Category Archives: Capitals

Winter Classic 2011: Our Roadtrip Recap

What a day for a hockey game!

Bright and early on the first day of the new decade P, Red, Josh and I all climbed into the minivan and headed up to Pittsburgh for the 2011 Winter Classic.  We had been looking forward and planning this trip from the day it was announced that the Caps and the Pens would be playing outside on New Years Day.  To say we were excited would be the understatement of the year (both old and new).

The game alone was enough to have us talking and dreaming about it all year long but over the last few weeks the excitement was amped up a thousand percent.  With HBO’s killer documentary series 24/7 showing the “Road to the Winter Classic” we could barely contain ourselves.  The series started out showing our beloved Caps at their lowest low and the hated Penguins at their highest high.  That first episode was enough to make even the most optimistic Caps fans hang their heads and start to prepare themselves for the fact that playing on the biggest stage the NHL had to offer might not be the best thing at this time.

But thankfully, over the last few weeks, the Caps had started to turn the corner with wins in 4 out of the last 5 and the only loss was the shootout loss to the Pens.  I think that was the first time that I had ever come away with a loss feeling great about the team.  We had outplayed the Penguins for almost the entire game and losing in a shootout (which I still think has no business ending any regular season contest) was fine by me.  We really looked like we were ready to take them on.  The optimism was returning.

Then the weather reports started coming in.  For the week before we were dreading the news and each day the outlook grew worse and worse.  Weather in the 50s and rain in the forecast had all of us banging our heads against the walls.  Was the game going to be able to even be played at all?  After all this anticipation would the game be called off?  Our hourly checks of the weather for the entire week was just getting us more and more nervous.  But then, on New Years Eve, the announcement came that the start time of 1pm had been pushed back to 8pm.  I know I stood up and cheered as I watched the announcement on the NHL Network.  This was the first time in my life where hearing about something I was so excited about had been postponed and it was a good thing.

Not only did this mean that we wouldn’t have to get up at 5am on New Years Day to drive up to Pittsburgh but it meant we would be playing at primetime under the lights.  We were all ready to be asleep by around 10 and ring in the New Year with snores but now we could drink it up and enjoy the night.  We already had a low-key affair planned and we stuck to it but we did have a few more drinks than we had planned and got to see Dick Clark (poor poor Dick Clark.  Dude, you really need to call it quits ringin’ in the New Year on television.  It is quite depressing) pathetically count down as the ball dropped in Times Square.

We were all up bright and early and had smooth sailing all the way up to Pittsburgh. I don’t think I have ever seen P so nervous though.  He was complaining about the butterflies and feeling sick for the entire trip.  The anticipation inside the van was almost tangible.

We were in Pittsburgh for all of 5 minutes before the first verbal assaults started.  We were just standing outside the hotel starting to unload the bags when no less that 6 cars drove by hurling insults at all of us standing around in our Caps gear.  I have never been called a faggot more times in such a short period of time in my life.  But we basked in their taunts and (for the most part) just let them wash over us without firing  shots back at them.

It was quickly apparent that our fears of showing up and being one of a few Caps fans in attendance were unfounded.  Everywhere we looked there were Caps fans.  We were starting to feel like this was going to be something really special and it was confirmed when we read this article in the Post:

“For one weekend in Pittsburgh, it was hard to ignore how much progress the franchise has already made. Washington sports fans are famously thin-skinned about the never-ending fan invasions staged by opposing teams, with Pittsburgh’s Penguins and Steelers particularly enthusiastic trespassers.

On this weekend, though, the streets of Pittsburgh were thick with young Washington area residents wearing red jerseys and chanting for their team. Security employees at the Hofbrauhaus – a downtown bar – said on New Year’s Eve that they had never seen as many visiting fans, for any team, in any sport.

“You can’t turn a corner without seeing a handful of [Capitals fans], on every corner,” said Howard Frame, 38, a Capitals fan since 1986. “You walk into any bar or restaurant and it’s like the Red Army’s invaded.”

