One of the perks of being a Washington Capitals season ticket holder (STH) is the annual Member Party at Six Flags, located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The Caps returned to the park after skipping it last year to devote their attention to the Winter Classic. The players roam freely with their families and then sign autographs at designated spots throughout the park for about an hour. It’s a free night for fans to take in select rides, eat free food, and hang out with the players for a few hours.
It was a beautiful October night made perfect with the anticipation of Caps fans for the start of the new season. Outside the park some 425 faithful fans waited in line for a wristband that would later garner them Alex Ovechkin’s signature. As we entered the park, there was a huge sign welcoming us. We waited about an hour for the gates to open while the players and their families had a chance to go on the rides before the fans entered. As 6;00 pm arrived, we rushed ahead to find the spots for our favorite players. Fans had sticks, shirts, pucks, and one lady even had a guitar she has had players sign over her 17 years as a STH. As usual, we were on the hunt for players and more pictures to add to our collection. It was a perfect night for some candid shots of the players off the ice.
Most of the rides were up and running and loaded with laughing and screaming fans. I loved hearing young kids running up to their parents, so excited that they had ridden the rollercoaster with Ovi or seen another player walking around.
When we first walked in, we ran into Brooks Laich and his lovely fiancé, Julianne Hough. She was in the process of trading places with Andre Burakovsky on the Dare Devil Dive. Marcus Johansson was watching as Andre suited up and I asked him if he was going next. He laughed and said “not a chance!” With that, they hoisted Brooks and Andre up the pole and launched them into a freefall. It wasn’t long before Alex Ovechkin and his brother took the plunge themselves. (Check out our Facebook page for the videos. Especially the one with Alex laughing and his brother screaming!)
It was a family night for most of the players. Among the couples we saw were Ovechkin and his fiancé, Nastya Shubskaya; Brooks Laich with his fiancé Julianne; and TJ Oshie with his wife Lauren and their beautiful daughter walking through the park, stopping on occasion to greet fans. Dmitry Orlov’s long-time girlfriend Varvara Amosova was seen walking with Nastya and friends. We ran into Jason Chimera, his wife Sarah, and their children running from one ride to another. And in a special moment of signing autographs by Justin Williams, he introduced his wife Kelly to my daughter Brittney and his son talked about what it was like moving from California to Virginia. Brooks and Juliann win the award for cutest couple as they were seen holding hands and skipping toward their next ride.
The longest line for autographs was the one with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. Wilson drew lots of squeals from the ladies—young and old—obviously the “hottest” attraction in the park. Although we didn’t see every autograph table, the ones we did stop by had plenty of happy fans joking and encouraging the players. One of the high points of our night was meeting Juliann Hough. She very graciously agreed to take a picture with Brittney and then took a few more with a couple more fans before Caps security stepped in to protect her from the growing throng of adoring fans.
It was a memorable night seeing the players and fans interacting as part of one community. As we dragged out of the park, we were thankful for the wonderful weather and this great community that came together for a night of fun. It was nice to meet other fans and to hear their stories about getting pictures and autographs. One woman told us she had come in from Colorado just for tonight. Now that is a dedicated fan! Everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunity and while we many not always thrilled with the price for season tickets, most of us love this one aspect of supporting the team.
Next up: October 10th and the Red Carpet event outside Verizon to celebrate the start of a new season—one that we hope ends with our guys raising the cup!!
By Maggie Marcum