After grueling practices at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, defenseman Karl Alzner returns home to roughhousing of another kind. On afternoons when the team’s in town, he can be found chasing and be jumping around with daughter Stella, who turns two in December and cooing over son Anson, born in June 2016.
Fans would hardly expect to see the Cap’s “iron man,” who holds a team record for 458 consecutive games played, filling sippy cups or cradling a newborn in his downtime. But that’s exactly what’s happening when he and his wife Mandy—both tall, laidback and dressed in t-shirts and jeans—welcome a magazine crew into their Arlington home like old friends.
Since having kids, Alzner, 28, finds it easier to separate home and hockey. “I always make the reference to football,” he says. “They have 16 games and each one has much more significance than our 82. We’re going to have a bad game but the implications aren’t as steep. I can come home, hang out with Mandy and the kids and get my mind off hockey.”
The Capitals chose this Vancouver native in 2007’s first-round draft. Mandy, his longtime girlfriend from Calgary, also moved to the States and they wed in 2012. Two years ago, the couple purchased their Craftsman-style spec home, chosen for its traditional detailing, its backyard where dogs and kids could play and its open kitchen that could host crowds of all sizes.
After moving in, the Alzner instilled the home with their own personality. They painted its neutral siding a cheerful blue, landscaped the empty yard and built a flagstone patio for outdoor entertaining. Inside, they replaced builder-grade light fixtures, installed a home theater on the lower level and furnished the six-bedroom house with an eclectic mix of antiques, retail finds, and art depicting rural scenes, horses, and cows.
“We added a lot of warm wood tones and rustic pieces,” says Mandy. “I grew up in the country—hence the horses and the cows.” She and Karl also dabble in DIY projects, from upholstering benches to crafting the headboard and desk in their guestroom.
The Alzner share cooking duties in their spacious kitchen. Last summer, they grew vegetables in their backyard, and Karl often smokes meat in a Big Green Egg grill. “He’s really good at it,” says Mandy. They enjoy hosting Karl’s teammates for dinners but, Mandy laments, “I wish hockey players would sit down for a meal. When they come over they just sit in front of the TV and watch football.”
Given their neighborhood’s proximity to the airport and the iceplex, it’s no coincidence that other players have settled nearby. “A bunch of teammates all live in the area; we can walk to each other’s houses,” says Karl. These neighbors, including Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, all have kids under three. The families share toys, spend holidays together and hang out a lot. “We rely on the hockey family,” says Mandy.
Last May, Alzner was sidelined by a groin injury during a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After surgery and months of rehab, he was pronounced fit for the 2016-2017 season. “It was a little frustrating because summer’s the time I really like to get myself into good shape,” says Karl. “But I feel good now. I can’t wait to start.” As this issue goes to press, the Caps are gearing up for their October 13 regular-season opener—against Pittsburgh.
Alzner is optimistic about the coming season. “My hope is to be able to put up a picture of us holding a Stanley Cup,” he says. “That’s always the goal. Especially with how good a team we had last year, I don’t expect anything less. You have to have lofty goals in sports.”
He and Mandy, who also own a home near Calgary, have grown to love their adopted hometown. “Never in a million years did I think I’d live in Washington,” Karl admits. “It’s such a different experience living here than so many other cities, with its museums and all the architecture. It was a very pleasant surprise and I’m extremely happy.”
Committed to giving back to the community, the Alzner support local charities. Mandy spearheads the annual Canine Calendar, which features photos of Caps players posing with their own dogs and shelter animals; Taylor Winnik, the wife of Caps forward Dan Winnik, is the photographer. The 2017 calendar goes on sale November 18 at home games and online; proceeds benefit Virginia’s Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.
And through a program called So Kids Can, Karl and other players donate to a local charity for every Caps win; this season’s beneficiary is Martha’s Table. “Money helps, but being there and giving time to the charity is just as important. So we also visit the organizations,” says Karl. “It makes sense to give back to the city that’s given us everything we have.”
Photographer Bob Narod is based in Sterling, Virginia.