Hockey gains popularity in DC area

Published in March 2010

By Alena R. Schwarz

For the past couple of years hockey has slowly become increasingly popular in Virginia, DC, Maryland and Towson University as more and more people are starting to flock to Verizon Center to watch the Washington Capitals.

Ticket sales have grown over the past couple of years and it is more noticeable that there are more hockey fans in the area. The reach of fans has also grown. Now the team is not only selling tickets to people in the DC Metropolitan area, but to other, farther out, states as well.

“We’ve seen an increase [in sales] in every area within 100 miles of DC,” said sales associate Crayton Adams. “The reach has gotten into Baltimore and even Pennsylvania.”

One of the main reasons why there has been an increase in attention, specifically in the DC area is that the other sports teams have poorer winning records than the Capitals do.

“The fact that all the other teams in the area [aren’t very good], justifies spending money is a marketing plan that gets people interested,” Adams said.

Another aspect about the Washington Capitals that attracts fans is all of the accomplishments the team has achieved in the past couple of years. In the 2007-2008 season, the team went from having one of the top two lowest records in the entire league to winning the Southeast Division. The following season, not only did the team win the Southeast again, but it also advanced past the first round of the playoffs and was eliminated in the final, Game 7 of Round 2.

“The team has accomplished so much recently,” Alavi said. “I think breaking all the records they have and just putting on a real show every night is getting them recognized by a lot more people.”

Because other teams aren’t doing as well, the Caps seem to automatically get some advertising in. People see the other teams in the area losing and it’s obvious which team is better to go see live.

“Because of their recent success and the failures of most local teams in the area, the best advertisement they can do is to keep winning and filling those seats day in and day out,” said Virginia native Bobby Alavi, 16, of Vienna, Va.

For Baltimore specifically, the fact that the city only has a football and baseball team helps to get some recognition.

“There’s no [hockey] team in Baltimore so everyone is rallying around the Caps,” said Tyler Dover, 18, of Tower A, who has been a lifelong hockey fan but has started to follow it more closely the past couple of years.

While many Caps fans are new to hockey in general, people like Alavi have been around the sport for a while.

“Before I watched hockey on a daily basis, I followed the 2000-2001 Colorado Avalanche team during their Stanley Cup run with Hall of Famer goalie Patrick Roy and a bunch of other elite players,” he said. “[My friend] Farshin Yeaganeh got me into the Caps during the start of the 2007-2008 season and I have loved this team from that day on.

Advertising Hockey and the Caps

Another factor that is helping increase the Capitals’ popularity is its recent exposure in more global events and just in general, all over the country.

“[Hockey] is becoming more visible and people are becoming more aware of it,” Adams said. “People in the South are starting to pay attention to it and then the recent USA-Canada game [in the Olympics] has been good for hockey.”

In terms of spreading the hockey news to people in the area, the Capitals organization is using every means possible to keep in touch with the fans and alert then of new, upcoming deals, and what’s going on with the team and the organization.

“We do everything from emailing [past customers] to social networking,” Adams said. “We make sure that everyone can come and reach as many people as possible. It also helps that we have a very vocal owner who is so connected with the fans.”

Not only has the team expanded its franchise to all reaches of the DC Metropolitan area, but the fans that they have received are dedicated to this team.

“This team has given me a lot over the years, and they keep giving me things to look forward to,” Alavi said. “Hopefully they will bring DC a championship this year, and if not, in the years to come. I’ll always stand by them, though.”

Ticket Sales

Ticket sales have increased so much that nearly every game is sold out, making tickets nowadays much harder to get.

“We’ve sold out our last 50 straight games and we’re sold out for the rest of the year,” Adams said.

Also, for the first time in a while, all 12,500 possible season tickets have been sold so that there is now a long waiting list.

“We’re maxed out completely,” Adams said. “Right now, we’re going through and giving everybody an opportunity to renew their seats and then move on to the waiting list. We’ve been collecting names [for the waiting list] since last season and we’re now accepting deposits from people who would like to try to get seats.”

Due to the mass amount of season tickets holders, the organization was forced to cut one of the more popular promotions, Student Rush nights, because there just weren’t enough seats available after the individual tickets had been sold.

“I’d like to see Student Rush back,” Dover said. “That was fun and the seats were cheaper.”

In general, though, the consensus is that having a solid, winning team in the area has made hockey much more popular.

“I think the Caps turned people into hockey fans,” Dover said.

More Information

Capitals playoffs provide higher TV ratings than last year. On Ticketmaster, the Caps received 4.6 stars out of 5. For more specific information on purchasing Capitals tickets, including prices and seating charts, see the Capitals’ website.

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