WASHINGTON – When Olie Kolzig removed his nameplate from the Washington Capitals’ locker room after their last playoff game, then skipped a mandatory meeting the next morning, everyone figured his time with the team was over.
Now Kolzig confirms he won’t be back.
“For me, it was disappointing the way it ended. … It just doesn’t feel right,” the 38-year-old goalie told The Washington Post for a story Friday. “But at the same time, as an athlete, you have to know when to move on.”
Kolzig never has played for another NHL franchise. He was drafted by the Capitals in the first round in 1989, helped them reach the 1998 Stanley Cup final, won the Vezina Trophy in 2000, and owns most team goaltending records.
But he was relegated to being a backup down the stretch this season and in the playoffs after Washington traded for Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet.
“Olie has been great for the Washington Capitals, and the Capitals were great for Olie,” general manager George McPhee said. “He has been a great leader and ambassador for the club. Olie can still play, and if he decides to continue to play, we wish him the very best.”
Kolzig thought he might get a chance to play when Washington fell behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series against Philadelphia. The Capitals stuck with Huet, though.
“Our backs were against the wall, but it didn’t happen,” Kolzig told the newspaper. “I said to myself: ‘My time here in Washington has passed. They’ve chosen to go in a different direction, and this was the exclamation point on it.”‘
He went 25-21-6 with a 2.91 goals-against average this season.
“If he decides to continue his career with another team, I will respect that decision, and he will be missed,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. “In my mind, however, he always will be a Washington Capital.”
Kolzig’s agent did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.