Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Lost Rookies: Frank Caprice - with Q&A
Frank Caprice played 102 NHL games over six NHL seasons, all with the Vancouver Canucks. Caprice spent the majority of his career as a back-up, battling incumbent "King" Richard Broduer and injuries during his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks. While Frank was never able to secure the starting job to himself, he still had a remarkable career and some great achievements.
Prior to the 1982 World Junior Hockey Championship, Canada had never won a gold medal in that tournament, but Team Canada, led by the goaltending duo of Mike Moffat and Frank Caprice, secured the nation's first ever World Junior Hockey Gold Medal. Frank was 3-0 with only 7 goals allowed in his starts. Going into the tournament an underdog, not even expected to medal, Team Canada rolled over the competition, going 6-0-1 in seven games. It was the first year of Canada's Program of Excellence and it paid immediate dividends.
Frank Caprice would also be a underdog in his first career start in the NHL, versus the Edmonton Oilers, shown live on Hockey Night in Canada. The 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, who would set a NHL record by scoring 446 goals that season, could only put two pucks past Frank Caprice. The Canucks would win 3-2 and Caprice would earn the First Star of the Game. Later in the same season, he would earn his first career shutout in a 5-0 victory against the Hartford Whalers.
While Caprice would battle Richard Brodeur for starts, he would battle John Garrett for a spot in the OPC card sets. John Garrett would win out in the 84-85 OPC Set, with one of the better looking cards in the set, and also in 1985-86, with one of the worst looking cards in the set. Seriously, Garrett went 1-5 with a 6.49 GAA in the season before and then retired to boot. Although 1988-89 OPC was a low point for Vancouver Canuck goalies, as no Canuck goalies made the set that season.
The Cauncks would trade Caprice to the Boston Bruins at the 1989 NHL Entry draft. After one more season, Frank would retire from hockey. But only for a few seasons, before restarting his career in Europe. He would play several more seasons in Italy and Britain before retiring from professional hockey for good.
When I realized Frank Caprice never had a rookie card, I decided to make a custom rookie card of him. Below is how Frank Caprice's rookie should have looked.
So what did Frank Caprice think of his new rookie card?
Frank Caprice: Thank you for your kind letter and for the card, I actually don't have any cards and its great to now have one as a keep sake.
The Cardboard & Me: You were part of the first team under Canada’s Program of Excellence to compete at the WJC. What were the expectations for the team?
Frank Caprice: We did not have any expectations as it was a new program. We all wanted to prove ourselves but did not know what to expect or what the level of competition would be,
C&M: Today, the selection camp for the WJC team is heavily covered by the media. TSN will even show the highlights of practice scrimmages on sportscenter. What kind of media coverage was there on the team before the tournament in 1982?
Frank Caprice: We had almost no media coverage, in fact there is almost no footage of any of our games. The gold medal game was played in a small arena far from the city center and I think we had just one reporter following us the entire time, including the gold medal game.
C&M: Today, by the time players make it to the WJC, they are already familiar with a lot of the other teams through previous international experience or playing as opponents or teammates in junior. How much did you know about your opponents leading into the tournament?
Frank Caprice: Me personally, not one thing, just that the Russians were to be feared along with the Swedes the Czechs and the Fins. We were very much underdogs.
C&M: With a gold medal on the line, and the game being played in Rochester, Minnesota, (a 7 hour drive from Canada) can you describe the atmosphere in the building?
Frank Caprice: The games was played in a small dim lighted arena, the atmosphere was not much of a factor, not really different than any other game in fact. We were so pumped as a team and just really focused on the job at hand, the Gold medal, which was passed around the room before the game. We all had a chance to see it and touch it, from that point on, that's all we could think of, just win or tie this game and it was ours. The Czechs were the best team we faced and it was a huge task. In the end, we won the Gold and when I look back, we had a extremely talented and great team, with a great coach. I only have very happy and wonderful memories.
C&M: What is your strongest memory from the Gold medal game?
Frank Caprice: The last 5 minutes the Czechs were all over us and the end when we won and all sang the national anthem because they did not even have the anthem to play over the sound system.
C&M: Is there a game in particular from your NHL career that stands out the most, and why that game?
Frank Caprice: My first ever game against the Edmonton Oilers, the Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr era. We won 3 - 2 and I got first star.
C&M: The “Flying V” jersey of the Canucks is on almost every internet list of 10 worst NHL jerseys. Was it the worst jersey you ever had to wear in your professional career?
Frank Caprice: Tough question, I would say the most boring jersey was the Maine Mariners.
C&M: You played several years overseas in Italy and Britain. Can you compare the experience of playing in Italy as opposed to playing in the NHL.
Frank Caprice: I loved my time in Europe, it was a wonderful experience, I have nothing but the fondest of memories. I was treated so very well in Italy. It was more about the lifestyle than it was about the game. Dont get me wrong, the people were very passionate about their teams, but it was the culture that I fell in love with.
C&M: Did you have a favourite teammate?
Frank Caprice: Favorite teammate was Cam Neely, we lived together and roomed together on the road. We became close friends.
C&M: Who was your favourite team and player while growing up?
Frank Caprice: Did not have one, just loved all the goalies.
C&M: Did you collect hockey cards? Do you have a favourite set or card?
Frank Caprice: Nope never did.
C&M: You never had a hockey card during your playing days. Would you check each year to see if you had a card?
Frank Caprice: Nope, the only one I had was the shell gas station card
C&M: Do you have a favourite piece of hockey memorabilia?
Frank Caprice: My gold medal and my Italian all star jersey.
C&M: Do you get many autograph requests through the mail?
Frank Caprice: Yes, still do, and its humbling and flattering. I get about 5 or 6 a year
C&M: What have you been doing since you retired from hockey?
Frank Caprice: I have worked with the provincial government of Ontario, for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming as a senior manager of corporate compliance, I am in my 13th year.