Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 30 - Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

Ugh. So, we got a point... that's good, but losing to the Islanders - less good.

It's not as if the Caps weren't playing hard and relatively well. But they just made some sloppy mistakes and missed too many opportunities.

And one thing can be said for the Islanders, they are playing hard. They're really fighting for their lives out there. The Caps seemed to lack the same sense of urgency last night.

They did take 40 shots on goal - which is pretty outstanding. If only a couple more had gone in.

It was Halloween at Verizon Center last night. Complete with some spooky graphics on the big screen. I attempted to capture them with my camera phone with limited success:

There is a jack-o-lantern in the bottom right corner and a witch flying on her broom in the upper left corner.

There were also a number of fans dressed in costumes - and not just little kids. There were a good number of referees, both male and female. The super-fan who has the horn and prompts all the "Let's Go Caps" cheers (I think he is actually known as Horn Guy) had a hockey puck coming out of his forehead, complete with blood. Other than him, I think my favorite was the woman I saw on the way out in a full pink ball gown and a blue jean jacket.

At least Caps fans were having fun, even if we didn't get the win. The Caps have today off and I hope they're all hunkering down and resting. Tomorrow it's time to crush the Blue Jackets.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 29 - Washington Capitals vs. Atlanta Thrashers (at Atlanta)

La di da hockey. That's what Coach Bruce Boudreau called it and I agree. The reason the Caps won tonight was Varly.

We had a great first two periods and then the Capitals collapsed in the third period...again. I really hope they get out of this pattern.

In good news, Ovie got two more goals tonight and is leading the league in goals and points. Brooks Laich had three assists. Varly was awesome. Brendan Morrison had a sweet goal and the Capitals won!

It is really nice to see that both of our goaltenders are playing at the top of their games. Many doubters say that goal tending is the team's weak spot and I don't agree. If the Caps can just keep their energy up in the third period and keep motivated when they have the lead, they'll be in good shape.

Can't wait until tomorrow night. I hope the Caps get plenty of rest this evening.

Tweet Tweet

It should come as no surprise that I follow Mike Green on Twitter. I am, after all, a Capitals fan. The embarrassing part of this is that I have my Twitter account set to send me tweets as texts to my phone for only Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin. That's right, I don't get text tweets from any of my actual friends who I follow on twitter. I get them from two athletes.

Ovie only tweeted a little bit last year during the all star game but if he ever tweets again, I'll be alerted. Mike is becoming a prolific tweeter this fall. I would unsubscribe and save myself the text charges if his tweets weren't so entertaining.

He must be a little bored today while sitting around and waiting for tonight's game against Atlanta because he's sent three tweets already. One was particularly amusing: "You know when you think your getting sick but it's just in your head? Fucking swine flu"

Poor guy! I can imagine the whole team must be a little freaked out by the whole H1N1 situation. I'm not sure the profanity was necessary, but he is only 24.

For those of you who don't follow Mike on Twitter may I present:

Things I Have Learned From Mike Green's Tweets:
1. He watches Oprah (at least occasionally).
2. He has a girlfriend and he may have taken her to see a Cirque de Soliel production.
3. He enjoys naps.
4. He's a music fan. (U2, Michael Jackson, Jay Z, The Tragically Hip and someone named Wale)
5. He is trying to get feedback about his new website.
6. He is a fan of Washington, DC.
7. One day he ate at Source which is very close to my apartment. We didn't run into each other.
8. He purchased new sneakers on September 17th.
9. He's a bit of a hypochondriac.
10. He attends other DC sporting events.
11. He likes the Geico caveman.
12. He calls Atlanta Hotlanta even when it's not very hot out.

In all seriousness, I appreciate it when athletes, musicians and other public figures share a bit of their personal lives/personalities with fans. So Mike, keep tweeting, don't get H1N1 and kick butt tonight in Hotlanta.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dreaded H1N1

For some time I have been concerned about a flu outbreak among the Capitals. I've even had such non-PC thoughts as, "The Capitals should be at the front of the line for the H1N1 vaccines." I really don't want my hockey team to suffer a flu outbreak. But, it looks like H1N1 has come to the Capitals.

I hope that Quintin Laing gets better quickly and I REALLY hope that nobody else gets it.

October 27 - Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

There are few better feelings than walking out of Verizon Center after the Capitals beat a team from Pennsylvania. Neil and I have a debate about which team we hate more, the Flyers or the Penguins. For me, I think it might be a tie, but the Flyers were the first team I hated as a sports fan and there's something a little special about that.

Last night's game was amazing. It started off as sort of a question mark. The first period was scoreless and the vibe in the arena was muted. I wondered if it was because of the rainy weather or the fact that the game was on a Tuesday. Normally at Flyers games, the Caps fans are amped up and out for victory. The first period, probably because there were no goals and lots of chances for us to be scored on, everyone was nervous. Some raucous Flyers fans started "Let's go Flyers" chants and Caps fans responded appropriately with "Flyers suck", but I was hoping some loud "Let's go Caps" chants would get going. They were few and far between.

Period two started out with disappointment. The Capitals continued to struggle on the power play and not score and the Flyers scored two goals. Now, I am the eternal optimist when it comes to many things in life and the Capitals are no exception. I always know they can come back. I always think they are going to win. I believe in them. But, when they didn't score on a 5 on 3 power play that was more than a minute long, I was feeling discouraged. Then, the magic began to happen. Ovie scored off a sweet pass from Backstrom, then Backstrom scored a convincing goal on the power play and the game was tied again.

