Building the Future

Marcus Johansson chasing puck

Marcus Johansson keeps the puck away from the red team during the final 2010 Caps Develoment Camp scrimmage.

Every July, the Capitals hold a development camp for all of their prospects and some other invites. Participants can range from past draft picks that haven’t broken into the professional leagues yet, new draft picks, players from Hershey and just overall players that the Caps are interested in.

Development camp runs for one week, usually in the middle of July, and is held at Kettler. It’s meant to be a time where head coach Bruce Boudreau, General Manager George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis can look at everyone and decide who should come to training camp in September. However, from a fan’s point of view, development camp is the perfect hockey fix in the middle of summer.

The camp attendees are divided into two groups. The first couple of days are just practice days, but as the week goes on, there are a total of three scrimmages. On the last day of camp, the Caps hold “Fan Fest.”

Fan Fest is basically a celebration for fans. They can come out and watch the last scrimmage of camp as well as participate in other activities. Usually, there’s a big sale in the team store, an equipment sale of used Caps, Bears and prospect equipment, moon bounces and face painting outside, and there’s usually a current Cap who comes and will hold an autograph session. Fan Fest is completely free to the public, aside from that $1 for parking in the garage.

Rosters for the teams can be found on the Capitals’ website closer to when camp is supposed to start, as well as the exact schedule. Some notable players who have attended camp in the past are: John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Semyon Varlamov, Marcus Johansson, Braden Holtby and Mathieu Perreault.

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B-E-A-R-S BEARS BEARS BEARS!

Inside Giant Center

Giant Center

Every team has different in-game traditions. Even though the Caps and the Bears are within the same organization, this is no different.

For starters, the roster numbers are different. When Andrew Gordon plays for the Capitals, he wears no. 63. But when he plays for the Bears, his number is 10. It may take a little time to adjust to the different numbers, but it’s pretty easy to catch on.

Another difference between Caps and Bears games is the ticket prices. Bears games, while much farther away from those living in the DC area, are much cheaper than Caps games. Upper level tickets, no matter where in the arena, go for $16.50. The lower bowl tickets are $25 each. To compare, not even standing room only tickets to a Caps game are $25. So basically, you get similar, just as intense hockey, for less than a third of the price.

In terms of what to wear, at Caps games the “dress code” is pretty strict: red. At Bears games, it’s a bit more relaxed. Obviously Bears gear is preferred, but since that’s a little harder to come by, you’ll often see a couple other NHL teams represented. Since Hershey is in Pennsylvania, not only are there Caps jerseys in the crowd, but it’s not uncommon to see some Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys as well.

The chants are a little different too. The main one to remember is that after the Bears score, fans often chant, “B-E-A-R-S, Bears, Bears, Bears!” and repeat the chant a couple times.

The Hershey Bears

Giant Center

Giant Center

The Hershey Bears are the Washington Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate team. Most of the Bears have played at least one game up in Washington at some point. That being said, as a Caps fan, it’s also fun to go and watch a Bears game.

The Bears play at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa, on the same property as Hersheypark. The only way to get to a Bears game is to drive. There are no trains that will take you to the arena, like with Verizon Center. The drive is about two hours from DC, but it’s definitely worth it.

For Bears games, there isn’t a warm-up pre-skate like at Caps games in the sense that you can go down to the glass and watch them, so the only thing is to get there before puck drops. I’ll explain the game more explicitly in the next post.

Parking for the game is only $7 for the night and, if you come early enough, there are plenty of close spots. However, leaving can sometimes be a little bit of a problem. Especially when Hersheypark is open, it gets pretty crowded with everyone leaving at the same time. Not only is it crowded trying to get out of the general Hersheypark property, but getting out of Hershey in general gets pretty crowded.

If the game ends fairly early, to avoid traffic, it may be easier to grab a bite to eat and let some of the cars file out. There’s a Panera Bread right down the road from Giant Center. Coming into Hershey, you’ll pass it. There are also a couple other restaurants in that same shopping center and across the road.

