Fehr shines under bright lights

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

Never mind what the NHL's Winter Classic could do for hockey in the U.S.

How about what it could do for a 25-year-old from the Manitoba prairie?

"The season hasn't necessarily gone the way I wanted it to," Winkler's Eric Fehr was saying from Washington on Friday.

"I pictured myself scoring a few more goals, but there's still time. So hopefully I can turn things around here in the second half."

He couldn't have asked for a better way to close out the first half.

Playing before more than 68,000 fans at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, Fehr celebrated a historic New Year's Day with just the second two-goal game of his career as his Capitals downed Sidney Crosby's Penguins 3-1.

Until then, Fehr had just five goals, two of them in the first three games of the season, a far cry from the career-high 21 he potted a year ago.

With a new contract in his pocket, the former Brandon Wheat King wanted to at least duplicate those numbers.

Now, he at least stands a chance.

"It was awesome," Fehr said. "Everybody wanted to score in that game. That was one of the most hyped regular season games in history."

The Caps were reminded of that every single day leading up to the Classic, as HBO camera crews followed their every move for the network's 24-7 series.

For weeks, instead of being able to prepare for prearranged interviews in a neutral corner, players and coaches found themselves being recorded in the sanctity of their dressing room — between bad periods, after losses and during losing streaks.

To me, the best part of the series was the tension created by Washington's eight-game winless streak early in the show.

For Fehr, not so much.

"It was different having HBO cameras around every day," he said. "I liked it some days, and I hated it some days. During our losing streak, when they were in some of our meetings, it wasn't great. You could see the coach kind of want to hold back because the cameras are there, and he kind of wanted to let loose. It was a little interesting. But we made it through."

It was a fascinating experiment in real-life TV, and should do wonders for hockey as far as creating interest in new or fringe fans.

Selling the idea of letting the media into the old-school world of coaches and GM's, though, is another story. Many wouldn't allow it.

"I wouldn't necessarily recommend it," Fehr said. "You definitely can't hide anything going through something like this. But for our team it was great. It'll help grow our fan base, it'll help grow the sport."

Subhed

Fehr acknowledged it may have affected his team's play, "to a degree," but he tossed out the idea of using it as an excuse.

"At the end of the day it's still hockey. I wouldn't want to blame the fact the cameras were there on a losing streak."

The show brought something else into focus, too: if you didn't know the Caps hated, maybe even envied, the Pens before, you do now.

"It seems like every time we play them there's something new to write about," Fehr said. "We battle hard against each other and we have some of the best players in the world on either team. It's a great two teams to have matched up for an event like this."

Of course, the cameras also caught some of the positives, not just the F-bombs that fly around every NHL rink.

HBO visited Fehr's home on Christmas Eve, and tagged along as he and his wife delivered presents to a local family.

Scoring big in community relations is great, but Fehr knows he has to produce on the ice.

That's why he might best remember this holiday season by the New Year's Day gift he gave himself, on a frozen football field, in Steelers country.

"It was everything I kind of dreamed it would be," Fehr said.

And then some.


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