provided by the Capitals, with only about 12% of those players being female.

“The Capitals are committed to continuing to grow the game at all levels, which includes youth and female hockey. The D.C. region has seen phenomenal interest and growth in hockey participation over the last decade-plus, and we’re proud to play a part in that development through initiatives like the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour,” Peter Robinson, the Caps’ director of youth hockey development, wrote in a statement.

Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday game are as low as $15. The game will be streamed on the official Capitals Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as on the Monumental Sports Network.

Hockey clinics will also be held at the Iceplex in Ballston for both youth and adult female players on March 3-5. The clinics will include work on and off the ice and will feature PWHPA athletes, coaches, and Caps youth hockey development staff. Participants will receive a complimentary weekend pass to the games.

The PWHPA features approximately 125 of the world’s best female hockey players and was specifically formed to create a women’s hockey league that pays a living wage to players while provideing elite-level resources like trainers, marketing, and facilities.

“We wanted to partner with the Capitals because of their involvement in the community & girls’ hockey,” a PWHPA spokesperson said. “Particularly, the launch [of] their ALL CAPS ALL HER initiative. It’s important for us to partner with organizations who want to grow the women’s game, which the Capitals definitely do.”

The 137,000-square-foot Medstar Capital Iceplex, which got a new name in 2018, opened 15 years ago. In addition to offering a venue for public skates and local hockey clubs, it serves as the Capitals’ practice facility and team headquarters.

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Ballston BID is hosting Washington Capital watch parties (logo courtesy of Ballston BID)

The Ballston Business Improvement District is hosting a series of Washington Capitals watch parties as the local hockey team closes in on another playoff spot.

Beginning this Thursday (Jan. 20), the Ballston BID is partnering with the Capitals and Ballston Quarter for seven “home-away-from-home” watch parties at Quarter Market Plaza at 4238 Wilson Blvd. The series of parties will run through the end of hockey’s regular season, which is April 29 for the Capitals.

There’ll be high-definition jumbo screens set-up outdoors and indoors, plus food, drinks, and music from a DJ. There’ll also be giveaways like Caps tickets, branded stadium seat cushions and autographed items.

“We are proud that Ballston is home to the Caps’ practice facility, naturally we’re thrilled to celebrate our hometown team even when they’re on the road! This inaugural event series will be the new place to watch Caps away games,” Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone wrote in a press release. “Everyone from the Caps superfan down to the general passerby will find a great reason to sit down, watch the game, support our team and support our local businesses.”

Ballston has been home to the team’s practice facility and headquarters since 2006.

“We are excited to partner with Ballston BID to offer away-game Capitals watch parties at Ballston Quarter for the remainder of the regular season,” the Capitals’ vice president of marketing, Amanda Tischler, also noted in the release. “With Ballston serving as the location of our practice facility MedStar Capitals Iceplex, we are thrilled that area fans will be able to cheer on the team from a unique home environment.”

The Washington Capitals are once again skating toward the playoffs, led by one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history, Alexander Ovechkin. Even with the season only about half over, it appears that the team is well on its way to making the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

The Caps won the team’s first – and, so far, only – Stanley Cup championship in 2018, celebrating in Clarendon.

More details about the parties, including what local eateries and businesses will be participating, are set to be announced via social media as it gets closer to the events, organizers tell ARLnow.

For those who are not hockey fans, also in Ballston on Jan. 20, there’s a screening of the James Bond classic “License to Kill” complete with a DJ live scoring the film. That’s taking place at WHINO and part of a six-month series highlighting James Bond movies put on Shaolin Jazz.

