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.


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.

Poor Man’s Hockey

John Carlson - Kettler

Back in the day (roughly four years ago), the Caps were awful. Therefore, ticket prices were insanely cheap. These were the days when you could sit up in those eagles nest seats for a whopping $10. But alas, with the team’s success has come a raise in ticket prices.

Now, if you’re one of those fans who loves the game but just can’t splurge the money to attend the games, there’s a much cheaper way to see your hometown team. The solution: practice. All Caps practices are open to the public, except those rare one or two times a year when they’re held at Verizon Center and free. Yes, FREE. The only charge you’ll have to pay is the $1 for the first three hours of parking during the week and only $1 all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Another bonus of going to Caps practice is that you can meet some of the players. I’ll have a more detailed post about that later, but for the time being, all you really need to know is that the Caps love their fans and that if you wait after practice, they’ll sign almost anything.

The schedule is pretty easy to remember. The Caps are on the ice at 10:00 a.m. on game days for a roughly half hour morning skate, 11:00 a.m. the days after a game and 10:30 a.m. on the other days unless otherwise specified.

The team practices at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. It’s conveniently right off the Ballston stop on the Orange Line on the Metro and is located on the top level of the Ballston Commons parking garage.