The third period goal by Semin was a thing of beauty and made me very happy he's back from his injury/illness. The poor Flyers goalie slumped over in defeat when Semin scored and I had a good feeling about the outcome when I saw that. After gaining the lead, the Caps played hard and Jose Theodore sealed the win. I'm going to say it, Jose is one of my favorite players. I know he has had some spotty performances and isn't always the most popular, but I really can't think of many times when he's let us down terribly. He has real heart, he's fun to watch and last night he was a magician. He made something like 20 saves in the third period alone. AND he stopped a penalty shot. We needed the goals, of course, but Jose is the reason the Capitals won the game.

Of course, by the end of the second period the crowd at Verizon Center was into it and by the third period there was no hint of weeknight exhaustion or rainy day blues -  the arena was loud and you couldn't hear the Flyers fans anymore.  In 419, the cowbells were ringing and Neil and I were jumping up and down by the time Ovie scored the empty netter in the final minutes. 

Last night, the team I love played like the team I love and sent the Flyers home without any points. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Flyers Come to Town

Tonight's game against the Flyers promises to be entertaining. Since I loathe Philadelphia (particularly their sports teams), I really hope the Caps can come up with a convincing win.

Ovie has had a tough couple of games. If you go by the Jasper's Rink assessment, it's been almost dire: "The six shots on goal AO was credited with last week were as many or fewer than in any of his previous half-dozen games. Two hits in two games, a fine, and a team 0-for-11 on the power play (including two shorties against) also speak to a rough week for the best player in the world."


So, in the hopes of boosting his karma, here is my photo with the Great 8! Yes, I paid $20 for this at the Capitals Convention and waited in two long lines. No, it's not the most awesome photo of me ever taken, but it's still one of the coolest things ever. It took the team a while to get it to me. The photo was taken on Sept. 26th and the team emailed it to me in mid-October. Now I am unveiling it to the blog-reading public:

Several things went through my mind while waiting in line and having my photo taken with Ovie.
  • I watched everyone walk up onto the platform and shake his hand and I began to worry intensely about H1N1 and other infectious diseases. This is a common worry of mine. I do not want my Capitals getting sick.
  • I wondered what I could do or say to let him know that I am cooler than your regular fan, that he should, in fact, be friends with me... I simultaneously realized that there was nothing I could say and that I am not actually cooler than other fans. 
  • I watched a woman a few people ahead of me give Ovie a hand-crocheted doll of himself complete with a #8 stitched to the back of the red jersey. I then watched Ovie look at it in a slightly puzzled way and hand it to a team staff member which is when I thought about how glad I was that I didn't do something like that to distinguish myself. That doll must have taken her hours.
  • I saw a girl, probably a teenager but she may have been in her 20's, begin to have a panic attack in line. She was so excited to meet Ovechkin that she was having trouble breathing and eventually began sobbing. This made me feel a little better about my fluttering heart.
  • I was relieved to see that crying girl pulled it together in time for her photo.
  • The marketing professional in me noted the fact that the background was kind of terrible for pictures. It was way too busy and too shiny for the flash. I think the team should hire me, I really do.
 I hope to meet Ovie again someday in a less insane environment. This means I will probably have to turn into a stalker at practice or get lucky and wind up in the same place as him by chance. Hopefully, I'll have a camera when it happens.

Side note: I have done a small amount of shameless promotion of my little blog and it is starting to work. Caps owner Ted Leonsis added The View from 419 to his blogroll under Favorite Sports Blogs! Thanks Ted!

And with that, let's go Caps!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24 - Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders (at NY)

Places I have checked the score of Capitals games on my cell phone:
- In the theater during a Broadway Play
- During family dinners
- At a party
- In the movie theater

It's Saturday night in DC and the Caps were away, so I made plans to go to a movie. When I made the plans, I wasn't exactly looking at the hockey schedule, so I found myself refreshing the ESPN page on my Blackberry throughout the previews. Then I settled in and watched the movie and when it was over, the Caps had come back, the game was tied 2-2 and the overtime was about to begin!

I just read the game story in the post and it sounds like much of the same. I wonder what it will take for the Caps to begin playing with the intensity that I know they have?

I do like that Keith Aucoin. He may be tiny, but when he's on the ice, he's like a little spark plug and he is always working. Whenever he's called up from Hershey, I really enjoy watching him play and now, he's been directly responsible for two goals in two very close games.

I am glad the team has been winning, but these close wins can't feel quite as good as that win over San Jose did. I hope they pull it together in time to crush Philadelphia on Tuesday, because you all know how I feel about the state of Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 23, 2009

You Know You're Really a Hockey Fan When...

1. Google puts links to hockey gear cleaners above your inbox on Gmail that read: Stinky Hockey Gear?

2. You notice the link, click on it and think, "This might be really useful for my husband's big bag of stinky hockey gear." and then you forward it to him.

3. In the back of your mind you're thinking, "Maybe I should take some lessons now that I know there's a way to keep the hockey gear less stinky."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22 - Washington Capitals vs. Atlanta Thrashers (at Atlanta)

Tonight's view was from a few blocks away from 419 on my couch. We ordered some pizza and hung out with the dogs in our red gear (yes, I own Capitals pj's). It was a very exciting game, but the Caps completely collapsed in the third in what is becoming a disturbing habit that I hope they break soon.