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Morning Notes

Athletics Ban Not Consistent with County — “Arlington’s newest School Board member opened her tenure by intimating that, if the county school system’s ban on athletics and extracurricular activities is extended past its current Jan. 14 deadline or resurrected later, the county government should follow suit and shut down park programs for adults.” [Sun Gazette]

Universal Basic Income in Arlington? — “Every Arlingtonian, rich and poor alike, could be given $550 a month, leaving few families below the poverty line, if the property tax rate were tripled. The net income of a family of four living in a house worth less than $1.36 million would be higher, as this UBI dividend would exceed the increase in tax.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Yorktown Hockey is Undefeated — “In high-school club ice hockey action in recent days, the undefeated Yorktown Patriots (7-0) won two matches. Yorktown nipped Georgetown Prep, 2-1, then blanked the Langley Saxons, 5-0, in league play.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Dry January Deal — Ballston’s recently opened taqueria El Rey is offering up $1 zero-proof cocktails with meals, for those participating in Dry January. [Twitter]

Falls Church Jewelry Store Robbed — Falls Church Police are searching for two men who stole $200,000 to $300,000 worth of jewelry in an armed robbery of a jewelry store on W. Broad Street on Friday afternoon. [City of Falls Church]

Questionable Covid Testing Location in F.C. — “A COVID-19 testing company with a location in Falls Church is the subject of numerous complaints from across the U.S. about its practices.” [Tysons Reporter, USA Today]

Camera Discovered in Laundromat Restroom — A teen girl discovered a camera in the restroom of Surf ‘N’ Suds in Bailey’s Crossroads and Fairfax County Police need help identifying a man who was seen leaving an adjacent restroom at the time of the incident. [Fairfax County Police]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 44. South wind 6 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 5:07 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 46. [Weather.gov]

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Kid practicing hockey (via John Sonderman/Flickr)

A local youth hockey association says it is being forced to cancel games over a referee shortage caused in large part by abusive parents and coaches.

The Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association, which covers Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, reports that it has lost 50% of its game officials from pre-coronavirus season numbers to this season. In 2018-19, it had just shy of 500 officials, and as of October, there were 276, says association president Linda Jondo.

Officials are leaving, league participants are being told, amid an uptick in abusive behavior.

“In the PVAHA, we’ve racked up more than a dozen reports of players, parents and coaches thrown out of rinks for their unprofessional conduct towards officials in the first two weeks of the season,” Jondo said in a letter to parents, coaches and players, provided to ARLnow. “This is beyond unacceptable and a direct assault on our ability to retain enough qualified/experienced officials for our leagues.”

The abuse includes parents and coaches who accuse referees of making terrible decisions and missing calls and — in at least a few cases — chase them into parking lots to berate them.

But the pandemic is also partly to blame, as some senior referees realized that having their weekend free of obligations was actually pretty nice, while others opposed mask mandates. Without the more experienced refs, the verbal abuse turns to younger referees, who often quit after a few games.

The ref shortage is widespread.

Some weekends, 40-50 games are postponed, rescheduled or canceled due to the shortage, Jondo said.  This phenomenon is happening nationwide and is playing out in football, soccer, wrestling and lacrosse, too.

In hockey, Jondo and her fellow youth league presidents noticed an uptick in unruly behavior after parents returned to the stands. When games were restricted to players and coaches, she says there was some harassment from coaches, but the atmosphere was more relaxed.

“When you’re at a 10-and-under game and you challenge an official to ‘make me leave the building’ because you’ve done nothing but harass and official for two periods… This was a seasoned official. He does college level games. And you’re challenging him and a 10-under game,” she said. “That’s how ridiculous it’s gotten — we just don’t know why.”

(The unruly behavior may ring a bell outside the sports world: as widely reported, violent outbursts and abuse of flight attendants by passengers have increased on commercial flights in the U.S.)

The group of youth hockey presidents drafted most of the wording of the letter sent by the PVAHA, based on their collective observations. Before distributing it from Massachusetts to D.C., they tailored the specifics to each league’s referee situation.

“We’re all sending the same message up and down the East Coast,” Jondo said.

And it’s still a problem, says Jondo, who spent about six hours today (Monday) going through 60 game reports, including some reports of harassment and abuse, and received two videos Sunday showing extreme behavior.

“The letter, while it’s worked, some people are not getting the message,” she said.

PVAHA started suspending out-of-control parents and coaches about five years ago, she said. And while it’s not unusual for parents or coaches to be frustrated, the behavior now is beyond the pale.

“Since we’ve come back from COVID-19 and the senior officials aren’t coming back, it’s easier to berate a teenager,” she said. “National Hockey League officials aren’t perfect, but they don’t get followed to their cars and aren’t berated.”

