Photo: Washington Capitals
I may catch some flak for this, but I feel it needs to be said. I’ve been watching the Capitals for over 24 years, and have witnessed an incredible fan base blossom in support of a great organization. However, there are a few things I’d like to address to the awesome fans that come to Verizon Center to Rock the Red.
Although there are thousands that are still new and learning the game, we need not instill misguided and erroneous behavior while attending contests. I feel that over the span of the “Ovechkin era,” people who have grown to love the sport of hockey should know a bit better by now.
I cannot express this enough. Please, stay in your seat while the puck is in play. There is not one more infuriating thing than to have a group of 4 moseying back to their seats while the game is live. Verizon has GREAT sight lines and is an incredible venue to watch hockey, but that experience can only be achieved when your view isn’t obstructed by somebody’s behind. I can’t tell you how many great saves, hits, and goals I’ve missed over the years due to somebody’s paramount need to take a leak. Admittedly, I’ve lost my cool a couple times, even going as far as finding the usher and complaining to them. Call it petty, but people pay good money to see these games. Unfortunately, ushers can only (when they’re doing their job) prevent spectators from re-entering the seating areas, so it is up to other fans to spread the word and create awareness of this issue. A lot of people may not know this, but there are two intermissions, both a minimum of 15 minutes each! There are also commercial breaks and on average, over 50 faceoffs a game. It’s impossible to eliminate the issue completely, but if we simply let the audience know we are there to watch 60 minutes of hockey, it may help and create a broadened awareness.
Regarding the national anthem, OH! Say, did you know? Screaming “OH!” originated in a different city for a different sport, over 30 years ago. The Baltimore Orioles go by the O’s for short, so the chant was born in that city, during baseball games. It holds no relevance to Washington, and certainly no relevance to the Capitals. It will never stop, but just in case you were wondering, it doesn’t make any sense. This is just my opinion, but I’m not too fond on yelling anything during the anthem, but at least yelling “RED!” is marginally logical.
Photo: Washington Capitals
Speaking of group chants, there are a couple that have become grossly and inappropriately overused. Counting to “ONE!” and yelling “ALL YOUR FAULT!” at the opposing goalie makes us Caps fans look uninformed. I can understand if a goalie has had an awful night and given up 4 soft goals, which is how I believe this originated, but it has snowballed into a mundane and fruitless tradition that must be stopped. A friend of mine was at a game and the “all your fault” chant broke out after the Caps first goal. A Philly fan sitting next to him said “well that was dumb,” and I can’t argue with him. Is this the level of knowledge we want to portray to our rival fan bases? It also plays terribly when an NHL goalie gives up a goal on an odd man rush. Really, it’s HIS fault? Not to sound like an elitist, but it’s almost embarrassing. When it comes to heckling goalies, there is no shame in using what is unique to the sport!
Another one that’s become worn out and used incorrectly is the “WHO CARES” chant after an opposing team scores a goal. The chant came about when the Caps would be up by say, a score of 5-1, and a tally against them was meaningless. This made complete sense, and it was a fun way to remind opposing fans to peep the scoreboard. Who cares when the bad guys score a goal to tie the game or better yet, take the lead? Well, if there was anything to care about, it would be that. Why wouldn’t you? Especially as somebody who’s in the building enough to know the chant, it’s mildly disappointing. I think a simple gathering of “boo’s” would suffice instead of such a misapplied acknowledgement. Tradition is great, and Capitals fans have some awesome tendencies, but this is not one of them.
I’ve noticed more recently that some fans are looking down on newer hockey spectators, labeling them as “bandwagon.” As a longtime Caps fan, I can partially understand the frustration, but if you look at attendance records up until Mr. Ovechkin was drafted, there are not many that have the right to condemn those people. I can tell you right now, that in 2006 when it was still MCI Center, the Caps had about a quarter at best of the following they have now. “I’ve been here since the beginning, ra, ra, ra!” Ok, that’s great, but most were “bandwagon” fans at some point. We should be embracing the newest supporters and helping them along the way to become knowledgeable viewers. Organizations live off the fan base, and instead of creating a volatile mindset towards baby hockey fans, let’s welcome them, and teach them the ways of the good ole’ hockey game. It is the best game you can name, after all. Wouldn’t it be great if we could break the reputation of Washington being a bad sports town?
At the end of the day, I am still ecstatic with the way the local population has come to love the Washington Capitals, but I do believe it is time to start polishing.
By Brennan Reidy