Matt Bradley scored, which is always fun and Jeff Schultz's goal from in front of our own goal was pretty amazing. He gets a lot of crap from fans and it's nice to see him play well. He also had two assists tonight! It was also really nice to see Eric Fehr playing well after missing the beginning of the season and being out all summer with shoulder surgery. It looks like Atlanta could be a dangerous opponent as the season wears on. I hope the Caps stay on their toes.

This stretch of first no games and now two away games is making me really miss in-person hockey. Next Tuesday night can not come fast enough!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I Like Sports

I would imagine that people who grew up in sports towns or sports families have trouble even conceptualizing why someone would need to explain their sportsfandom. Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico was a little different. I can't even count the number of times I've had to justify my sports fandom to friends from my childhood. It makes sense. I am a very unlikely sports fan. In fact, when my fandom began, I was a little bit ashamed to admit it myself.

This past weekend I got a message from an old friend from New Mexico. The subject line read: "Question". The body of the email said: "Why do you like sports?"

At this point in my Capitals fandom, I am enough of a fan that I felt slightly defensive upon reading the message initially, but then I remembered that I grew up in the land of the sportsless and so did my friend and so, I will attempt to explain in a succinct way, why I like sports.

I used to ask my husband why he liked sports when he'd want to tune into a game on TV and all I wanted to do was watch Desperate Housewives. He always told me something about how it's the best entertainment - live drama and you never know how it will turn out. There is some truth to this that I understand now, but at the time I just wanted him to surrender the television.

For me, the love of hockey developed over a period of time, but there were some key elements that combined and provided my entry point into fandom. First I live really close to the arena where the Capitals play and it's very convenient to attend games. Second, the game of hockey was interesting enough to grab my attention. (It's not slow like baseball, not incomprehensible like football, not dull like golf, etc.) Third there were some compelling players on the Capitals team when I moved here in the fall of 2005 - people who I could learn about and care enough about their characters to be invested in following them. Fourth, as time wore on, there were other fans.

In my pre-sports-fan days, I would have wanted to hide if I were trapped in an arena full of screaming fans. But once you begin to comprehend why people are yelling, and (gasp) even feel compelled to yell with them, there is nothing more fun than being in a packed building with 18,000 people dressed in red and screaming their lungs out like mad mad lunatics. As I began to understand all the nuances of the games - the rules, the line changes, when a ref made a bad call, when a goal was particularily amazing - I grew to appreciate the games even more. I knew when to yell. I was compelled to stand up and even to scream. (Did I mention that I used to be embarrassed to cheer in public? For anything? )

For me, being a sports fan has been therapeutic in a way. Cheering for the Capitals got me through some rough times last winter. It is fun to follow a team, to be a fan, to go all-out and wear as much red as humanly possible. Becoming a sports fan has also helped me to better understand the vast majority of Americans who follow one team or another. It has given me an entry point in the great national conversation of sports.

I am a Capitals fan. I'm part of of a red-clad army. It's a special club that anyone can join and we can all get together on game days and scream our heads off in the hopes it will help the Caps win. I know that being a hockey fan will not solve the problems of the world, but it makes my world a little bit happier, a little bit more fun.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 17 - Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Predators

Whewh! This was a close one. The Caps won in a shootout. The plus side, Varly played really well. He let in one soft goal, but he stopped two short-handed breakaways in the first period and he shut Nasahville down in the shoot out! Ovie was on fire again and got the two goals in regulation and one goal in the shootout.

Caps fans were just dying to throw their hats tonight and dozens of them threw them after Ovie's shootout goal. Hmm. It was fantastic that he beat the goalie and helped us win the game, but the goal doesn't count toward his tally (He's scored 9 goals already this season, for those of you who are counting). It didn't give him a legitimate hat trick for the game. Seeing all the hats cast onto the ice made me wonder what the team does with them. Hopefully they donate them to charity. Many people throw brand new Capitals hats onto the ice that they recently paid at least $20 for! They could also have a cheap used hat sale and give the money to charity... but that might present issues with germs and possible head lice or whatever other gross things people have on their heads. Eeew.

I don't think the Caps were playing at the same level as they were against San Jose. Also, Nashville exceeded expetations. All the press leading into today's game said things like, "Capitals take on slumping Predators." Really, the Predators played pretty good hockey.

Section 419 was lively this evening. The cowbell people were in full effect and were even wearing their "Section 419 Has More Cowbell" T-Shirts. They're pretty awesome, but I am happy they sit a few rows ahead of me because the cowbell sound is rather shrill.

Something that I love about our section is that last year, Neil started yelling "Who cares?" after the announcer announces the opposing team's goals and it's caught on in a major way. He picked it up from his youth playing hockey and brought it to Verizon Center. Last year we had a group of people to the front and left of us who caught on, but it's spread significantly and people to the right and even behind us are yelling "Who cares?" It's fun to start traditions and to stick around to see them grow. I'm guessing that people in 419 yell "Who cares?" even at games when we're not there, which was definitely not the case a year ago.

