In terms of Caps fans, I’m a very recent one. Before you call me a bandwagoner, know that I was never a hockey fan before my first Caps game. The Caps not only made me love them, they made me love the game.
I grew up in Illinois, which is pretty popular in hockey. But I was a figure skater. I skated competitively from age 5 to 15. My primary activity was what is now called synchronized skating – I spent probably 75% of my childhood in an ice rink, and have competed in rinks all over the US and Canada. As a figure skater, we hated the hockey kids. They ate up our ice time, they made divots in our ice, they stank up the locker rooms, and they walked into the rink with their enormous bags like they owned the place. I remember in my hometown ice rink they had some Blackhawks plaques on the walls, so I knew the names Chris Chelios, Ed Belfour, and Jeremy Roenick. And yet our mite teams were called the Red Wings.
In high school, I changed my focus. Figure skating was becoming increasingly expensive, and going into high school, I couldn’t afford to miss all the school time as I had traveling for competitions. So I joined my high school’s girls hockey team. It was a “no experience necessary” club team, so, to put it lightly, we sucked. But I proudly wore #33 for the Barrington Fillies. I was a fast skater due to my years of figure skating and eventually learned all the rules of hockey, and even scored one GWG in my career. But despite playing hockey, I still failed to find interest in professional hockey – or any particular team for that matter.
I found myself in Washington, DC for college, and stayed in town post-graduation. My first Capitals game was February 26, 2008. My ticket in section 110 cost $25, thanks to the Student Rush promotion. I was 22 years old. And I was enraptured. It was the most exciting sporting event I’d ever witnessed (and to give you some perspective, we were playing the Minnesota Wild). The speed and the skill were jaw-dropping. I’d only ever heard of Alex Ovechkin and here he was. And I wanted more. After that, I started watching the games on TV. I got to know the players’ names, then their strengths and weaknesses. I started learning about other teams’ players as well. I started to get attached. I went to one other regular season game that year, and then Game 7 of the playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. If that didn’t cement my love for the team and the fans and the energy of the game, nothing would. If someone calls me a bandwagoner, believe me, I know about rooting for a losing team: I’m a Chicago Cubs fan. Hello, 1908.
Today I not only call myself a die-hard Caps fan, but also a fan of the game of hockey. I’ll pretty much watch any hockey game on TV, and much of my money goes to hockey games and merchandise (well, and arena-priced beer). I have a Caps blog and a solid Twitter following. I was introduced to the Hershey Bears. I feel now that I have something that I’m really passionate about; somewhere I fit in and feel comfortable. And I owe it all to the Capitals.