And it was so true.  There were Caps fans everywhere.  It was amazing.  Really, it was the first time ever where my chest was puffed out with pride by the fans of my team.  To see this much support for a team that could barely give away their tickets a few years ago was just something that made all of us beam.

We tried to sit in the hotel room and rest up a bit before the game but soon found out that was an impossibility.  We were just too antsy to hang out and do nothing.  So we packed up all our game gear and headed over to the Rivers Casino for the last few hours before the gates opened.  We figured that we could get some drinks and work off a little of our edginess.  P and Red both tried their hands at the tables while Josh and I wandered around with blank stares.  One thing that wasn’t hard to notice though was the amount of Caps jerseys in the casino.  In every direction you looked there were friendlies.  It was great to be able to walk around behind enemy lines with your gear on and really not have to worry about being jumped by some drunk Pens fan.  There were just too many of us…we were everywhere.

We all had a feeling that the hockey gods were on our side even before we made it into the Casino.  As we were making our way up the parking garage to find a place to park they closed off the 7th level on the car right before us.  So we followed behind a the Victory Security Guard up to the 8th level of the garage which just happened to be the Red level.  So we followed Victory to Red 8.  This game was going to be ours.

Soon it was time for the gates to open.  We went back to the van and packed on our winter gear in anticipation of the falling temperatures and then headed over to Heinz Field.  The walk over was filled with good natured banter back and forth between the fans from both teams and everyone was in a great mood.  It was actually quite impressive how well everyone was behaving.  For the most part the Pens fans were cordial and the Caps fans weren’t as “dicky” as most of the visiting fans are when they come to DC.

Game time was so close we could taste it.

We made our way to our seats and could not have been happier.  They were really great seats and as we looked around we noticed that our section was dominated by Caps fans.  Awesome.  As the crowd slowly made their way to their seats we could see Red everywhere.  Every section had big red blotches mixed in among the black and blue Pens fans.  And when the National Anthem was being sung it was readily apparent that we were there in force.  The “RED” shout seemed louder than it ever does at Verizon.

I think that my voice was already starting to go before the first period was even half way gone.

When Erskine and Rupp dropped the gloves, all 68,111 screaming fans were on their feet.  When Erskine beat up on Rupp and made him quit the fight by calling in the linesman the entire Caps contingent exploded.  But when Malkin scored so quickly into the 2nd period the Caps fans were quickly drowned out by the bloodthirsty Pens fans.

But scores by Fehr and Knuble before the 2nd was out had the Caps fans going absolutely nuts.  And we never looked back.

What we really couldn’t believe was that Styx was playing between the 2nd and 3rd.  Styx?  Really?  That is the band that Steelers fan’s use to get pumped up on game day.  Wow.  I mean, I guess it works but Wow.

When Fehr got his second of the night in the 3rd period on a breakaway the game was pretty much over.  The only thing left to do was wear out what was left of my voice cheering as loudly as I could.  It was great to look around and see all of the Pens fans with that dejected look that we are so used to when playing these guys.

Even the 3 hours it took to get out of the parking garage after the game couldn’t put a damper on our spirits.

Can’t wait to watch that final episode of 24/7 on Wednesday.  Even if I wasn’t a fan of the Caps this would have been such a great series.  The team that was just painful to watch in the majority of the first two episodes comes back to beat up on the NHL darlings in the final episode.  This is what great sports movies are made of.

Even the food tasted better after that win.  My Steak, Potato, Eggs and 2 orders of Bacon were just delicious at the Cracker Barrel as we drove home.

Here is to hoping that this New Year is as good as that first day.  Let’s Go Caps!

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1/1/11 … Almost here.

Can’t.  Fucking.  Wait.

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Caps vs Flyers: How Suite It Was…

Last minute changes in plans last night lead Deb and I to a whole lot of fun at the Verizon Center.  P and Red called me up and let me know that he had a couple of extra tickets if we wanted to go to see the Caps play the Flyers last night.  We weren’t all that sure if we wanted to ditch our existing plans and go at first… that was until P explained the tickets to us.   The tickets that he had were for a suite that were given to him from Mrs. Boudreau (the coach’s wife for those of you who don’t know).  So once we heard about the suite we decided that going to a Caps game and having our own little box was a chance that wasn’t going to come around every day so we had to go for it.