There’s a Red Robin Gourmet Burgers only 1.4 miles down the road from Giant Center, an Applebee’s near Panera, a Fuddrucker’s, a Sheetz across the way from Panera, and a Bob Evans just down the road from Giant Center. These are just a few of the many restaurants nearby, so feel free to browse around while planning your trip up to Hershey, Pa, the Sweetest Place on Earth.

And Now to Celebrate

Caps celebrating

The Washington Capitals celebrate a victory at home against the Rangers.

Now that the game is over, either fans are celebrating a win or mourning a loss. Either way, if you decide to stick around DC, there’s still plenty to do. Of course, most of it is for the older crowd.

Recently, the blog Capitals Outsider polled Caps fans about where they liked to go after games. Of those top polled, here are the five best places:

The Greene Turtle – It’s right next to Verizon Center; there’s even an entrance to the restaurant from inside Verizon. Greene Turtle serves cheap, good food. It specializes in American food, but has a wide selection. It’s a good place to grab a bite to eat before heading home.

Rocket Bar – It’s located across the street from Verizon Center on the same side of the street as California Tortilla. Rocket Bar got the most votes from Caps fans in the poll. It has 17 HDTVs, seven pool tables, six shuffleboards, six darts, two jukeboxes, boardgames and three full bars.

RFD – It’s located just down the street from Verizon Center. It’s a good place to grab a drink after the game and celebrate with other Caps fans. Occasionally Caps players will stop by. This year, Caps rookie defenseman, John Carlson, celebrated his 21st birthday at RFD with a bunch of other Caps fans.

Iron Horse – It’s located down the street from Verizon and is a bar. It doesn’t have a kitchen, but outside food is allowed in. It boasts some of the best beers in the city so it’s worth stopping in after a game just to relax for a little bit and unwind.

Redline – It’s located just around the corner from Verizon Center and is a restaurant specializing in American food. It’s a sports bar so it’s also a good place to just sit and watch the game if you can’t afford tickets.

C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS!

Karl Alzner

Karl Alzner celebrates after scoring a goal in practice.

Washington Capitals gamedays are exciting. There’s just a natural buzz leading up to the game. To help pass the time, there are a couple of places you can go to read up on the night’s game. First of all, the site you should check every morning is Caps Today. It’s run by the Caps media and is basically a daily overview of what to know. It includes the day’s storyline, loads of links and tips for what to read to be in the know, and updated practice schedules for the upcoming three days. Also, before every game, the Caps have a podcast, PreCap/Capitals Report, which can be downloaded from iTunes at the conclusion of each segment. You can also listen live online.

Now you’ve read up on the game and the matchup for the evening. But getting there is a whole different story. Here are some tips for how to get to Verizon Center:

First of all, I cannot stress enough how convenient it is to take the Metro in. The red line will you take you straight to Chinatown/Gallery Place and drop you off right at the Verizon Center doors. Ok, technically you’ll have to walk around the corner, but regardless, you’re right there. Metro rides are reasonably cheap and with gas prices and then the price of parking in the various garages, the cost can become pretty high. Not to mention the fact that you need to have permits to be able to park in the Verizon Center parking garage (located underneath the building).  In addition, after the game you’ll have to battle loads of traffic trying to get out of the city. In short, Metro is the way to go. But even with taking the Metro, there are more tricks.  Depending on where you’re coming from, there are certain tricks of where to get off the train. If you have to ride through Metro Center to get to Verizon Center (specifically, if you have to switch trains), the most time efficient thing to do might be to just walk the couple of blocks from Metro Center to Verizon. I always check to see when the next train will be arriving. It’s over two minutes, I’ll walk it. If not, I’ll wait. To walk to Verizon, just take a left out of the station, walk down to the corner, turn left again and then it’s just a straight walk until you hit Verizon. If you get lost, just follow the other red jerseys. That’s what former Cap Scott Walker did last year.

Also, before you leave, you can log onto the Metro’s website to plan your trip more carefully. Visiting the Metro’s website will also notify you of any potential rail closings or rail work. They usually do repairs on weekends, so that’s definitely something to keep track of and look out for.