After the game on our walk home, Neil noticed Secret Service vehicles outside of Oyamel and we decided to go in to see who was dining tonight. We got through the wanding and patting down and took our seat at the bar next to some fellow Caps fans just in time to glimpse Michelle Obama as she left the restaurant. Then the bartender asked us if the Caps won, we said yes and he told his co-worker, a young woman around our age who let out a whooping cheer upon learning of the victory. Hooray for living in Washington and getting to see the First Lady around town and running into hockey fans everywhere we go!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Varly Gets The Start

It's another hockey day! Since Varly is getting the start in goal tonight, I thought it would be a good time to debut the T-Shirt that Neil and I designed during last year's playoffs. Drumroll please....

Yes, that llama is wearing ice skates. Every time we wear them around Caps fans, we get lots of laughs and compliments, so we're making them available to anyone who wants to own one. Just click here to go to The View From 419 store on Cafe Press.

In case it's not obvious, the idea for the shirt came last spring when Varly finally corrected the media on the pronunciation of his name. Neil and I remembered how to pronounce it because there is a llama in the middle. Then I designed the shirt. It's almost impossible for a non-Caps fan to figure out what the shirt means, but it makes a good conversation starter. And so far, Caps fans tend to figure the shirt out pretty quickly. Maybe if more of us wear them around the arena, Varly will start to feel a little more confident about his glove hand? (Or, perhaps that will just come with more practice.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

October 15 - Washington Capitals vs. San Jose Sharks

This was an amazing night with one sad part.

First the bummer: Neil had a hockey game of his own and had to skip the game (which was sad on several levels - especially since it ended with a trip to the hospital - don't worry, he's ok, just a cut up finger - stupid puck).

The upside to Neil missing the game is that I invited my friend Mikah to join me. It was her first Caps game and you never know how someone's first game will go. She could have hated it, but, lucky for both of us, she got into the game fast and had a really good time. And what a great game for her to come to for her first game!

The intensity level was high all night and the Caps played fantastic. Ovie scored two goals in 28 seconds against the only team he hadn't scored on in the NHL. Matt Bradley had a goal (yay). The Sharks couldn't stop taking penalties in the first period which resulted in the longest string of power plays I can remember seeing (A low point in the Caps' performance is that they only scored one power play goal). Our goalies were fantastic. (Hopefully Jose Theodore will be ok after leaving before the second period with an injury). Most importantly, perhaps, is that the Caps beat a really good team and seem to have a bit of their confidence back.

Up in section 419, it was nice to have some girl talk mixed in with my hockey game.

After the game, on our way out of the arena, I saw some really cool dudes in matching all-red suits with red wing-tip shoes, red bowler hats and Capitals lapel pins. First I took a covert photo which captures the entire ensemble:

And then they noticed me. I tried to ask if they come to all the Caps games dressed in awesome red suits, but they seemed a tad too intoxicated to pay attention to my question, or maybe they were sober and couldn't hear me over the hum of the happy crowd? They did agree to pose for a photo, but then one of them moved:

And then (and here's where I think I embarrassed Mikah) one of the red-suited ones suggested I get in a photo. How could I refuse?

Clearly, I need to step up my red to compete with these guys (and perhaps I also need to step up my alcohol consumption?) I must say, I prefer this kind of all-red suit to the one I saw during preseason.

Walking out with the crowd was exhilarating. People were cheering, cars were honking three honks for "Let's Go Caps." The sidewalks were alive with Caps fans in spite of what has been a wet and dreary day in DC. When I got home, I learned from the post game show on Comcast that Ovie had never scored two goals so close together before. It's a great night to be a Caps fan!

Take that Baskman! ;)  (The aforementioned Baskman is an old friend of my father's and a San Jose Sharks season ticket holder)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back in DC and Ready to Rock the Red

I have returned to the Southwest and am looking forward to tonight's game against San Jose. In the meantime, some observations.

First: There's a great story about Mike Green in today's Washington Post. I'm the kind of fan who just loves the players and doesn't like it when they get picked on and maligned by other fans. Of course, I noticed that Green wasn't playing well last year during the playoffs, but instead of getting mad at him, it just made me sad for him. I know the fans who get mad also just care about the team, but for me, the negative energy doesn't appeal. If a player isn't playing his best, odds are he's aware of it and is more mad at himself than any angry fan in a Mike Green jersey. Anyways, the article talks about how Green got back into good form and is finally feeling comfortable again.

Next: The Washington Capitals are known for being at the head of the league in terms of their web presence. They excel at social networking and online video and have a fantastic website with great content. This is why, when I saw their new "10 Burning Questions With..." feature I was excited.

The premise: someone on the Capitals staff is interviewing the players and asking them each 10 questions. The answers are featured every couple of weeks on the website and a link goes out in the fan email. The problem: so far, the players are answering these questions with one and two-word answers. The most hilarious part of the whole thing is the pull quote on the right side of the page. The designer was clearly under the impression that the gentlemen would be speaking in full sentences.

I think the title refers to the theme of this year's opening video which features lots of flames, but I am not sure that what a hockey player's favorite food is qualifies as a burning question. Somehow, the PR/Marketing department has overlooked this new feature, but I think they'd be wise to take another look. What makes the team so likable is that the people on it seem warm and intelligent and passionate. The answers to these survey questions convey none of those things and just further the stereotype of the inarticulate athlete.

October 12 - Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Guest post from my good friend Ben Harper:

The view from 419? Pretty awesome, if you ask me.