P’s job as a bartender at one of the better restaurants in DC pays off so many times and I have no qualms with enjoying the fruits of his labor.  I really do think this was the night where I became to spoiled to enjoy going to a hockey game in any other way.  Being able to stand up when you want to, walk around when you want to and have our own bathroom was just too good.  Seriously, the Caps scored a goal and I just had to run to the can and I was back in my seat in about 45 seconds.  That is priceless.

The game was an incredible one even though we didn’t come away with the win.  But the Caps were on the backend of back-to-back nights and they looked pretty sluggish for most of the game… especially Ovechkin.  I don’t think I have seen him look much worse.  Usually leaving a game with a loss feels bad but in this case I was actually happy that we left with at least a point.  And you don’t get many more exciting games.  Coming back from down 3-1 to tie it and then coming back to tie it again at 4…it was crazy, crazy stuff.  I still haven’t regained all of my voice.  We didn’t look particularly good in the shoot-out but hey, a point is a point and we are still in First place…so it isn’t all bad.

But we really had a great time at the game.  So thanks for having us hitch a ride for the fun, P.  Hopefully there will be at least one game this season where there isn’t a kid sitting right next to us so you can let all of the F-bombs fly without the dirty looks that accompany them.

Lets Go Caps!  Only 41 days until the Winter Classic.

Watching the Game From the Suite

The View from the Suite

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Caps are the best team in the NHL. Skins suck. Wizards Suck. Nats Suck. Can you guess which of these teams is the hardest to find on TV?

Last night I was fuming at right around 6:59pm.  When I sat down to watch the Capitals and turned on our local Comcast Sportnet channel only to find that the Wizards were being broadcast instead of the Caps.  My first thought was that the game must be on Versus tonight so I tuned into Versus only to find that the game being shown there was the Bruins vs Rangers game.

WTF?  Where was the Caps game being shown?  I started trying to navigate through the FIOS guide and gave up after a few minutes of trying to find the game anywhere on that clusterfuck (I really do hate the way that “guide” works).  I tried to use my TV Guide app on my phone…no luck there.  I then grabbed the Post to take a look there…OK, I found that the game was on something called Comcast SportsnetPlus.  WTF is that?  It isn’t listed anywhere on any guide.  It is like some made-up channel that doesn’t exist.  Was this some kind of joke?

After another 5 minutes of just scanning through channel after channel I finally find the game.  FINALLY.  So I kick back with my drink in hand and settle in to watch the game when I realize that the game, while being broadcast on an HD channel, is not in HD.  Again, WTF?  Trying to watch any hockey game on Comcast that isn’t in TV is like trying to watch the game through a haze.  It is like they spread Vaseline on the lens of every camera to make the game some kind of visual challenge.

Once again, being a Caps fan in this town just means you want to punch someone from Comcast right in the dick.  Last night was just one more night of showing the fans where they rank in the eyes of our local Sportsnet channel.  The only team in town with any skill is relegated to the Where’s Waldo channel while the Wall-less suckhole Wizards get top billing…again.  So those people that enjoy watching Thugball were lucky enough to see the Wiz get blown out by 31 points in beautiful High Definition.  That is right, 31 points.  I guess the Wiz wanted to prove they could almost be as embarrassing as the Redskins.

Meanwhile, over on the Non-HD, Blurry-as-Fuck “Plus” Channel the Capitals win yet another game in front of yet another sold out home arena to improve to 10-1 on home ice.  Oh and the Caps also just added a couple more points last night to improve on their league leading point total.  The hottest ticket in town is a ticket to a Caps game and yet the team still gets no respect when it comes to broadcast air time.

