Young and Hungry

The Limited History of DC Hockey Restaurants and Bars

Sorry, Tom Petty, but: Even the losers get restaurants some times.

Hence, Buggsy's Pizza, a restaurant/sports bar in Old Town Alexandria.

Hockey's never been bigger in DC. The Capitals had a great (regular) season and people paid attention.

In other words: totally opposite what Bryan "Bugsy" Watson experienced during his three years with the Washington Capital, from 1976-'79.

The early Caps were some of the worst teams in NHL history. But they had some scrappers.

Watson chief among them. The defenseman was brought in from Detroit to combat hated rival Flyers and their Broad Street Bullies act. Watson's got a career scoring line that even the Hanson Brothers: 17 goals, 2,212 penalty minutes in 878 NHL games.

He cashed in on the fistic reputation when he opened his nightspot in 1983 as The Penalty Box. It's now a restaurant downstairs with a sports bar/hockey room upstairs.

Next to the bar, there's a wonderful blown-up headshot of Watson with a perfect black eye and a smile, sandwiched between a big framed photo of Wayne Gretzky and a mounted Mario Lemieux jersey.

Gretzky, Lemieux and Watson. Two out of three ain't bad.

As I watched a replay of the Caps' Game 4 loss to the Rangers in the hockey room, I ate Bugsy's regular Thursday special: A cheesesteak platter for $5.

The Watson I remember woulda rather dropped the gloves than order something so Philadelphian.

The sandwich was fabulous at any price. But, still.

The other hockey bars are dead.

Revered defenseman  Rod Langway had Langway's Sports Club.

He came to town in 1982 in a trade with Montreal (for Ryan Walter and Rick Green) that gets credited with turning around what was the worst franchise in NHL history.

Langway was as stoic off-ice as he was steady on it. So while fans didn't want to talk to him, like they would a Riggo or Gilbert Arenas, they did want to be near him. Langway's, off Rte.450 in Lanham, became a big post-game hangout because of the allure of its proprietor, and, no doubt, its locale near the Capital Centre.

And Dennis Maruk briefly had Maruk's. Maruk was perhaps the greatest goal scorer the Capitals ever had not named Ovechkin — Maruk was the first Cap to get 100 points in a season, and, scored a pre-Ovie team record 60 goals in 1981-1982.

To capitalize on his hot stick, Maruk opened a restaurant and bar in Alexandria in 1982 (the Caps practiced at a rink in nearby Mount Vernon back then, also explaining Watson's location).

He scored 50 goals in 1980-1981 and 60 goals in 1981-1982. Maruk is the first Capitals player to score 100 points in a season. In 1982-1983, Maruk was one of the players instrumental in leading the Capitals to their first playoff appearance.

But fans showed up less to eat his food than they did to watch him play. (That's saying something.)

So even before team management tired of his one-dimensional, all-offensive style of play and traded him away to the Minnesota North Stars a year later, Maruk's dishing out food and drink and closed up.

And no other Caps have opened up their own joints around here in decades.

Why? Well, it might be the fact that the combination of Capitals and nightspots got a real bad name after a party at Champions in Georgetown in May 1990. That's when a teenager accused four popular Caps –  Scott Stevens, Dino Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall, and Neil Sheehy –with sexually assaulting her in a limo parked outside.

No charges or civil suits were ever filed against the accused, but all the players were quickly traded or cut by the team.

  • http://notionscapital.com Mike Licht

    Visiting French-Canadian NHL players often eat (and/or drink) at Bistro d'Oc, the Languedoc restaurant across from Ford's Theater on 10th NW. Good choice.

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