I hadn't been to a Caps game in more than a year, so I was happy to fill in for Neil and Jodi when they couldn't go. Former roommate Nate took the second ticket--and got the chance to go to his first Caps game ever. And against the Devils? Always makes me think of this Seinfeld episode.(Side note: how long has Martin Brodeur been playing? Check out the Devils jersey Puddy is wearing in that episode!)

Anyway, the last time I'd seen the Caps in person, they were a young struggling team just trying to make the playoffs and the Verizon Center was probably 60% full. This time, the Red Sea was in full force, even on a Monday night. I was really impressed with how attentive and into the game the fans were. Every solid (or missed) check and crisp (or sloppy) pass was cheered or booed. And the entertainment surrounding the game (scoreboard stuff, the music, promotions in the stands) were just the right mix of cheesy and funny. The Mighty Mite kids' hockey games in between periods were hilarious and a stroke of genius. All of it together made for a much better time than I've ever had at a Wizards game, where I feel like I'm constantly
bombarded with noise (and lasers!) Of course, sitting in 419, you're bombarded by cowbells, but at least that shows fan spirit. Or something.

The night would have been complete if only the Caps had managed to win. The two first period goals seemed so easy that there wasn't a chance that the Devils were going to leave the Verizon Center with a point in the standings. But for the entire second and third period, they seemed out of step and lethargic--only Jose Theodore and some ridiculous saves kept them from losing in regulation. The 90-seconds the Devils kept the puck in the Washington zone before scoring the tying goal just before the end of the third period was rock bottom. Theodore made three highlight saves back to back to back and each time the Caps couldn't clear it before finally the Devils got in the tying goal. I thought there wasn't a chance that the Caps would pull it out in overtime, but they seemed to flip the switch back on and came out hard--at least two near misses at winning the game in overtime and everything was looking good--even the incredible overtime penalty kill (with even more highlight reel saves by Mr. Theodore) made it seem like they'd get one puck to go their way. But it wasn't to be--and a very anti-climactic shoot-out later, we were hitting the Metro with the rest of the fans. Still, a ton of fun and hopefully not the last time I get to see the Caps this season--I've got to break my
one-game losing streak!

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Display Caps Spirit Even While In New Mexico

1. Talk about hockey frequently. (I am not sure I've been doing this on purpose, I just can't help myself)

2. Wear red on game days. Preferably, wear Caps gear on game days.

Me in front of Sun Mountain on a morning walk. (Note the Ovechkin hat)

3. Convince Red Wings fans to wear Caps gear on game days.

My mom, who says she routes for the Caps when the Red Wings aren't playing.

Here's hoping all my Caps spirit helps against New Jersey tonight. My friend Ben Harper is going to the game and with any luck, he'll submit a guest post with the actual view from 419.

October 10 - Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings (in Detroit)

I always love it when Matt Bradley scores a goal, but other than that and Jose Theodore's solid goal tending, not a lot to love about this game. I am still in NM, so I had to check updates on my phone and watch highlights after the fact. I hope the Caps work out all their issues soon. I'll be back in Verizon Center on Thursday and I think it's time to win. A win before I am back would be good too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 8 - Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

I suppose that if I had to miss a home game, this was a good one to skip out on. After tonight's game, the Capitals lead the league in goals scored and goals scored against. Naysayers always cite the goalies and the defense when they doubt the Caps' ability to win the cup and a statistic like that doesn't do anything to prove them wrong.

It sounds like Coach Boudreau was not happy after the game tonight. Hopefully he can inspire the team to step it up a notch and play like they know they can.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying visiting my family and I did a relatively good job of paying attention to them in spite of my absorption in the radio coverage of the game and then for the third period, ESPN's cell phone updates. Oh the resourcefulness of sports fans.

Bright spot: Backstrom's two goal game!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So Far From Hockey Territory

I have a confession: I am in New Mexico.

I cannot give you the view from section 419 tonight.

I can't even see Verizon Center on television or online without plunking down $150 for the privilege of watching the entire hockey season online. I have been reduced to listening to the second home game of the season on internet radio.

Even though I am thousands of miles away, my Caps spirit has not been dampened. Some examples: I have been wearing red all day. I ordered red chile on my enchiladas for lunch. I am wearing my Alex Ovechkin necklace. And currently, I am sitting in my mom's kitchen, wearing a Caps sweatshirt,  listening to the game on internet radio for crying out loud.

Right now, the game is in the first period and so far so good. Who knows what the next two periods will hold. All I can say is that it's a good thing I made my decision to visit the family and purchased the plane tickets during the off-season before I was under the influence of hockey season.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6 - Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers (In Philly)

Bummer. I had a rough day at work, came home completely exhausted with a list of things to do that was a mile long and put everything off to don my Capitals sweatshirt and settle into the couch for some hockey. The game was hugely entertaining after the nonscoring first period. But then we lost in overtime. :(

Notable from tonight's game, Brooks Laich has some catching up to do if he wants to keep pace with Ovie on the scoring. Semin's first goal was a thing of beauty. Varly's meltdown in goal was too bad, but doesn't seem insurmountable to me. The Caps got a point for going into overtime - yay.

And finally, I really really really hate the Flyers.