So the best team in the NHL and the only winning franchise in town has to take the backseat to the bottom feeding Wizards…again.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when this happens anymore but I really did think that the winning ways of the Caps would change the dynamic here in town.  I guess the DC metro is just happier watching a couple of teams of overpaid losers.

Oh well at least the Winter Classic is only a little more than a month away. (BTW, the video on that link is awesome)

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Let’s Go Caps! Games 1-3

The Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There really isn’t anything else like it throughout the rest of the sports world.  The NFL has the “one and done” playoff race.  The NBA doesn’t even count in my book anymore;  nothing more than ghetto thugs wrapped in millions of dollars and tattoos.  MLB is pretty close but unless they suddenly institute some rule changes that make hitting legal in baseball it will never quite measure up.  If you watched any of the Game 3 matchup between Vancouver and LA then you know what I am talking about…I really thought someone was gonna end up dead and there would be brains all over the ice before the end of the second period.

Playoff hockey is just a whole different game than the regular season.  Everyone finishes their checks (well, almost everyone….right Mike Green?) and you can feel the intensity in your seat, whether it be in your living room or in the stadium.  Every shot on goal, every save, every drop of the puck is just magnified and sometimes you catch yourself sitting on the edge of your seat and having to remind yourself to breathe.  I fucking love it.

The Caps, for the first time ever, have gone into the playoffs with the #1 overall seed and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.  As Game 4 looms on the horizon, here are my recollections about Games 1-3:

Game 1

The opening game of the playoff series against Montreal.  Red and Supe invited us (by us i mean me and D) over to watch the game and have some dinner.  I threw on the old Pivo jersey and headed over to their place to have a few drinks and get into the spirit.  D wasn’t leaving work until right around gametime so she was going to be a bit late for the start of the game and just going to meet me there.  Red, as usual, made her phenomenal jalapenos wrapped in bacon to start on as we watched the first period.  I absolutely LOVE these things.

The game was exciting through 2 periods being tied at 1 (This is about when D showed up from work).  We really starting going nuts in the 3rd period when, just 47 seconds into the period, Nick Backstrom put the Caps ahead 2-1.  We knew it was just a matter of time til we put the Habs in their place.  After that goal Supe went outside to start the grill so that Red could throw the steaks on that she had been marinating all day.  We were going to enjoy these steaks now because everything always tastes better when you wash it down with victory.

But fortune does not always favor the bold.  Just as Red put the steaks on the grill Scott Gomez scored the goal to tie up the game.  Grrrrrr….and that is how the regulation game ended tied at 2.

Just before the Overtime was about to start Red served up the amazing steaks, a cheesy potato dish of some sort and some really good corn concoction with cherry tomatoes in there.  We all sat down and started to dig in just as the puck dropped on the OT.  Everyone was sitting around chatting and leisurely enjoying the meal as the OT was underway…well everyone that is but me.  I was cutting and chewing, chewing and cutting and trying to quickly devour my meal.  I think I finished in record time too.  When I was done with my steak I raised my hands over my head as if victorious.  Everyone looked at me like I was crazy.  I then proceeded to explain that the steak was too good to waste.  This brought more quizzical looks.  I told them that all it takes is one mistake to lead to an overtime goal for the Habs and if you are sitting there with half a steak sitting on your plate if we lose you will regret it.   The steak will lose all of it’s flavor and your appetite will be gone.  This brought laughter and ridicule for a couple minutes.   And then Montreal scored.

F U Plekanec.  Oh and Supe couldn’t finish his steak either…

Game 2

Simply put…one of the best playoff games I have ever seen.  This time D, Supe, Red and I all were at the game.  And to be at the stadium and in the incredible seats we were in (First row, club level, center ice…Thanks again Red) was just amazing.  Coming back from being down 4-1 is next to impossible in the regular season and you pretty much need Divine Intervention to come back from that deficit in the playoffs.  But the “Cardiac Caps” did it again.  With a phenomenal effort by Nicky Backstrom.  Yeah, that is me over there on the left right after Nicky scored to tie it up at 4.  I was sitting right next to the camera man and he snuck that shot of me…had I known I was on TV I  would have done more than just stand there pumping my fist and saying “YES! YES! YES!”.  You an click that link to see the video of the goal and me cheering like a foo’.

