The main reason the Washington Capitals have always been my favorite sports franchise is that the vast majority of people reading this didn’t care about them when I was growing up.
My father worked with a guy who had a second job at the old Caps Arena, and because the building was almost never full back in those days, Tommy would regularly call us up and say, “If you guys can get here before the puck drops in 45 minutes, I have three tickets for you at will call.”
We’d rush to Landover, pick up the comped tickets, and find ourselves one or two rows from the glass. My family couldn’t afford season tickets, but because the Capitals typically fell in the category of “solid, but unspectacular,” I spent a large chunk of my youth rooting for D.C.’s fourth most popular sports franchise. The Caps fell behind the football team, the Bullets, and even the Baltimore Orioles.
While I could regale you with stories about 10-year-old me fighting to stay awake long enough to see which team won the Easter Epic (spoiler alert: it wasn’t the Capitals) or about the time, while in the U.S. Army, I got permission from my drill sergeant to miss curfew and attend what turned out to be a quadruple overtime loss to the hated Pittsburgh Penguins in ’96, this isn’t about me.
Sure, I’ve loved the Caps since helmets were optional and a goalie’s gear didn’t take up the entire net, but I’m the first to admit that things are much more enjoyable these days. Having the building packed with passionate and vocal fans who actually care about the home team has made the last decade so much better—even if I have to pay for my tickets now.
So I’ve put together a guide for bandwagon fans. Before you take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of Stanley Cup Finals tickets, do us all a favor and familiarize yourself with the basics about your Washington Capitals.
- If you’re going to support this franchise, the first thing you should know—even before you try to comprehend the rules of the game—is that everyone in this town wears red. It isn’t optional. It isn’t up for debate. If you show up wearing anything other than a red t-shirt or jersey, everyone in the building will think less of you. If you’re going to “Rock the Red,” then “Rock the Red.”
- What your choice in Caps jersey says about you: If you sport an Alex Ovechkin sweater, you’re either a 6-year-old or a bandwagon fan who came directly from Dick’s Sporting Goods. If you don a Braden Holtby, you dig the quiet, brooding type. And vampire movies, probably. If you wear a Christian Djoos jersey … you’re related to Christian Djoos.
- Hockey is the original hipster sport, so while other games are broken up into things that make sense, namely halves or quarters, hockey has three periods. Look, we all know it’s completely ridiculous, but we’ve learned to accept it and move on. It has something to do with the Canadian exchange rate or the whales in Hartford. Or something.
- Find a primer online explaining offside and icing. Knowing these will help you understand the flow of the game, and actually understanding what is and isn’t icing will put you ahead of most of the crowd, and many of the linesmen.
- Never in the history of our country has it been more popular in D.C. to love all things Russian. Lucky for you, the local hockey team features some of the best talent Mother Russia has to offer in Dmitry Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and the Russian Machine himself, Alex Ovechkin.
To read the rest of this column, head over to the Washington City Paper’s website.