I have not spent much time in Pennsylvania, but it is a state filled with enemy hockey teams that make my blood boil with hatred and so, I have an anti-Pennsylvania policy. I have friends from the state, sure, and it doesn't make me want to no longer be friends with them,  but we do have to be very careful when discussing their homeland - especially if they have a fondness for their hometown hockey teams. When people bring up Philly or Pittsburgh in casual conversation, it takes all my willpower to restrain myself from saying things I might regret.

The Flyers, in their orange jerseys, give me an automatic headache and they are just so mean. I love the Capitals because it's a team of good guys, guys you'd want to hang out with. Sure, some of them are more like the bad boys I liked in high school, but you know they're still nice behind their fast driving and multiple tattoos. The Flyers are like the bullies, they're a bunch of high school football players in the wrong uniforms. I. Don't. Like. Them.

It's ok. We'll beat them next time.

Before the game, I walked by a store that I pass daily. It is a fancy clothing store that uses all natural and organic fabrics and makes flowy skirts and dresses. I think the target is wealthy, middle-aged, environmentally-conscious women. I went inside once and realized that I could not afford a thing in there and if I were to wear any of it, I would instantly look 45 years old. Yet, I really like the store. The reason I like it is that ever since the Caps were in the playoffs two years ago and lost to the Flyers (boo) in ovewrtime of game 7, Pua Naturally has had a hockey stick in their window display. It's tucked into the corner, but it's there and everytime I pass by, it makes me smile.

Today, the window display was greatly improved with one of the mannequins proudly wearing a Caps t-shirt! I smiled the rest of the way home after taking these photos.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Preseason Flashback

I saw something deeply disturbing at one of the preseason games this year and thought I should post it here for the viewing public. The looks on peoples' faces when this character high fived them were priceless. Nobody could refuse the high five, but once he'd continued on his way, everyone had a look of puzzlement mixed with disgust. I couldn't help noticing that he has a hole at the bottom of the zipper on the back of his suit. Yikes.

Personally, I think preseason was way too early for a full red bodysuit. Regular season is too early for a full red bodysuit and playoffs may still be too early for a full red bodysuit. But this guy doesn't seem to agree. I hope I don't run into him too many more times this season, he makes me a tad uncomfortable.

Why I Love Coach Bruce Boudreau

The Capitals have a fantastic coach with lots of endearing qualities. I met Coach Boudreau last year when I attended Hockey in Heels and learned that he's as magnanimous and warm in person as he seems from afar. And without further ado, here are some reasons I love Bruce Boudreau:

1. My dad's name is Bruce, Coach Boudreau's name is Bruce. There is something very comforting and friendly about middle-aged men named Bruce.

2. He doesn't coach by yelling at his players, he's nice to them and he seems to really value them all as people, not just as athletes.

3. He is not scary like some professional coaches seem to be and he likes talking to fans.

4. He was in the movie Slapshot which is really hilarious and I recommend it to any hockey fan.

5. He has a Canadian accent.

6. He worked for his success and still seems a little bit in awe of having made it to the NHL coaching level. The humbleness he has maintained is endearing.

7. He is hilarious! Some evidence below:

Boudreau told the media he doesn't mind that 37-year-old Mike Knuble skips morning skates: "He's a 102 years old and he doesn't want to waste his body," Boudreau joked. "He's going to play a lot of hockey. And I asked him about this. If he didn't take them in Philadelphia and played all 82 games, we would like him to play all 82 games."

8. He speaks his mind and tells the truth, to fans, media and players.

9. He is small and cute and I would like to bring him home and put him on my couch and keep him there - except, he has some hockey games to win.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 3 - Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The home opener was a blast. Neil and I arrived earlier than necessary because we wanted to make sure we got Mike Green bobbleheads. (We got them and they're great, but they make his eyes look very asymmetrical... strange. Perhaps equally strange is the entire bobblehead phenomenon. Who decided they were cool and then how on earth did they convince me and thousands of other fans that they were right and bobbleheads are cool?)

The majority of the 18,000+ people at the game were wearing red and the Caps had face paint stations and sign-making materials available before the game to help make the arena even more spirited.

It was nice to see our friends in section 419 - many of whom weren't around the last couple weeks at preseason games.

My main takeaway from the game last night is that Brooks Laich and Ovie are still tied for goals this season at 3! After the game, a reporter asked Coach Boudreau if Laich will keep up all season and Bruce quickly said "No." I thought his answer was both hilarious and also a little mean. Who knows, maybe Brooksie is on fire and this is his season? ;)

After the second period when the score was 6-1, the whole building seemed to be high on success. And then the third period happened. To me, it didn't seem like a complete and total collapse, but they did seem tired and they all made a few mistakes. I'm not sure what Varly could have done to stop the goals that went in that period, but he seemed to be blaming himself in his post-game interview. I do think he gives up a lot of juicy rebounds and if he froze the puck a little more often, he may have more success. But I am most definitely not a hockey coach. As a fan, I was happy with the game. We won! I got an eagle spray painted on my face! We ate some gross fried food! I screamed my voice away! And, only 80 more games to win in the regular season!

It was great to have the neighborhood filled with happy Caps fans post-game. On our walk home from the stadium as the red-clad masses streamed around us on on the sidewalks and car horns honked three times... "Let's. Go. Caps." I asked myself how we survived all summer without hockey. Let the season begin!