Going into OT in two straight games is pretty scary during the playoffs.  We were all on the edge of our seats for the start of the overtime and were so glad that we hadn’t got up during the intermission.  Usually we are up and about..whether that is in the can or over at the Acela Club to grab a quick smoke and that almost always means we miss the first minute or so of play making our way back to our seats.  I was so thankful that we didn’t do that this time as 31 seconds into the OT Nicky scored that third goal for the hat trick and the game winner.  As soon as Nicky scored, Supe and I looked right at each other for about 2 seconds and with each of us giving the other just the slightest of nods we launched our hats towards the ice.  It wasn’t until later that I realized that was my favorite Caps hat but it was well worth sacrificing that hat to the Hockey Gods for that win.  Here is just a little of the celebration after that goal and you can see all the hats littering the ice.

My boy Rob texted me, from up in Maine, during the 3rd to say he say me on TV and so after Nicky ended the game I tried to call him to let him hear the madness.  It was so loud, even taking the phone outside in the streets, with all the Caps cheers I couldn’t even hear him at all.  It was an incredible game and one that I can’t thank Red enough for taking us along.

Game 3

The series moves up to Montreal for Game 3.  We move back over to Supe and Red’s to watch the game (this time D was going to sit the game out and stay at home and avoid the drunks for a night) and grub it up.  As the game started I just remember Supe bitching about Boyd Gordon being back in the lineup and Steckel being a healthy scratch.  If there is one thing I have learned over the years of being friends with Supe it is that once he starts on the “I hate this player” groove that player is going to have an incredible night.  And sure enough Gordon gets the first goal of the night….and it is even a freakin’ shorty.  Not only that but he also wins 13 of 15 faceoffs and was one of the best players on the ice all night.  Thanks Supe.

Speaking of luck….in the middle of the first period Woody made it to the house to watch the game.  He has a lucky rubber chicken that he takes with him to every game.  He was telling us all about this little kid sitting in front of him during Game 2 that started feeding popcorn to his chicken because, “It looks hungry” when the score was 4-3.  The Caps scored to tie it and the Woody and the rest of his buddies in his section were telling the kid to keep feeding the chicken so the kid kept feeding it popcorn and the Caps kept scoring.  So when the first period of Game 3 ended tied up at 0-0 Woody went out to his car to get the chicken.  When he brought the chicken in and it was fed some chips what do you think happened?  The Caps exploded for 4 goals in the second period.  Go figure….that chicken really fucking works.

Game 3 was all about the Grinders.  With goals by Boyd, Laich, Fehr and Bradley the Caps really came alive.  Those 3rd and 4th lines really were the difference in the game as they played like their playoff lives depended on it.  And with Boudreau having the difficult task of having to scratch healthy players alot of those guys are fence sitters and you could tell none of them wanted to be scratched for Game 4.  Oh and not to forget Ov’s goal…it was classic Ovechkin.  He started off his entry in the zone with 3 Habs all over him and then all of the sudden he is all alone in the slot and unleashing a laser beam one timer from Nicky while falling onto his knees.  That kid continues to amaze.

So Game 4 is on the horizon.  Do we go ahead 3-1 and come back to the Phone Booth ready to close it down in 5 or do the Habs show up and make it a series?  I guess we will see tonight.  I can’t wait.

LET’S GO CAPS!

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Eamus Catuli (and Let’s Go Caps!!)

Being a Cubs fan in the DC area is often just one more reason for anyone (and pretty much everyone) to take jabs at me.  I have even been in situations, especially at my job at the Old Studio, where my co-workers (that couldn’t tell you the difference between a Homerun and a Touchdown) would make fun of my beloved Cubbies.  Even people that have never watched a game and have never once opened a sports page know enough to exploit my pain.  But unlike the Bandwagon fandom that is the DC area, I have always stuck by my Cubbies and Caps through thick and thin….but unfortunately it is mostly thin.  Once again the cold of winter recedes and April is upon us; full of hope and promise as we enter another season of Cubbies baseball and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With only 4 games left on the schedule and a 7 point separation between the Caps and the Sharks the President’s Trophy is pretty much a done deal.  The Caps have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up and The Great 8, if not for his 2 suspensions, would be have been a lock for both the Hart and the Art Ross trophies.

