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In 1997, the Washington Capitals were one of the hottest hockey teams on ice, skating their way into the Stanley Cup finals. By the fall of 1999, they had slipped to the brink of disaster with one of the worst records in the NHL.

Coach Ron Wilson decided drastic measures were necessary and quickly changed their strategy. Yet injuries abounded, and the losses mounted. The team was skating on thin ice and couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Just before Christmas, the team embarked on a late-night, seven-hour flight from Vancouver and did what they typically do on a flight of that duration: they popped in a video to pass the time. To unwind. To lick their wounds. That’s when the unexpected happened. The VCR froze.

As the plane winged its way through the evening sky, one by one the players broke the ice and started talking with each other. They talked strategy. Obstacles. Key plays. Out of necessity, they rediscovered the ancient art of conversation. By the time the plane touched down, the Capitals had picked apart their game and knew what needed to be done.

In the weeks that followed, they became virtually unstoppable, going on an 11-game winning streak. Team goaltender Olaf Kolzig...

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