On Sunday, July 1, 2018, hearts around the world from Hershey, Pennsylvania to Washington D.C., and back again were broken upon hearing that Jay Beagle, the undrafted and Stanley Cup-winning center previously of the Washington Capitals had signed a 4-year, $12-million deal to become a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Over the previous 11 seasons with the Washington Capitals organization, Beagle had endeared himself to millions of fans at both the AHL and NHL levels of play through his hard work, determination, and undeniable sense for the game of hockey.
The first time I had ever heard the name Jay Beagle, I was in attendance for a Hershey Bears game in 2007. I didn’t know who this player was or where he had come from, and a 15-year-old me immediately imagined what it might look like for Shiloh to play hockey. I was blissfully unaware that this player had won a Kelly Cup with the Idaho Steelheads of the East Coast Hockey League the season prior, and had no idea what to expect when he took the ice. Over the remainder of that season, and the three to follow, I, and the town of Hershey around me became a fan of the man that we began referring to as “Beags.” His energy on the ice seemed to be contagious, and Jay quickly became a fan-favorite around Chocolatetown.
Unbeknownst to those fans in Hershey, Beagle would play a role at center helping the Hershey Bears to back-to-back Calder Cup championships in 2009 and 2010, totaling 44 regular season points and 13 playoff markers over those two seasons. At this point in his career, Jay had been seeing time with the parent club in D.C. and was utilizing that experience to the fullest for both teams. The center’s efforts were noticed by the brass atop the organization, resulting in a full-time move to the Capitals beginning in the 2011-2012 regular season, when he totaled five points in 41 games. From that point forward, Jay would become a permanent fixture in the Caps’ locker room, regularly playing over 50 games per season, contributing heavily on the penalty-kill and in defensive assignments on the bottom two forward lines.
While Beagle was never a premier goal-scorer by any means, what he lacked in scoring potential was more than made up for in defensive awareness, puck control, and his ability to hustle to the puck and create speedy openings on offensive rushes. However, the statistic that he would quickly become known for would be his outstanding face-off percentage. Beagle would become one of the top face-off takers for the Capitals, regularly posting a win percentage over 55%, ending his career with the Capitals with a 56.1% overall.
Beagle had a career year in 2016-17, posting a career-high 30 points in 81 games with the Caps before they were ultimately eliminated by the arch-nemesis Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round for the second consecutive year. It would seem that, at age 31, the elusive sheen of Lord Stanley’s Cup would escape from Beagle and his Washington Capitals for the foreseeable future, perhaps for good in Jay’s case. After missing three games over the course of the 2017-18 season, his persistence, along with that of his teammates, ultimately paid dividends, when the Caps lifted that most beautiful of trophies after a 5-game series win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Beagle matched his previous season’s total with another 30-point performance, including eight points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After reaching the pinnacle of ice hockey’s greatest mountain in the form of an NHL Championship, Jay Beagle became the first player in history to record a Kelly Cup, Calder Cup, and Stanley Cup championship to his list of accomplishments. At age 32, Beagle is still a favorite of many Hershey and Washington faithful. His deal in Vancouver is, no doubt, a bit of an over-payment for a veteran fourth-line center, but for a team that is still in the stages of rebuilding, and in the wake of the retirement of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, this may be the dream deal for Beagle, seeing him into his mid-thirties and picking up $3-million per year, on average. Regardless of where this road takes him in the future, fans in both red and the chocolate and white will be sure to follow the successes of one of their own; a 4-time champion born and bred.
Featured image courtesy of Washington Capitals/Twitter