This is such a great time to be a Capitals fan too.  It used to suck when the Pens, Ranger and Flyers were in town as half of the crowd or more would be fans from those opposing teams.  It doesn’t happen anymore.  The Phone booth is almost entirely Red now no matter who is here to play.  Even weekday games against shitty teams like Atlanta are sold out and the fans are going crazy during the entire game.  We are ready for the playoffs…and after two years in a row of really heartbreaking exits from the tournament…we are ready for it all.  Lord Stanley is coming to DC this year.

But the Caps take a back seat today because….

Hey, Hey Whatta ya say?  Opening day is finally here!!!

Is this finally the end of our motto being “Wait til next year”?  I seriously doubt it.  But with 162 games ahead of us you really never know.  The Cubbies have 13 new faces on the 25 man opening day roster.  Pretty hard to imagine going the distance with over half of your players new to the team.  But on the bright side…one of those 25 isn’t that waste of space Milton Bradley.

I can’t believe that the games here in DC aren’t until the last week of August though.  I really do hope they are games that still mean something that late into the season to make the games even more fun than usual.  It has been great having the Nationals here the last few years and getting those 3 or 4 games every year.  You would be amazed at the amount of Cubs fans in the metro area.

With the first pitch being just 5 hours away I could not help but try to start the indoctrination of my nephew:

Eamus Catuli!  Let’s make this a great year.

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I hate Dallas. :(

Two weeks ago I got the call from Super P saying that he had an extra ticket to the Capitals game.  The game was versus the Stars though.  Supe’s wife, Red, is a big Stars fan.  She is 99.9% of the time one of the coolest women on the planet but not during a Caps game where she is going to be cheering for the Stars.  Luckily, Supe and I had really good seats down almost right up against the glass on the end where the Caps shoot in the 1st and 3rd periods.   Meanwhile, Red and her group of 3 sat up in their usual seats (which are pretty freaking good seats too…I mean, front row, club level and center ice are not too shabby at the Phone Booth) and you could just glance up and easily see where they were because of her lone white Dallas sweater in amongst the sea of red.

In the middle of the 1st period there was a shot that left the ice and went up into the netting.  Everyone sitting around us lost the puck in the lights and nobody knew where it went.  Then…and I shit you not…the freakin’ puck plops right down between my back and my seat.  Unfortunately, because I had Blimpie the Whale in her Parka sitting next to me, I couldn’t get my arms around to grab the puck before some punk 8 year old horked it right off of my back.  Fuckin’  Kid.  Been to countless baseball games with never a foul ball coming my way and I can’t even count the amount of hockey games with no pucks ever even close to my section…and I lose this one because Orca next to me with her third order of Nachos and her Nanook of the North parka.  Grrrr.

It was a fun game through 2 periods with the Caps up 2-0 but we just fell apart in the 3rd.  Giving up 3 straight goals to lose the lead just plain sucked.  Luckily Ovechkin got his second goal of the night to force the OT but didn’t produce anything there.   Being up close for the shootout was pretty nice though…Here is Nicky’s Goal in the shootout (and that is Supe losing his shit and shaking the hell out of me and the camera).

Unfortunately that was the only one we got.  😦  Fucking Turco and his 52 save night.

Fucking Dallas ended up winning.  So we headed down to the Capital Grille to get a post game drink and a bit to eat.  What came out of the kitchen for our table really cracked me up.  Gotta give it up for the guys in the kitchen:

Dallas does indeed suck.

Still was a fun night.  Thanks to Supe and Red for the invite.

Now …  GET OFF MY LAWN!!

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