Many hours after the Capitals dispatched the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 on Friday night, I read an article on WashingtonPost.com by J. Freedom du Lac titled, “The Washington Capitals are the hottest ticket in town for fans.”
Games during Alexander Ovechkin’s rookie year were a ghost town at Verizon Center. I still loved going any chance I got and probably went to 8 -10 games that season. The empty seats were better than games against the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins where you had no idea who the home team was.
I have been a displaced fan since 2006 after moving to Los Angeles and currently residing in San Diego. Between the Center Ice Package on DirecTV, GameCenter LIVE on NHL.com and Caps Radio 1500 that can be accessed directly from the team’s official web site, I’m pretty good about catching every game.
And its even more fun knowing the house is packed every night for home games. But even road games have plenty of red rocking thanks to an up-tempo offense and some of the best young talent in the league. We’ve been fortunate enough to see the Capitals play at the Kings in 2009 and 2010, at the Ducks in 2009 and a trip up to Canada just before the new year, seeing it first hand.
My soon-to-be wife and I flew to Vancouver in December for the Caps @ Canucks game. It was a beautiful city and the first hockey game I would ever witness in Canada. I was incredibly excited for the experience and the opportunity to interact with the greatest hockey fans in the world – people who grow up breathing in the sport.
We went to a bar the night after the game where the Cowboys/Saints NFL Network broadcast was on the small TV so the big screen could show the Canadiens game with the audio blaring. It was a whole new world, and it was truly incredible. The fans in Vancouver love their Canucks, but were equally excited to talk about the Caps.
I have a red “The Franchise” Capitals hat that I often wear. It might as well been a sign that screamed, “talk to me,” as every 10 minutes another Vancouver resident wanted to talk about Ovechkin and the Capitals with me. Every once in a while I had to remind myself it was real and think back on the days of watching Don Beaupre, Peter Bondra and Dino Ciccarelli practice at a relatively empty Piney Orchard Ice Arena back in Maryland.
So back to the article about fans in The Washington Post, bandwagon or not, it is an awesome sight to behold. Stands across the country filled with Capitals fans who are either old school, new school or just pure hockey fans who appreciate what Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick and George McPhee are doing and what the team is doing on the ice. Over 3,000 miles away its special to know the arena in D.C. packed with red – almost like the largest pack of firecrackers ever put together – just waiting for a reason to light the fuse and erupt into chaos.
Here’s to the loyal fans that have been with this team forever, the welcome new fans that are cutting their teeth and a great, young team that will hopefully keep all of us entertained and excited as we wait for Lord Stanley’s Cup to finally visit Washington, D.C.