The referee shortage and decline in sports civility is not a new phenomenon, according to the Christian Science Monitor, which used the Potomac youth hockey association’s letter to segue into a report on these trends and possible creative solutions.

If parents ignore the letter, PVAHA may have to mull different disciplinary measures. It isn’t clear what that could look like.

“We just have to see where this goes,” Jondo said.

Photo via John Sonderman/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Changes Proposed for Rosslyn Development — “The Dittmar Co. is tinkering with it plans for the redevelopment of the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, shrinking the size of a planned hotel and adding more residential to account for Covid-19’s impact on the hospitality industry. The developer filed revised plans for the project with Arlington County earlier this month, outlining its new designs for a 326-room hotel and a 523-unit apartment building” [Washington Business Journal]

Rainstorm Leads to Vivid Rainbows — “For such an awful year, 2020 has lots of rainbows. This one continued into the grass below me.” [@STATter911/Twitter, @RosslynVA/Twitter]

County Stats on Missing Middle Housing — “So, just how missing is this missing middle? 6%. That’s the percentage of Arlington’s 116,000 homes that the county estimates are townhomes, side-by-side duplexes, or stacked duplexes. If you count low-rise multifamily apartments as missing middle, the percentage increases to a little less than a third of the county’s current housing stock.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Mulch Available for Arlington Residents — “Free wood mulch for pickup is available for the first time since March. Get it while it’s hot. The stuff doesn’t grow on … nevermind.” [@ArlingtonDES/Twitter, Arlington County]

Lebanese Taverna Owners in Beirut — “Monday’s kitchen at full swing from @WCKitchen HQ’s over 11k meals between 9 total kitchens with amazing committed partners and volunteers! Thankful to @lebanesetaverna Abi-Najm family for showing up in person and supporting Beirut operation financially #ChefsForBeirut” [@chefjoseandres/Twitter]

Rep. Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “Jeff Jordan has his work cut out for him. The Republican supports President Donald Trump, and he’s running an uphill battle against Rep. Don Beyer for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District seat, which has remained solidly in Democratic hands for the last 30 years.” [ALXnow]

Hockey: W-L Defeats Yorktown — “It took nearly five months and some intricate planning. Then at last, the popular and annual all-Arlington ice hockey high-school club match between the Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots was played Aug. 1. The Generals won, 5-3, at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex. The season-ending rivalry match was originally scheduled for March 13, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [InsideNova]

Online Home Lighting Discussion — Sponsored — “Olson Weaver Lighting Design & is hosting a Q & A session to answer lighting questions from designers/architects, contractors, & homeowners” on Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. [Eventbrite]

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Nicklas Backstrom is loving dad life in Arlington.

Last month Backstrom signed a new five-year, $46 million contract to remain with the Washington Capitals. In addition to being the second all-time scorer for the Caps and one of hockey’s top players, the 32-year-old Swede and father of two is an Arlington resident.

A video from the Caps’ “Beyond Hockey” series was recently posted on YouTube and shows Backstrom at home in his red brick, north Arlington house. He spoke highly of the neighborhood.

“We have lived here for 10 years, actually — or I have lived here for 10 years, and Liza has lived here for 7 or 8,” he said, referring to his fiancée.

“We love it around here, on typical days we usually just — kids go to school until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and then keep them activated and run around,” he said. “That’s when they get the best sleep too.”

Backstrom purchased the home, near the Fairfax County border, for $2 million in 2010.

In the video, he also reveals that Liza is pregnant with the family’s third child. For her part, Liza says the family “has a lot of good neighbors.”

Backstrom is not the only Arlingtonian on the team to talk up the county on video. In October, Caps winger and Bash Boxing co-owner Tom Wilson, who signed his own $31 million contract extension in 2018, appeared in the Beyond Hockey series and spent much of the video driving around Arlington.

“The offseason always flies by, but when you drive in and Arlington’s buzzing you realize how much you’ve missed it here,” Wilson said. “It’s a great feeling to have a place like that that you’re fortunate enough to come back to every year. There’s lots of stuff to do.”

The Caps may play at Capital One arena in D.C., but the team’s offices and its practices are held at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.

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