After practice this morning, Washington Capitals GM George McPhee candidly spoke with reporters about the World Junior Championships, HBO's 24/7 and the Winter Classic.
ON THE WINTER CLASSIC
"On a personal standpoint, it may be the most fun I've ever had as a manager and maybe the most fun I've ever had in my hockey life. It was just a fabulous experience, it was sort of a 'Field of Dreams' thing: Build it and they will come. Because you show up at this massive stadium and there's 70,000 people there, 30,000 are from Washington and that was extraordinary. Even the ride home...on Sunday I drove my family back, there were Caps fans on the way back at the gas stations, at the toll booths, at the restaurants. It was pretty remarkable."
"It felt like a seminal moment for this franchise. When you hear the crowd yell "Red" and yell "Oh" during the National Anthem you realize how many people were there -- I know John Erskine mentioned this sort of startled him on the bench, so I'm sure the other players experienced that, 'Boy, we have a lot of people here tonight', and I think the franchise is where other teams come into town and their fans are wearing the jerseys and to walk around Pittsburgh -- every time you turned the corner someone was wearing a Caps jersey. I thought it was a special night and a unique night in many way that really put this franchise over the top in terms of popularity. I think the popularity is unprecedented. And it's a really neat thing to experience."
"It's been a fun team to watch and we have great personalities in that room, and it's really neat that Washington has embraced this team."
ON HBO'S 24/7
"The most important thing here was getting exposure for this game, and I think HBO loved it. I think they got turned on to something really neat with these hockey players and the sport and I think a lot of people around this country and a lot of other countries, if they didn't already like hockey would certainly have a better understanding and appreciation for it."
"When we agreed to do this, we agreed to let them see everything and experience everything. I personally was having a hell of a time during that [eight-game losing streak] and they caught it pretty well. That was exactly how I was feeling. It's not an easy thing to go through, but I guess it makes for good television."
ON THE WORLD JUNIORS
"We're really pleased with all of our players there. I thought [Russian forward Evgeni] Kuznetsov was one of the better players in the tournament. I thought that [forward] Cody Eakin was the best player on the ice last night [in the championship game] for Canada and was very good in a lot of the games. He actually played with an injury throughout the tournament. He played left wing, right wing, center; played on the power play, played on the point on the power play, played on the penalty kill. I thought [Russian defenseman Dmitri] Orlov was good. I thought [defenseman] Patrick Wey played well for the U.S."
"It sure is nice as a manager to go to tournaments and see talent like that that you know will be playing for you within a year or so. Especially where we're been picking these days, it's usually been late in the first round and finding some of these guys in the later rounds. So it's nice that we're going to have another wave of good young players coming into the team, because that's what keeps you good, makes you good for a long time."