October 16, 2017 was the annual Season Ticket Holder party. This year it was held at Capital One Arena (formerly Verizon Center) for the first time in several years.
As was the case last year when the party was held at Smithsonian Museum of National History, the security check process was a bugaboo; i.e. passing through the metal detectors and the bag check. I would guess there are more metal detectors in the front of Capital One Arena than at the Museum of Natural History, but am not positive.
While last year there were paper tickets, this year the primary method of entry was to display digital tickets on a Smart Phone. The process was to get the NHL.com application, choose the Capitals as a favorite team, and use the “Manage Account” to find the event in question (which was the party).
I had been successful in viewing my tickets prior to the event. But when I tried to enter, I received an error trying to invoke NHL.com. In the end, I ended up getting inside by showing my Season Ticket holder card as they printed two vouchers. With that, I can’t give a good review of the process for entry via Smart Phone.
One of the problems at last year’s party at the museum was the fact it was so crowded. At least at Capital One Arena, with only season ticket holders (or their designated representatives), there was plenty of space in which to walk around.
Last year, fans could sign up in advance for a photograph or an autograph with either Alex Ovechkin or Braden Holtby. The “cost” was 5 Monumental Rewards points. This year, it was done differently. There was one line for those fans who wanted either a picture or an autograph with Ovechkin. There was a second line for the fans who wanted either a picture or autograph from T.J. Oshie. Both those lines were on the same side of the arena entrance as Metro. A third line, on the opposite side of the arena, was for the rest of the fans.
From my vantage point, it appeared that the longest line was for Ovechkin. Arena personnel asked each of the fans in the Ovechkin and Oshie lines about whether they desired a photo or an autograph with the player and got the appropriate wrist band.
For food, last year the fans got a bag meal, with a choice of sandwich, whether beef, chicken, or other options. This year, they could get food at a concession stand where the choices where hot dogs, chicken fingers with French fries, and pizza. Various types of Pepsi brand soft drinks were also available for free.
Unfortunately, there was not free bottled water, unlike last year. A server did give out a cup of ice that could be filled at a water fountain. I later purchased bottled water at a beer stand. On the food, there was a greater variety of food than last year, although the options were not particularly healthy options.
For autographs and photo opportunities, I’d consider it a plus for this year that the players and their locations were identified. Last year, determining which players were available at any given time relied on word of mouth. This year, a fan could plan for which players they wished to see.
The one negative is that they had one station where Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer were signing autographs during the first session. The demand for them was so high that many fans in search of their autograph were unable to do so in the allotted time; therefore, they ended up staying for the next autograph session at that location. The designated players this time around were Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana. The net result was that many fans who wanted the autographs of Kuznetsov and Vrana missed out since they had to also wait behind the fans from the earlier session who wanted Holtby’s autograph but were willing to settle for Kuznetsov.
Essentially, any fan wanting Kuznetsov’s autograph had to be there 20 minutes before the session started. My advice to the Caps Management for this party – don’t have two uber popular players being in adjacent sessions at the same location.
Meanwhile, my advice to fellow fans is: when having a ticket for the first session of a player requiring an armband to access, assume any events in the first sessions are inaccessible, unless at or near the beginning of the line.
The idea is to choose a desired second session event and be decisive about it and line up at the appropriate location. “He who hesitates is lost” is the going advice in that regard. This advice would also apply when attending the session for any uber popular player, even where an armband is not required for entry. One general rule of thumb for planning is that the lines move faster for photo opportunities than for autographs.
By Diane Doyle
Additional photos by Joe Noyes