Photos provided by Joe Masson
Here at NoVa Caps we love to profile special Caps fans. 18,506 fill the Verizon Center nightly whenever there’s a hockey game. Many of these fans have great stories on how they became a fan and how much the team means to them. Today, I caught up with Joe Masson from my hometown of Sterling, VA who has a sweet Astro van that’s decked out with tons of Caps stuff.
Joe was a Caps fan from day one when the team began play in 1974. He was 10-years-old at the time and listened to games on the radio, broadcasted by Ron Weber, but he didn’t attend his first game until two years later when a friend’s dad took them.
“It was awesome. We got to meet a player afterwards and that’s when it (the passion truly) started,” Joe recalled.
“We have a great team every year. We just don’t get to the end. The Stanley Cup playoffs are much different from the regular season, but hopefully one day all that hard work will pay off”, said Joe. “Hockey’s a tough sport. You have to go through a lot to get there.”
Joe has been a season ticket holder since 1998 and still has the same seats to this day. You can spot him in the upper deck or along the concourse sporting a hockey helmet autographed by all the players with a red goal light on top. You can’t miss him!
“I made it. I took parts from another piece and added it to the helmet. I just wired it up with a switch to turn it on every time we score to celebrate,” explained Joe.
1998 was the year the Capitals made their first and (so far) only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Joe remembers what the atmosphere was like during those days.
“That was, for me, one of the best feelings when we went to the finals, but very depressing in the end when you see the Red Wings lift the cup in our arena, the memories of Esa Tikkanen missing an empty net, and realizing it was just not meant to be”, said Masson.
I then asked Joe about what the playoff atmosphere was like over the years. You first had Capital Centre whiteouts, the MCI Center during the cup run and the early 2000s, and of course the Rock the Red era.
“Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland was a bigger arena. I went to a lot of different events: hockey games, concerts, monster trucks, all kinds of things over there. Once the Caps moved to DC, it was more centrally located and easier to get to for the fan base from Virginia and Maryland. DC is where the team belongs. I think once they moved into the MCI Center it was loud and very exciting,” said Joe.
I then asked Joe how the van decorating originated.
“For the playoffs a few seasons ago I decided to put some magnets and stickers on it. I would use a whole bunch of stuff that we’ve gotten through the years,” said Joe. “Then my brother gave me a gift certificate to Fathead. I got larger stickers and went all out for the entire season from opening night to the playoffs.”
Finally, with the Capitals in the midst of a playoff run, I wrapped up the interview with the one question I wanted to ask from the beginning when I heard he was a fan from day one, 42 seasons ago. He is in an elite group of fans that followed the team right from the beginning and he’s seen all the ups and downs over the years. I asked him how much it would mean to him if the Caps were to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup this June.
“Every fan roots for their team to go all the way and lift that holy grail. We were close once. I just really hope the Caps can win the Cup one day. I would be ecstatic,” said Joe.
By Michael Marzzacco