Now that you know how to get there, be sure that you arrive on time. If you want to arrive in time for warm-ups, for a 7 p.m. game, you should arrive by 6:30 to see the boys come out. I’ll describe warm-ups in greater detail a little later, but if you want a spot on the glass, the earlier you can get there, the better. If you’re just planning on coming to the game, make sure you’re there before the puck drops. As it’s been said before, hockey is such an exciting sport that you’re really not going to want to miss a second of it.

Pre-skate, or warm-ups, is exciting to watch. It’s open to everyone so that even if you’re sitting in the farthest seat from the ice, you can still come down and enjoy some closeup hockey. Getting there early enough will ensure a spot right on the glass with only that small pane of Plexiglas separating the crowd from the players. Sometimes, some of the players will flip pucks over the glass to the awaiting, cheering fans. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s always nice to come and watch the players get in the zone before the game. It’s also a nice time to preview the line combinations, starting goaltenders, etc. for both teams.

When trying to put together a game wardrobe, there’s only one thing you need to know: wear RED! One of the Caps’ main slogans is “Rock the Red” so definitely wear something red. It doesn’t matter if it’s not an official Caps shirt, jersey, etc. Just wearing a red t-shirt will work. It’s the thought that counts. Obviously team apparel is best, but in a pinch, any sort of red is fine. Basically, just don’t wear black and gold. Those are Pittsburgh Penguins colors and Caps fans HATE the Penguins above all other teams in the NHL.

Let Me Hear You Scream

Mike Knuble tosses puck

Mike Knuble tosses a puck to the fans after being selected as one of the three stars of the game.

As with every sports team, the fans have certain cheers that are said throughout the game. Some are at certain times, others are just customary chants. It’s very important, if you’re going to go to a game, to be in the know. Here’s a rough overview of the top things that Caps fans shout during games and some of the in-game videos that are always played:

1. The Opener

Every team has an opening video. After the opening, the Caps’ starting lineup is announced. Obviously, it’s customary to cheer and support the starters and the rest of the team.

2. The National Anthem

While most people know the national anthem, Caps fans add their own twist. During the “Rocket’s red glare…” fans shout “red,” and during “Oh say does that star spangled…” fans shout “O” to represent the Baltimore fanhood to the Orioles baseball team.

3. The Horn Guy

“The Horn Guy” is an iconic fan who comes to every Caps game. Him and “Goat,” another iconic fan, often start up the infamous “Let’s Go Caps!” chant. The Horn Guy starts the chant with three consecutive blows of his horn, to which fans will respond with the chant. Goat just belts out, “Let’s Go Caps” and the fans echo. His voice can sometimes be heard when watching at home. Another popular chant is “C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps!” This chant is usually started by random fans throughout the arena and not one specific person.

4. Goal Celebration

When the Caps score, the goal song is played. However, what makes the Caps’ goal celebration unique to others is that after the goal has been announced, fans count off the goals scored followed by, “All your fault!” directed at the opposing goaltender.

5. Opposing Team’s Goal

When the opposing team scores, after the goal has been announced, fans shout, “Who cares!” While this chant has received criticism, the idea is not that fans don’t care that a goal was scored because, obviously, everyone does, but instead that they don’t care who scored it.

6. The Bird Call

Whenever an old member of the team returns to Verizon Center, fans will chant the “bird call.” Basically, they chant, “Whoop, whoop!” constantly while the player: A) has control of the puck or B) is just on the ice in general. The amount of whooping is determined by how hated the player is that is returning. For instance, when former Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar returns, the chant goes on almost the entire time he’s on the ice.

7. Hazing the Refs

Usually, after a ref makes a “horrible” call (either misses an infraction that should be a penalty, doles out a penalty to the wrong person or someone who didn’t do anything illegal, disallows a Caps goal, or something else along those lines), Caps fans will chant, “Refs you suck!”

8. Wings

The Washington Capitals have teamed up with Glory Days Grill for a promotion. If the Caps are able to score five or more goals in a single game at home, all fans in attendance will receive a free half-dozen order of chicken wings from from Glory Days when they present their ticket stub. When the Caps score their fourth goal, fans start chanting “We want wings!”

