Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Yes, more about hockey.

When we were in PA, we decided we had the time and space to travel to regional arenas to watch the Caps play.  So not only did we see a heck of a lot of Bears games with our 1/2 season tickets, we also went to Boston for Caps/Bruins (Hi Jerry and Julie!), Columbus for Caps/Blue Jackets (Hi Nicholas and Taylor, and Taylor's parents!), New Jersey for Caps/Devils (Hi scary alleys!), Philadelphia for Caps/Flyers (Hi amazing entertainment complex!), and NYC for Rangers/someone (Hi Brian!).  We're not bold enough yet to enter Penguins territory.

Now that we're in Maple Leafs land and Ian has to travel for work to a shocking number of NHL team cities, there's nothing we can do but arrange the visits around Caps away games.  It just makes sense.

Our year with the Bears was a special one as I've mentioned before, not just for the Cup win at the end.  As silly as it sounds, it connected us to the Caps even more - which is good when the Caps are playing as badly as they are.  But the Bears are fun (and playing really really well) and if you didn't watch this year's Teddy Bear toss on January 8, go look for it.  It's spectacular.  They'll play the Toronto Marlies in a couple months so our hockey viewing continues to extend to the AHL, some ECHL (when we visited Becca and team in Atlanta we went to a Gladiators game) and perhaps the OHL (there are several OHL teams nearby, and the league includes the.... Erie Otters).  The ECHL has some of the best team names... the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Florida Everblades, Orlando Solar Bears. 

As the farm team for the Caps, we see a lot of familiar faces move between PA and DC.  This year the Caps signed Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre, and Aliaksei Protas, while periodically calling up Ivan Miroshnichenko, Dylan McIlrath, Hardy Haman Aktell, goalie Hunter Shepard, and others.  As season ticket holders last year, we were initiated into the fun world of AHL events.  


The purple jersey is a Hockey Fights Cancer auction jersey.  Julian Napravnik was a Bear from Bad Nauheim, Germany and knew all about the Frankfurt Löwen.  He wasn't played much, but we felt like we couldn't pass up that connection.  When the Bears had their annual signature night, all the players took up spots on the ice and signed whatever you put in front of them.  Ian got a good chunk of the team to sign his jersey, including McMichael and Lapierre.  Napravnik was released from his contract in Nov 2023 and returned to Europe.  It's a good thing and I hope he gets more ice time.

When we moved out of PA and had some time in northern Virginia we picked the Ballston area specifically because it's the location of the practice rink for the Caps.  Capitals practices are usually open to the public and players often go to the media area afterwards for signatures and pics.  You also have to be careful on the top level of the parking garage to not run over hockey players as they go to their cars.  You never know who you're going to meet or just see when you hang out in Ballston or Hershey.  Players families, former players turned coaching staff, televised game personalities. Over the years we've seen a number of folks including Joe Beninati (there's a photo somewhere), half of the Joe B and Locker play announcer team we love to listen while watching on TV.

Ian Oland - creator and writer at Russian Machine Never Breaks

Aliaksei Protas shared the Calder Cup with the fans
at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Our hotel in Ballston hosted the Caps Development Camp
kids from Hershey and elsewhere.

We were only a little stalkerish.

Really, just a little stalkerish. 
Alexander Suzdalev, Bogdan Trineyev, Ivan Miroshnichenko

Ryan Leonard is currently playing for Boston College.
He scored in the Jan 5 USA-Sweden final of the World Juniors for gold.
Todd Nelson is the Bears coach that led them to the 2023 Calder Cup.

Braden Holtby is one of the greats we met in the Ballston parking lot.
Nicholas has a photo with him at a Washington Nationals game as well.

So, yeah.  The Caps play all the Canadian teams and this year it looks like we'll see them in Toronto (the cost is... high) and in Vancouver and Calgary.  Ottawa is an easy trip, but the Caps played there early in the season, so the next two years -- Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg.  Should be fun!

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