Less than three months after he announced his NHL retirement, former Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has rejoined the organization. The team announced Monday that Orpik will join the player development department to work primarily with defenseman prospects, specifically those with the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey.
“As a member of our team, Brooks was a tremendous leader and a great role model for our young players,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “We are excited to be able to bring him back in this new role. We feel he will be a great resource for our hockey staff and our prospects.”
After a 12-year tenure in Pittsburgh that included a Stanley Cup, Orpik signed with Washington in 2014, wearing an “A” as an alternate captain for all five seasons he played for the Capitals, which included the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2018. With his contract up after last season, Orpik announced his retirement at 38 years old, calling it a “pretty easy decision” after a new injury forced him to play through immense pain for most of the season. He logged 1,035 games in the NHL, and they were especially punishing with the physical brand of hockey he played.
When he joined the Capitals five years ago, Orpik helped install a healthier locker room culture, setting an example to teammates with his strict diet and training regimen.
“It’s hard to put into words what a guy like that means to a team,” forward Tom Wilson said earlier this summer. “He’s best friends with the 19-year-old, and he’s best friends with the 35-year-old.”
Orpik’s knack for mentoring younger teammates and his intimate knowledge of coach Todd Reirden’s system and preferences — they were together for years in Pittsburgh before they both came to Washington — is what made him a natural fit for a player development role with the Capitals.
The position is expected to be similar to what former goaltender Olie Kolzig does as the organization’s professional development coach.
Orpik was in Nashville this past weekend as some of the Capitals’ top prospects competed in a four-team rookie tournament there. He’ll also be in Washington for the start of training camp this week, though not in a jersey this time.