9. Unleash the Fury

If there’s one chant you learn before going to a game, it’s “Unleash the Fury.” Quite possibly one of the loudest, most exciting chants at Caps games, Unleas the Fury is played once a game. At the end of the in-game video, you’ll know when it comes, just shout along with the video, “Unleash the Fury!”

10. End of Game

At the end of the game, the three stars of the game are announced. Basically, just cheer if the end result is a Caps win.

Whether you remember these cheers or not, the most important thing is to just scream and cheer on the hometown boys.

A Fan’s Pre-Game Meal

Caps games generally take a long time. With travel, they are roughly five hours long. That’s a long time to go without food, so the smart choice would be to eat something once downtown. There are plenty of places around Verizon Center and I’ll break down the top ones in both sit-down restaurants and faster eats.

Fast Eats:

On the same side of the street as the arena, almost completely connected to the building, are two of the busiest game-day fast food places: McDonald’s and Chipotle (on the 7th Street side). While these two are fast, because of their proximity to Verizon, they get very crowded very fast. From experience, it’s hard to move, cramped, lines wrap around the restaurant and it’s often hard to find a place to sit.

However, on the other side of the street, there’s a Potbelly (roughly a four minute walk on the 7th Street side), which specializes in sandwiches, and a California Tortilla (a few feet down from Potbelly), which is similar to a Chipotle but offers a wider range of Mexican food such as quesadillas. Both are roughly just as fast as McDonald’s and Chipotle, but the lines are usually shorter. However, be aware that seating in these two places is also a bit limited.

A little farther away (a six minute walk from the arena), there’s a Five Guys Burger and Fries. It’s roughly a six minute walk from the arena and is more likely to not be as busy. I haven’t been to that specific location myself, but be sure to leave plenty of time just in case it is busy.

Sit-Down:

There are a number of sit-down restaurants located near the Verizon Center. But be advised that, since they are sit-down restaurants, to leave plenty of time for a full meal before the puck drops. The Verizon Center website also has a suggested list of restaurants to try. Here are some of the better places:

Rosa Mexicano – Barely a minute walk away, it specializes in Mexican food. It’s a nicely decorated restaurant with a menu that contains a wide assortment of choices. Prices range from roughly $15-$27.

Legal Sea Foods – Three minutes away, this seafood restaurant is advertised as one of the best. Of course, with high quality food comes a high price. Adult entrees range anywhere from $12-$30, but you’re guaranteed a good meal.

Fuddruckers – A five minute walk away, Fuddruckers specializes in burgers, but also serves sandwiches and salads. Basically, it’s an American restaurant. Price ranges from as low as $11 to as high as $30, but not many entrees are that expensive. It’s a nice, casual dining experience before a game.

Matchbox – Six minutes away from Verizon Center, it specializes in pizza. Some of the seafood entrees run a bit higher at around $20-$30, but pizzas, depending on size range from $14-$20. It’s definitely something to check out.

McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant – Four minutes away, it’s a much classier restaurant. However, since it is seafood, the prices are a bit higher, ranging from $15-$30. If you’re looking to splurge for a meal, this place is recommended, but you may want to wait until after dinner to put your Caps jersey on.

Eat First Restaurant – Just a six minute walk around the corner, let’s not forget that Verizon Center is located in Chinatown. If you’re looking for a good Chinese restaurant, this is the place to go. It’s incredibly cheap with almost all entrees under $10. It’s not gourmet, but it’ll get you fed and to the game.

 

Remember, wherever you choose to go, the most important thing is that you get to the game on time. With hockey, and especially the Caps, games are so exciting that you don’t want to miss a second of it.

 

San Jose Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood takes the faceoff against Washington's Mathieu Perreault during the game against the Sharks on Feb. 8.

San Jose Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood takes the faceoff against Washington's Mathieu Perreault during the game against the Sharks on Feb. 8.

 

 

Rosa Mexicano – Barely a minute walk away, it specializes in Mexican food. It’s a nicely decorated restaurant with a menu that contains a wide assortment of choices. Prices range from roughly $15-$27.

 

Legal Sea Foods – Three minutes away, this seafood restaurant is advertised as one of the best. Of course, with high quality food comes a high price. Adult entrees range anywhere from $12-$30, but you’re guaranteed a good meal.