The Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders 1-0 in front of some very special guests at Capital One Arena, Tuesday night. 2,100 Capitals fans were in attendance, marking the first time fans were allowed in the building since March 4, 2020 – right before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite only being at 10 percent capacity, Capital One Arena roared loudly several times during the game, most notably during a successful penalty kill late in the third period.
Capitals forward Tom Wilson noticed and thanked the fans for their support afterward.
“It felt like your first NHL game all over again,” Wilson said. “There’s no words to describe what it feels like to have the fans back in the rink. They are our support system. Going into empty rinks night after night wasn’t nearly as fun as skating onto the ice with a bunch of people screaming. Even 2,000 fans made a big difference.”
He added, “Hopefully moving forward we can just keep adding people. We’re so lucky to have such a great fan base. It’s a huge advantage. It definitely pushes us to be better when they’re there.”
a night made that much better thanks to you pic.twitter.com/9CTo3NeeWC
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 28, 2021
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette agreed with his star forward, comparing and contrasting the cardboard humans to the fleshy, real ones.
“It was awesome. Just the life of the building,” Laviolette said. “We appreciated the cutout human beings for 40-plus games, but to actually have some live ones in there that move around and yell and are fired up and get up and give an ovation if things are going well. That’s what I was talking about with ‘juice in the building.’ Those cardboard people just don’t do that. We were waiting for 49 games but they haven’t moved.”
(Nobody tell Peter, but I don’t think they ever will.)
“It’s better hockey,” rookie goaltender Vitek Vanecek said after registering his second career shutout. “You can stay focusing in the game because they’re yelling, they’re trying to push you, you know? So it’s really nice to have them back.”
The Capitals play five more games at home this season before the postseason starts in late May.
And now here are some of your lovely, masked-up faces at the game.
Great to be back. We all were definitely fired up. Weird with the spacing but overall, thumbs up to Cap One on a stellar opening. pic.twitter.com/xKoXhoJgvK
— G Todd (@todderdj) April 28, 2021
That is us 43 and 33! pic.twitter.com/SvlPNizPdY
— anne groves (@anniegrov) April 28, 2021
Everyone happy to be back. Making as much noice as we can! pic.twitter.com/U7uHGZ9cTA
— Kevin Stults (@kevinstu7) April 28, 2021
It’s been great! Protocols are great. Even spacing – the most I’ve been near another person is bathroom break & food line but still markers down to stay 6 feet apart. Everyone has their masks on and following rules! pic.twitter.com/Fovy5FoKTd
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) April 28, 2021
Headline photo: @kevinstu7
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