October 1 - Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins

Neil (my husband) had a hockey game at Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 9:30 so we went to Ballston to watch the opening night game from the Front Page. At first, it seemed like a great decision. They had a whole Capitals watching area set up in the back of the bar on the indoor patio with a big screen TV. There were several tables and about 30 Caps fans were sitting around, eating dinner and waiting for the game to begin.

When the game started, we'd already eaten some bar food and were excited to be watching the first game of the season that actually counted, but soon we realized that the picture was very pixelated and sometimes the players froze for a few seconds. Then, about halfway through the first period the TV completely froze and it became apparent that the bar was streaming the game from the internet through SlingBox. Apparently, like most sports bars, The Front Page has Direct TV and therefore no Versus network. Suddenly, the placement on the back patio began to make sense. All 30 of us asked for our checks simultaneously which thrilled the waitstaff. Meanwhile, a manager was behind the TV trying to unfreeze the laptop that was connected to it. Fans were calling nearby bars asking if they had the game and then the TV started working again.

This happened a few more times, but magically, we did not miss any of the Caps' goals. After the second period we went over to Kettler and watched the last period from there. It made me think that they could host some watch parties for away games. They seem to have Versus, because the game came in very clear.  They'd probably sell a ton of Caps gear from the pro shop during the intermissions and the rink would get more exposure.

The game itself was thrilling. It was everything I'd hoped game 7 against Pittsburgh would have been last year. Other than the one defensive slip up that led to the Bruins' only goal, it was a perfect game. Jose Theodore was outstanding, Ovie got the goal scoring off to a fantastic start, Brooks Laich surprised everyone by matching Ovie's goals with his own, and the Caps trounced the Bruins making a strong opening night statement. This made me happy for several reasons, including the fact that it gave me an upper hand in trash talking with my friend Ben who loves the Bruins. :)

Another positive result of the game was one of the most outstanding sentences in sports Journalism appeared in the Boston Globe. Behold:

"for the 17,565 fans at TD Garden and the thousands more who tuned in on Versus - albeit not via DirecTV, given the dust-up between the network and the satellite provider - the sight of the Bruins getting rolled like a barrel over Niagara Falls didn't serve as a pleasant entrance to the 2009-10 season after a summer of hibernation."


And then, I got to watch the Buffalo Wild Wings play the Wombats! Unfortunately the Wombats won 2-1. Neil had a great shot on goal in the 2nd period, though. :)

Neil makes a nice move during warm ups. (captured by my less-than-awesome cell phone camera)

The Fan

Welcome to my hockey blog! My first entry will be MUCH longer than the normal 419 entry, but I want to give those curious an idea of where all this began. Below is my essay about how I became a hardcore, crazy Washington Capitals fan. I hope you enjoy and I would love to hear any comments you might have:

The Fan

When I came into this world, the powers that be were conspiring against me becoming a sports fan. I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city without a hometown team. The local high school football teams were absolutely atrocious during my childhood and the private high school I attended didn’t even have a football team. My parents weren’t originally from New Mexico, but if you were thinking that they might have passed on some of their love for their home teams to me, think again. They’re from Detroit. So, you can forget about me becoming a football fan. Even my dad gave up on the Lions long ago. I think we did have a Lions trashcan in our house growing up. It was always underneath my father’s weathered dark-wood desk, hidden from view. Based on this year’s losing season, a trashcan seems like a more than appropriate souvenir from the team.

Then there were the Tigers. As a child, I always pretended to be a fan – because of family loyalty, I suppose. So when my best friend’s father, a tall and lanky band teacher who we all called uncle Richard, was cheering for the Cubs on his own couch, I would obnoxiously espouse my love for the Tigers. Looking back, I am sure he appreciated a loud bespectacled 7-year-old bouncing up and down rooting for the Tigers during a game that probably didn’t even include the Tigers. Later, when I lived in Chicago, I found that I really enjoyed games at Wrigley Field, but it was more about the experience, the peanuts, the excited crowd, than it was about the sport, which was a little too slow to hold my attention. So far, not so good with the whole sports fan thing.

The Detroit Pistons did have a moment or two of glory in the 90’s and we watched from our adobe house in Santa Fe. I remember my dad shouting at the television and wondering what would make someone do that. “They can’t hear you,” I wanted to say, but I bit my tongue. For a year or two after the Pistons’ rise, I tried to be an NBA fan, but then I was cut from the no-cut basketball team in middle school and I swore off that big orange ball for life.

In addition to lacking a home team to route for, I had other obstacles in my path to sports fandom. I am a girly girl. As soon as I was old enough to select colors for my room, I picked pink and purple. I took ballet lessons for close to a decade, I was on the synchronized swimming team. When the Olympics are on, I watch figure skating and ice dancing.

Of course, there has also always been a bit of a bad-ass in me. I was raised climbing mountains and skiing down them. My proudest athletic accomplishment was out-skiing most of the boys I hung out with and if I could not beat them, I could at least keep up. In high school, I played soccer and lacrosse and I did, on occasion, stick around to route for the boy’s soccer team. But none of my enthusiasm for my friends’ playing carried over when I didn’t know the people on the field.

When I went to college at Northwestern, right after their 1996 Rose Bowl turn, the Wildcats were hot and I had season tickets. However, I only remember attending two or three games all season and I only tuned in for the halftime show when my friend was playing drums in the band. Sure, I stood up and cheered like the rest of them. Sure, I enjoyed the pre-game tailgate parties. But I had no clue what was going on on the field. Once the weather turned cold, as it tends to do in the Windy City, I skipped the rest of the games in favor of watching movies with my film school friends.

