Following the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis, Md., on Saturday, RMNB crasher Lindsey shared her reflections on the community she’s found in hockey fandom. Her post is reprinted here with permission.
When people ask me why I like ice hockey, coming from Ireland, as I do, I can only shrug my shoulders.
About four and a half years ago, one of my best friends took me to my first NHL game. It was the New York Rangers against the Boston Bruins, in Madison Square Garden and it was pretty life-altering.
By the end of this month, I will have been to five more NHL arenas (as well as the Navy Memorial Stadium in Annapolis) and I will have seen nine more teams play. I’ve found it hard to explain why I love ice hockey so much. Some of it might be down to the fact I played field hockey for about twenty years, and ice hockey is similar, but with players wearing knives on their feet, shooting a disc of vulcanized rubber about at high speeds, and occasionally fighting each other.
But another important part of hockey, for me, has been the sense of community.
I’ve dragged friends down into the occasionally-thankless pit of supporting the Washington Capitals but the best part was how many friends were waiting down there too, and not in the we all float down here way (I think). I’ve made some fantastic friends through my support of the Washington Capitals, through Twitter and through Russian Machine Never Breaks, and I think my trip to D.C. last week kind of encapsulates that.
First of all, there was the meet-up at the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern and a leisurely stroll to the Capital One Arena, with a great deal of laughter. I’m not comfortable talking to famous people, for pretty much any given value of fame, but I was delighted to meet Rob Carlin and Alan May of NBC Sports Washington and even more delighted when Alan gave me a signed puck. It made all those late nights, watching their pre-, peri- and post-game analysis even more worth it.
There was the surprise broomball event on Capital One Arena ice, after the Capitals beat the Ottawa Senators, in which we somehow became part of a Swedish embassy event. We lost and I broke my finger but the only regret I have is not passing the ball to Jakub Vrana, who was hanging out by the players’ bench during our little scrimmage. After that, we attended a Q&A with the Capitals’ Swedish players and I refuse to believe that Nicklas Backstrom was lying when he said ABBA’s Dancing Queen was his favourite song.
What more, what more? Well, we went to Kettler to watch the players practice and that is always a delight, even if it’s a bit of a drain on the bank balance because the team store is right there and very enticing. We also got to meet other fans, including local fans and distant fans, including one of the iconic Toronto-based Capitals fans who braved Maple Leaf Square during the playoffs last year and Caitlin, who flew up from Florida to see the team play, despite being in the later stages of pregnancy.
I also caught sight of Alex Luey with his family. He has not alone kicked osteosarcoma’s ass but he inspires a great many people, not least of all is Alex Ovechkin, who finds the scoring touch when young Alex is in attendance.
But really, it was Saturday when the sense of community hit me the hardest. Attending the Stadium Series game in Annapolis was an incredible experience on so many levels and the tailgate beforehand, ably organised by RMNB and patrons. There was food, drink and great company.
I think it says a lot about a community when people bring their family into it; it was pretty cool to see people wearing nametags like ‘Cara’s Dad’ and ‘Amy’s Mom’. This was a community that provided food for on-duty police and passing fans. This was a community, too, that facilitated a surprise proposal at the game. This was a community, within a larger community that held cellphone lights aloft when the floodlights went out in the third period and, yes, danced to Nick Backstrom’s favourite (Dancing Queen).
So, when people ask me why I like ice hockey, or the Washington Capitals, just because I shrug my shoulders, it doesn’t mean I don’t know.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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