WASHINGTON — Clint Reif’s death on Dec. 21 hit Troy Brouwer hard, the former Blackhawks forward having spent more than three seasons alongside the beloved assistant equipment manager.
But it hit the hockey community as a whole — particularly the close-knit world of managers and athletic trainers — hard, as well. And so the Washington Capitals will wear a “CR” sticker on their helmets for Thursday’s Winter Classic, just as the Hawks will.
Washington coach Barry Trotz called Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, and Capitals equipment manager Brock Myles reached out to the Hawks, as well, to get their blessing.
“That’s a great thought,” Quenneville said. “We certainly appreciate the consideration and thinking of Clint in a real tough time. The trainers throughout the league and the support that’s been shown to the organization and to the family has been outstanding. So it’s one more way of expressing what he meant, and the type of guy he really is.”
Said Trotz: “I think what you find out in this hockey community, it’s a lot smaller than the people think.”
Brouwer had asked Myles if he could wear the sticker on his helmet, and was pleased to learn the whole team would be doing so.
“Clint was an awesome guy,” he said. “He always made us laugh, he always had fun with us. He loved what he did and he’s really going to be missed.”
The Hawks had a locker stall for Reif in the visitors’ clubhouse at Nationals Park, complete with a nameplate and a jersey.
“A lot of people say they’re an extended part of our team,” Brouwer said. “They ARE part of our team. Everything that we do, we can’t get done without them. A lot of things that don’t get seen — we get off the plane at 1 or 2 in the morning, and we get to go into our beds. They’ve got to go unpack our gear. It’s something that goes overlooked a lot of the time, and the guys in here love them for it, thank them for it. They’re the guys that keep this team running and make this team go.”
At the end of their practice on Wednesday, the Hawks invited the USA Warriors, a hockey team of wounded and disabled veterans, to scrimmage with them, something they’ve done twice in the past.
“It’s special, it’s a lot of fun,” Quenneville said. “They look forward to it and our guys really enjoy it.”
Michal Rozsival, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, will play Thursday.