Have you ever looked at someone with a Caps jersey full of signatures and wondered how they got so many people to sign their shirt? I can tell you it takes a good bit of patience and time. I think my daughter is queen of autographs and pictures with players, so I thought I would share some of the dos and don’ts that I have learned from watching her and her friends over the years get pictures of their favorite players—like this one of Michael Latta. This first post will cover the “Do’s”. Part II will cover the don’ts, to be posted later.
The best place to meet your favorite player is Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. The best time is after practice, especially a weekday morning. Weekends, holidays, and school holidays often mean crowds of people and children and you will have to fight for an autograph or picture. Many of the players park on the roof and a few will park on the seventh floor at the far end near the stairwell.
Stand outside the main Capitals office entrance, but don’t go in. On the seventh floor, be sure to stand near the stairwell door. They usually park in the first two rows nearest the door. The Ballston Garage team may come by and try to get you to move along but for the most part they get what we are doing and leave us alone. Here are some “Do’s”:
- Remember that when you see the players at Kettler they are either coming into or leaving work. Their minds are often focused on practice or the game and probably on how to avoid all the people blocking the door!
- Come to practice. Come early and be ready to stay an hour or two after practice. Follow @CapitalsPR or Caps Today (email@example.com) for updates on practice times.
- There is a section near the benches and the media platform that is open to players as they leave the ice. Some will come over there to sign things. Taking pictures or selfies is hard there. Move in, get your signature and move out to let the person behind you get a chance. They are quick over there and may only sign those closest to the front. (Insert picture of group gathered )
- Be respectful of them when asking them to stop. Use their first name not their jersey name. Simple please and thank you go a long way with them, especially with Brooks Laich.
- Ask them if they would mind stopping and understand that they want you to be quick about it so don’t throw five things at them at once. Some will personalize your materials if you ask and if they have the extra time. They may not, however, if there is a swarm of people around timing is everything.
- Have your own Sharpie ready to hand to them. (Sharpie has a laundry permanent marker that works great for jerseys and t-shirts.)
- If you are having a jersey or t-shirt signed, hold the material tight for them so you can get a clean signature. Signatures last longer when they sign the red fabric rather than the white numbers if on a jersey t-shirt. Go for the white if you don’t have plans to wash your shirt!
- If you run into players at the club or eating out, let them finish their meal. You might stop and say hello as you pass by their table, but wait until they are leaving or outside the restaurant to ask them to pose for a photo. Most of them love taking a selfie with you, but remember; if they are out with their family for the evening they may not want to be interrupted.
We have had some great experiences meeting players before and after games. We had a chance to meet Justin Williams after his first practice and talk to him about moving back east and settling in. We talked about his time in LA with the Kings and told him how glad we were that he had joined the team. He said the practice was exhausting and that he and the family were settling in. He said he too was glad to be here.
On another occasion Karl Alzner was coming out on the seventh floor where there were about five brave fans standing around. We had been there about an hour waiting for the players to emerge when from behind the door Karl started up his Chevy truck with the remote start. All of us jumped a bit as he emerged from the stairwell laughing. Karl is one of the most gracious players when it comes to signing. He may run and put things in the truck and then come back for pictures. He will stay and chat as long as he can. And if you have a baby with you, he will start sharing child raising stories. Karl is an all-around great guy.
I hope this has helped you some. By-and-large the players love interacting with their fans. Remember to read their body language and don’t become upset with them or call them names when they can’t stop. They may have time to stop the next day and they may remember what you said as they walked away! As I said, it takes patience and endurance to get a jersey full of autographs without paying for their signatures. And since the Caps seem to provide fewer and fewer of those opportunities, Kettler may be your best bet for that perfect photo.
By Maggie Marcum