October 1, 2009

Welcome Back NHL!

Tonight the Washington Capitals, who according to the 7-2 Vegas odds, are second-most likely only to the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-2 odds) to make it to the Stanley Cup finals, take back to the ice after their crushing loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last spring.

More importantly, the Caps have all of Washington “rocking the red.” The ‘Skins disaster of a season and the Nats’ invisibility is the best thing that could happen to hockey in the Nation’s Capitol. And “Your Nation’s Capitals” are primed to have another terrific season - the question isn’t so much whether they’ll win the woeful Southeast Division as much as how far they’ll go in the playoffs. Hell, this time of year we even welcome our neighbors from The City That Reads up I-295, as Baltimoreans, for as much as they profess hatred for the ‘Skins and ‘Nats and all other things Washingtonian, have taken a pretty strong liking to the Caps these past few years.

Jeremy was fortunate enough to see this one in person.

The Caps don’t take to the home Verizon Center ice until Saturday night. But nonetheless, in honor of hockey season starting, here are five of ECB’s reasons for why it’s awesome to attend a hockey game:

1) The cheap seats don’t suck
There’s a reason why when you play EA’s NHL video games the default “camera angle” is shot down from the top of the arena. If you’ve ever sat in the front row behind the glass (as I have), you have a truly fun experience, but you don’t really see the game. If you want to watch plays develop, if you want to see defensive strategy, if you want to see a team work its power play, if you want to see a player bolt out of the penalty box and into the offensive zone for an odd man rush, you want to be up high. Sure, you may be out of the reach of the T-shirt cannon, but you can do without elbowing nine-year-olds out of the way for a 90-cent t-shirt. There’s also a reason why some of the most knowledgeable hockey fans in Verizon Center are in the 400-level. And it’s not because they can’t afford to sit down low. The cheap seats ain’t necessarily “cheap” compared to baseball - but they’re still affordable for a few games a year.

2) Predictability
I can’t think of any other sporting event that I attend where I know with near certainty that if the game starts at 7:10 p.m., it will be over at 9:30 p.m. Unless it goes to overtime, in which case it will be over at 9:45 p.m. Or unless it goes to a shootout, in which case it will be over at 9:50 p.m. There’s just something very nice about this. Especially when I’m heading to games on weeknights. Speaking of games that don’t end during regulation…

3) OT/shootout
The hockey purists cringe at this one, but the casual fans love it. The overtime rules of hockey (4-on-4 instead of 5-on-5 as in regulation play) lead to wide open play and scoring opportunities galore. It is extraordinarily rare for a game to have gone into a shootout where at least one of the goalies hasn’t made an incredible save in overtime. And the shootout is pure entertainment. It’s a pretty crummy way to decide the winner of a sporting contest. But so is giving each team the ball at the 25 yard line.

4) Intermission
Two great things about hockey intermissions. First, the 20-minute length is a perfect amount of time to wait out the line for the men’s room, wait out the concessions line and grab a beer (to refill the bladder), and be back in your seat without missing a minute of action. Second is the intermission entertainment. No, not the zamboni, although that’s kind of cool too. I’m talking about what the Caps have at Verizon Center - Mites on Ice - local peewee hockey clubs getting to play a five-minute game on NHL ice during an intermission. Now, you may say that you could walk into any neighborhood rink on a weekend and see 8-year-olds in oversized equipment that weighs as much as them toddling around trying to play hockey. You’d be right. But there’s something really funny about seeing them play in a 20,000 seat arena with the goal horn going off when one of them manages to push the puck past the goalie with a wicked 10mph slapshot.

5) Appropriateness of sweater
Some people have an outright prohibition and even take offense to grown men wearing jerseys. My authentic Ovechkin sweater and I say “screw you.” But here’s where we’re coming from with this one - unless you’re in one of those screwed up southern markets like Ft. Lauderdale or Phoenix or Tampa and you don’t deserve a hockey team to begin with (don’t worry, you might not have one for much longer), the hockey season matches up best with the climate when it’s comfortable to wear that sport’s jersey to the game. Here’s what we’re trying to say - in DC, a Redskins jersey is only really comfortable to wear for the first 3-4 home games before you have to bulk up underneath… a Nats jersey isn’t exactly comfortable in April and September when night games are cold and isn’t exactly comfortable either in July and August games when it is 90 degrees and 95% humidity… and let’s just agree that no grown man should ever wear an NBA jersey of any team so we’ll just take the Wizards out of this equation. Hockey games, the sweater is perfectly comfortable to wear to the arena (and outside of the arena) for 6 out of 7 months of the regular season, often times 6.5 out of 7 months. Plus hockey sweaters leaguewide have the coolest design of any jerseys in the four major sports.

4 Responses:

J-Red said...

Of course you know that I-295 in Maryland goes nowhere near Baltimore. It begins in D.C. as the SE Freeway, merges with DC-295 (Anacostia Freeway) after crossing the river and legs southward to Maryland before ending at the Beltway near the mouth of the Anacostia River.

On the other hand, as one travels northward DC-295 becomes the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (aka the Gladys Noone Spellman Parkway) which is actually un-numbered National Park territory. If you get pulled over in that stretch, you'll find out. Near MD-32 (Columbia/Ft. Meade) it becomes MD-295, before fizzling out in downtown Baltimore.

Nikhil Verma said...

Great post. The other thing about hockey is that in general, the players seem to be the nicest of all the major sports. For the most part, hockey players are gracious and classy.

Also, the female fans at a hockey game are drop dead gorgeous. Not these fat football fans who take up 3 seats.

Jeremy said...

Nikhil, you hit the nail on the head re: attractive female hockey fans. NBA games draw a lot of attractive female fans. Who are also golddiggers. NHL games draw the best female fans.

Nic said...

Penguins! :P

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