I decided to take in a Capitals' practice today as I had nothing to do and it seemed like the cosmopolitan thing to do. I guess I showed up just in time. I hated myself for not taking my camera with me when the "incident" happened.
The Caps were working on offensive and defensive positioning as they often do during practice. As the drill went along, the hitting sort of picked up and I noticed on more than one occasion that the Capitals defensemen were starting to get a little chippy with some of the wingers. Most of the chippy play was met with smiles and an occasional slap back of the stick by the forwards.
When all of a sudden a commotion broke out at the top of the left circle in Olaf Kolzig's zone. Bryan Muir and Alex Semin were in a bear hug that turned into dropped gloves and a couple of thrown punches. It escalated rather quickly and both had started to pull the others' practice jerseys (that were logo-less for some reason*). Donald Brashear (a peacekeeper in his own right) was the only one to jump in and break the two up.
Semin had gotten a couple of punches in and Muir mostly kept Semin at bay, not really wanting to fight him, but not wanting to back down either. The two finally stopped when Brashear and another defenseman (couldn't see who) pulled the two apart. Then both sat on the bench together putting their gear back on. Neither player was hurt.
Neither spoke to the other as they sat on the bench (partly because Semin's English is probably better than Muir's Russian) and soon the drill dissolved into other drills. Both left the ice early at the end of the practice session and I am sure pulled aside by the coaches for a little talk.
Now I feel like a total gossip reporting this, like a fight broke out on the school yard grounds and I just have to tell everyone because I was there. But it was this different side of Semin I have never seen before today. He earned a little more respect on my behalf. Semin could have slashed Muir, taken a cheap shot or a number of other things that I imagine him doing other than dropping the mitts. Instead, he stood his ground and dropped his stick and gloves and went at the biggest defenseman on the Caps blue line.
The two were frustrated with the one another, they fought and then they moved on. Neither complained nor whined, but took matters in their own hands and cleared the air by going to fisticuffs. Most of the other players looked on in shock before Brashear broke it up (they were probably thinking what I was thinking, "Is this really happening?", and "Is that Semin?"). The coaching staff said nothing, except continued the drill without the two.
Let's hope some of that passion shows up against the Penguins. After things settled down, Shaone Morrisonn tried pick a fight with Brashear, jokingly knocking the big guy's stick from his hands and laughing at him (Brashear just smiled back probably thinking, "Just wait, punk"). Most of the other Caps sort of shrugged it off and were soon smiling and goofing off again with one another.
Another downside to the Dainius Zubrus trade was evident during the practice today. Glen Hanlon had to try to explain to Alex Ovechkin what he wanted Semin to do. Ovie had to then translate to Semin. Hanlon obviously had to use his words wisely as Ovie is still learning the language himself. It seemed to take a bite out of the drill they were trying to do and slowed the pace. Normally Zubie would have quickly explained to the two what Hanlon wanted in Russian.
*Editor's Note: Tarik's blog, Capitals Insider, picked up the answers to a couple of questions I had watching the team practice today, like why the jerseys had no team logos on them.