Tale of Two Cities: Washington versus Philadelphia

Image: Bleacher Report

opinion Opinion, as ‘they’ say, is simply a matter of perspective. So who better to compare the Eastern Conference rivals better than the guy that lives in neither city and is currently writing from another continent all together? Quite a perspective eh…!

Guten Morgen Alles, from scenic Frankfurt, Germany on the first day of the playoffs for the Capitals. The NHL has a decent following in Europe, which is no shock as many players hail from European roots. So far in the past week I have noticed sportswear touting San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and even Arizona Coyotes. But fear not Capitals fans, I’ve brought some red-rocking apparel to this Olde World place, and will be watching live albeit at 2am. Lass uns gehen Kapitals!!!

Frankfurt, Washington DC, and Philadelphia couldn’t be much more different. So I’ll leave this 1st century European trading post for a bit and focus on comparing the NHL rivals, Philly and Washington. Tonight Round 1 of the playoffs begins, with these two familiar foes facing-off. Let’s get it on!

Geography and Statistics:

Philadelphia was founded by William Penn in 1682, and is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Oddly enough (if you think about it) Philly boasts as the 5th most populous city in the U.S. Currently with a population (counting the outlying counties) Philly is occupied by roughly 2 million ravenous Flyer fanatics (when you factor in the entire Delaware Valley region, that number soars to almost 7 million). Philadelphia is considered a Northeastern town, and it sits at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, serving as the economic and cultural anchor of the Delaware Valley.

Philly (the city) has been around quite a while, and the Flyers joined the local fabric in 1967 as a part of early NHL expansion. Despite being relatively new to the league the bruising Broad Street Bullies intimidated their way to two Stanley Cup Championships in ’73-’74, and ’74-’75 (and in this regard holds a distinct edge over the Cup-less Capitals). The Flyers call the Wells Fargo Center home, and sport their classic Orange, Black, and White under the watchful eye of head coach Dave Hakstol.

Philly has always been known to be an imposing hockey team, bringing a line-up of fearless and heavy-hitting players. In general the slightly more blue-collar game of the Flyers has always been a good representation of a hard-working lunch pail town.

Photo: Andy Marlin/Getty Images

One the other end of the ice will be the Capitals hailing from Washington, D.C. Originally approved for government use, the District of Columbia was outlined in 1790 under the signing of the Residence Act. The intention was to give the seat of government a place to do business, create legislation, and live during Congressional sessions. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which was named in honor of founding father George Washington. With the city to serve as the new national capital. Until 1846 the residents of D.C. were very few in number and most served some role in Congress. Once the District was officially annexed in 1871 it quickly rose to be a legislative and commercial hub along the mid-Atlantic region. D.C. currently boasts about 750,000 residents within the city and almost 7 million in the greater Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, and DC areas (the DMV as we love to call it).



Much later on, after the buildings, the historical landmarks, museums, and paved roads, the fine folks of DC laid down some ice for a hockey team. Well, actually, the Capitals started play in Maryland for quite a while, playing mostly in Landover (just around the Capital Beltway), but they moved to the current home of Verizon Center on December 5th, 1997. The Capitals were added to the NHL at a time when the league was exploding onto the national sports scene. The NHL had expanded from the Original Six to 12 teams in the 1960’s, then to 18 with the Capitals and KC Scouts (via Colorado Rockies, now NJ Devils). These expansion years were rough on the Capitals, not quite having the early success that Philly found, and still the Capitals (currently coached by Barry Trotz) are searching for that first glorious Stanley Cup win.

Food and Drink:

I am going to give the edge here to Philly. (Sorry DC, I do love you…though Cups trump all).



This fight boils down to Philly’s famous cheesesteaks, sliced meat hoagies, soft pretzels, and deep fried potato treats versus the “finer” D.C. cuisine of steak and chop houses, world cuisines, and gastropubs. This may not be a fair comparison, as the Old Italian settler communities within Philly and its surrounding areas brought with them the cured meats, mother sauces, and saltified tastes of the homeland. While D.C. has been a veritable melting pot of cultures for over 100 years and really is not home to any one dominating cuisine. Both towns have well-documented micro brews, brew houses, bars, pubs, and fine establishments for tipping a pint and fighting for your favorite team. Given that a three-block walk around Verizon Center could yield about 400 different eating venues, and unless you’re tailgating or eating from a food truck it may be quite a walk to food options in and around Wells Fargo Center.

Food and Drink near the venues…edge to the Capitals and DC. Eat your hearts out Philly!

The Sports Teams:


NBC Sports

When it comes down to loyalty, love, and bleeding your colors both cities stack up pretty well against each other. Washington first…because. We certainly know all about the beloved red, white, and blue Capitals; but also hanging around Verizon Center are the ever interesting Washington Wizards (eh, Bullets), the Washington Mystics, and the Georgetown University Hoyas. Also captivating hearts of the DC Metro region are the Washington Indigenous Persons (aka Redskins) of the NFL, the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball, and some folks would kill me if I didn’t mention the Baltimore Orioles (also of the MLB), and finally the wildly popular DC United of Major League Soccer.

Since their founding many Washington area sports teams have won Championships, though not so much as of late. However, the Redskins, United, Orioles, and Wiz-Bullets have all claimed their league’s top trophies at least once. Though not the Caps.

As we’ve mentioned those Flyers of Philly have brought glory to their city twice in their history; and they are flanked with Brotherly Love by the Eagles of the NFL, the 76’ers of the NBA, the Phillies of Major League Baseball, and the Union of the MLS.

Considering that the Washington and Philly rivalry is pretty even in regarding to Championship frustrations over the past couple decades (though the Phillies were the last between the two cities to win)…

Edge to DC, because the Mystics have been attendance champs (they raised a banner saying this)!

The Fans:

One last area of comparison in this light-hearted city to city view before I leave you, the fans.

It’s widely known that Verizon Center is a friendly and hockey-loving arena where even opposing fans can see a game, wear their jerseys and not fear for their lives. I am not sure the same can be said of Philly and the Wells Fargo Center, as once seeing a Peter Bondra hat trick and Capitals 5-1 win on Philly turf required I find police escort out of the parking lot. I think seven guys named Tony followed me in a fleet of Camaro’s while I hustled back towards the District at mach 1. So edge to DC for being a friendlier place.

And while we’re talking ‘bout practice…practice? Okay, sorry…I got distracted there. While we’re talkin’ bout fans…let’s not forget those brotherly loving Philly Phans that pelted poor Santa Claus with ice balls at an NFL game years back. The same fans that assaulted a crew of NFL referees post-game, and the same Philly fans that once rioted outside a 76’ers game in the 80’s and lit a car on fire. Edge to DC here too.

Let’s face the facts that we can compare cities all day long. Where it really counts is on the ice. I’m a Caps fan, my audience in heavily favoring the Washington Capitals, and I’m going to sum this piece up with…

Philly fans hate Santa, and they can take those cheesesteaks and choke on them. Edge to DC on the ice, and off… LET’S GO CAPS!!

By Scott Zweibel

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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