“To all Caps fans – local and long-distance – thank you for your ongoing support and your support of our players, we truly appreciate it. You are terrific fans, and we have worked extremely hard for many years to grow that relationship, and we have been rewarded with fantastic support. It is now incumbent upon us to be a first-class partner not only with our players but also with our fans. It is time to move forward in the best way we can, together.” – Ted Leonsis, posted on his blog, Ted’s Take.
On Thursday, January 17th, the Washington Capitals hosted a Fan Appreciation Event to thank fans for their continued support through the National Hockey League lockout and to get everyone excited for the upcoming season. Attendance was free, concessions were free, and merchandise was 20% off. An open practice was held at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with DC101’s radio emcee Elliot Segal.
Upon entering the arena, all you saw was red. The players were on the ice, skating to the sounds of cheering and clapping of their fans. Jerseys were everywhere. People had smiles on their faces and a sense of excitement was in the air. The entire lower level seats were full of Caps fans, happy to see their team finally back on home ice.
The Caps scrimmaged in the first segment of practice, with the goalies, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, at opposite ends of the ice. Pucks rocketed off the poles of the net from all players alike: Mathieu Perreault skated as fast as he could go, firing off pucks; Alex Ovechkin displayed his flashiness that fans have missed so dearly (for more than just the length of the lockout), and even defensemen John Erskine got a goal in over Neuvirth. All in all, the players looked healthy, in shape, and ready to go.
The best part (besides the free cotton candy) was the spirit of the arena. The Q&A session was fun and upbeat. Segal teased Mike Green about his bread (which is gone now, thankfully) and the upcoming season. A group of players – Troy Brouwer, Karl Alzner, Braden Holtby, and Alex Ovechkin took turns answering questions. Holtby and Brouwer were quizzed on fatherhood was treating them (both welcomed new additions to their families). Ovechkin was asked about his engagement to Maria Kirilenko, and Segal, with a devious laugh, told Ovechkin that he would be throwing his bachelor’s party. Karl Alzner was asked about his hilarious and deviant dogs. To bring it all together, Alzner and Brouwer went head-to-head in a dance battle – one which Brouwer won by doing his best rendition of Gangham Style!
Overall, the event was fun and seemed to get the fans ready for the season to start on Saturday (today!). The sense of community was restored to Verizon Center. Fans cheered for their team as they left the ice, and shouts of “Let’s Go Caps” echoed through the arena. Caps hockey is back, folks. It all starts tonight. ROCK THE RED!