Celebrating the Washington Capitals

Celebrating the Washington Capitals at a recent game were, from left, Beaumont’s Steve Mehlman, Capitals’ Hall of Famer Rod Langway, and Mehlman's wife Mary and daughter Sandy.   

There are fans who wear elaborate costumes to professional sporting events (see Las Vegas Raiders).  

Others decorate entire rooms in honor of their favorite team.  

But there are not many supporters whose favorite team exists mainly because of them.  

Steve Mehlman of Beaumont is one such fan. The Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League would likely not exist without Mehlman.  

Don’t take my word for it. Just know the Caps think so much of Mehlman that it invited him, his wife Mary, and daughter Sandy to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12 for the 40th anniversary of the “Save the Caps” drive that Mehlman helped spearhead. It was back in the early 1980s that the Caps talked about leaving DC until Mehlman’s glove stop (to put it in hockey parlance) saved the day.  

The Mehlmans were given their own private suite where some friends joined them. They enjoyed free food and drink while watching the Caps play the Boston Bruins.   

“Hall of Fame defenseman Rod Langway and Caps president Dick Patrick stopped by to congratulate us,” Mehlman said. “Both said that the game would never have happened were it not for us and ‘Save the Caps.’ That’s an honor I will never forget.”    

A Maryland native, Mehlman was a hockey fan since he attended American University in the 1960s. He was an original season ticket holder when the Caps debuted in 1974.  

In the spring of 1982, sports writers warned that the Caps might fold or move.  

“It you want to watch pro hockey, you might have to drive to Philadelphia,” said sports talk show host Ken Beatrice.  

Mehlman took heed and became co-chair of “Save the Caps.” He oversaw communications and marketing. He contacted local and national sports reporters and government officials. The media got behind the Caps.  

Caps owner Abe Pollin said the team would stay if the first 10 games of 1982 were sellouts. At the same time, TV sportscaster George Michael held a live telethon at the Capital Center arena. Dozens of Mehlman’s volunteers manned the phones. Between ticket sales and corporate contributions, Pollin’s goal was achieved.  

The Caps also hired a new general manager. He traded for Langway and others, breathing life into the team. The Caps were saved.  

In 1982-83 the Caps made the playoffs for the first time. In 2018 they won the Stanley Cup. And it likely would not have happened without Beaumont’s Mehlman.  

“Watching the game and visiting were fantastic,” Mehlman said. “It was one of the high points of my life.”   

The Caps even gave Mehlman a personalized Caps jersey. It’s too big, but he says he will frame it. Well deserved, I say.  

Coach Burroughs goes to Beaumont  

Beaumont football coach Jeff Steinberg has been at it for as long as Citrus Valley’s Kurt Bruich. And I’ve known Steinberg since he was at Burroughs High of Ridgecrest.  

Burroughs was in the Mojave River League and when I worked in Victorville, I covered Steinberg’s teams when they played the other High Desert squads.   

It was a long but enjoyable trip to Ridgecrest for those games, always with the mandatory stop in the ghost town of Randsburg. Gold was discovered there in 1895.

In Randsburg I’d catch a glimpse of the tiny concrete jail and down a root beer at the local water hole.  

Steinberg got that spread offense going up in Ridgecrest, and it's still going strong.  

John Murphy may be reached at jmurphy@redlandscommunitynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrepDawg2.