The Washington Capitals weren’t kidding around when they announced “Change Is Coming” earlier this summer: When the Caps suit up for their home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Oct. 6, a heavily upgraded roster featuring free-agent acquisitions such as Michael Nylander, Tom Poti, and Victor Kozlov will be hitting the ice—-and in some fancy new uniforms to boot.
Off the ice, however, there’s going to be just as many changes going on at Verizon Center. One thing you can expect to see—well, actually, it’s pretty much impossible not to see—is the arena’s brand-spanking-new high-definition scoreboard, which I got to take a look at firsthand while attending the Caps’ preseason home opener on Tuesday night. As anyone who’s seen it will tell you, it’s a real beauty—although it is a bit disorienting to have the score, shot counter, and time clock on the top of the video screen (as opposed to on the bottom). The LED ribbon boards running around the upper level are pretty dazzling as well.
Another difference will, hopefully, be fewer loud, drunk, and rowdy fans from rival teams making the trip to Verizon Center. Anyone who’s ever attended a Caps game against the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers knows that it often feels as if there are more fans of the visiting team in the place than there are Caps fans. But, in the latest in a long line of creative ways the Caps’ sales staff has found to get affordable tickets in the hands of D.C.-area hockey fans, the organization is offering up three different “Pack the House” ticket packages. The six-game packages—all of which include a ticket to the Caps’ first home game—start at $99, and are broken down into an “Old Time Hockey Plan” (which features games against old Patrick Division foes such as the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and New Jersey Devils), a “Saturday Night Game Plan” (I don’t really have to explain that one, do I?), and a “Rivals Plan,” which features both Caps/Pens games at Verizon Center. Buy the six-game package, and you get each ticket at a significant discount; individual tickets for each of those games are significantly more expensive than the regular gate price. So, yeah—suck it, Pennsylvania.
Of the three, I’m particularly stoked on the “Rivals Plan.” It’s bad enough getting heckled by a Pens fan at a home game when, say, the Caps blow a 4-0 lead and end up losing 5-4 in a shootout. But, to add injury to insult, at that very same game I had the distinct pleasure of being punched in the face by an upstanding member of the Penguins fan base while innocently waiting in line for the bathroom after the game. (Okay, so maybe I egged him on a little bit.) I greatly enjoy not being punched in the face at hockey games, and I am highly appreciative of the Caps’ sales staff’s efforts to provide me a punch-in-the-face-free experience at Verizon Center.
Please stop punching me in the face.
Sadly, the Rivals Plan doesn’t include a ticket for either of the Caps’ games against the Buffalo Sabres, as—among the Verizon Center faithful, at least—Sabres fans are often counted as one of the most obnoxious groups of fans in the NHL. (During last season’s Caps/Sabres matches, there were multiple reports of Buffalo fans threatening—and, in some cases, engaging in—physical violence against Caps fans. Maybe that’s the norm in Buffalo; D.C. is an admittedly a more docile crowd.) Of course, if I were some shit-talking, bandwagon Buffalo fan who had been proclaiming the Sabres Stanley Cup Champions since the beginning of the regular season only to see the team choke against the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals and then have its league-best offense completely decimated in the off-season due to free agency, well, I guess I’d be angry, too.