Five years after graduating from college, my husband and I moved to Washington, DC, in the fall of 2005. I took a trip to the District before our move in order to scout out apartments and ultimately, I picked the one we live in partly because it was two blocks from a movie theater (for me) and the Verizon Center (for my husband). It seemed perfect that I could be watching the latest romantic comedy while my husband attended a hockey or basketball game.

That first winter in DC, we attended a few hockey games. My husband persuaded me to go to the first one by telling me about some rookie player that everyone was raving about named Alexander Ovechkin. Supposedly, he was really good, maybe even Wayne Gretzky good and he was young, not quite 21. I knew who Wayne Gretzky was because I had made my husband leave his most prized possession, an autographed photo of Gretzky, in storage when we moved – we were downsizing and there just wasn’t a suitable place to hang something like that in our one-bedroom apartment.

I had attended hockey games before, and always enjoyed them. Most, however were in the minor minor leagues. When we lived in El Paso, Texas, we went to some Buzzards games, but fighting was more common than skating and the obnoxious fans, who all seemed to get the same memo about bringing your own bucket of fried chicken to the game, were a bit of a turn off. The Albuquerque Scorpions weren’t much of an improvement. But in DC, I began to get into the games. Little by little, I caught on. First it was as basic as understanding icing and off sides. Then I was learning the players’ names. By our second winter here, I was consenting to attending more than one or two games a season. It began to make sense that going to multiple games could be fun.

Then in the 07-08 season, when we were attending more and more games, the team ditched their ugly gear and brought back the old team color. Suddenly, just as I was taking my first steps into fandom, everything Caps was more appealing and I needed to own some gear. Even though I used to think all hockey jerseys were incredibly hideous, I rushed to the team store and purchased my own Caps jersey. And then, with their brand new coach from the minor leagues, the Capitals started to win. Suddenly, my husband and I were checking the point totals of other hockey teams and making charts with calculations determining who needed to win and who needed to lose in order for our Capitals to make it to the playoffs.

And playoff they did. The crowds, which were growing increasingly large during the end of the season, swelled to capacity and we scrambled to get tickets. We attended three of the home playoff games and when we didn’t have tickets, we donned our red jerseys and watched from sports bars. (Previously, I could count the number of times I willingly went into a sports bar on one hand.) The energy in the Verizon Center was electrifying. People were getting their hair cut in Mohawks and died red at the games, faces were painted, and the cheering was shaking the stands. When the Caps lost the final game in overtime, I was actually heartbroken and perhaps it was that moment when I knew this new level of emotion I had, (was this fandom?), was not going away.

This year I attended more than 40 hockey games during regular season when the Washington Capitals made it to the playoffs, I made sure we had tickets to every game. I am a crazy, red-wearing, jersey-owning Capitals fan who takes pictures at hockey games and posts them on Facebook. I wear a jersey or a Caps sweatshirt to every game and top the look off with red sneakers. I attend Caps practice for fun. I encouraged my husband to hang a hockey stick autographed by Alexander Ovechkin on my living room wall. For my 30th birthday, the only thing I wanted were season tickets to the Caps. (Don’t worry, I got them.)

My friends aren’t quite sure what has happened to me. My husband isn’t sure either. My newfound love of hockey is so deep that I took the Gretzky photo out of storage, had it archivally framed and it’s now hanging in our bedroom on what was once sacred sports-paraphernalia-free wall space. My love for the Capitals has caused me to spend a little too much time YouTubing highlights from games I’ve already seen – an activity I could have never imagined myself doing a couple of years ago. And to top it all off, I could not stop myself from spending nearly $200 on a limited edition necklace in the shape of Alex Ovechkin’s #8 logo from his fashion line. It’s official. I have lost my mind.

National Public Radio’s Neil Conan described sports fans as a, “deeply unreasonable and gloriously obsessed breed.” In the past, I would have heard that and agreed with a self-important scoff – I was so above the whole fandom thing. Now, I ponder that statement and I agree with a little chuckle because I am gloriously obsessed and I am deeply unreasonable and it’s awesome!

I have done a lot of thinking about why I have fallen head over heels into Capitals fandom. Part of it is the fun. It’s definitely enjoyable to spend evenings at hockey games with my husband. It’s also fun to admire the attractive (and talented) male players knowing that my husband can actually understand the admiration. We both think Ovechkin and Mike Green are awesome. And when goalie Jose Theodore makes an amazing stop, we both cheer just as hard.

But I think that at the root of my Capitals-mania is something a little more profound. The Capitals inspire me. When they’re at their best making perfect passes as they glide down the ice, it’s a beautiful example of what people can do when they’re working together. When Ovechkin makes up his mind that he’s going to score, drives down the ice, skating in between defensemen like they’re stationary orange cones and beats the goalie sending the puck into the back of the net, it makes me remember that anything is possible. And when Ovie jumps up and down to celebrate a goal, hugging teammates and grinning his wide missing-toothed grin, I can feel the exuberance all the way up in my 400-level seats.

The Caps love what they do so much that their joy is infectious. And maybe that’s why tickets and merchandise sold at a record pace this season. I don’t think it’s just because they’re winning, I think it’s because they’re winning people over.