They all jump at exactly the same time. Crowds of people clad in red and white slam their bodies against the clear plastic, smearing their red face paint down the pane in long streaks. Screaming and clapping each other on the back, they congratulate the people gathered around them. The cause: A small black piece of plastic glided across the ice into the opponent's net.
Washington, D.C., is not known for its sports. The Redskins and Nationals are some of the most poorly performing teams in their respective leagues, and Gilbert Arenas has recently caused strife for the Wizards with his gun controversy. But thankfully, there is one team that D.C. fans are overwhelmingly proud of: the Capitals.
As of Feb. 1, the Capitals had the most points in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League for the first time since 1991. It's also the first time since 2000 that a pro sports team in D.C. has led its league so late into a season. The Capitals are in the top five teams in their league and have the two-time league reining Most Valuable Player Alex Ovechkin. As of Feb. 1, the Capitals were on the 10th game of their winning streak, tying the franchise record originally set in 1984. With all of their success, the Capitals attract fans, including Blazers, who are the upbeat alternative to dejected Redskins fans.
Senior Chloe Sheridan has been an avid Capitals fan since 2007 and attends at least 10 games a season. What draws Sheridan to the Capitals, though, is the unified excitement that comes with being a hockey fan. The Verizon Center has almost sold out all Capitals games this season and for the past few years. Attending these exciting, frequently winning games offers an electric atmosphere for fans. "Every time Ovi [Ovechkin] touches the puck, there is an audible intake of breath from the whole Verizon Center, just waiting for him to do something spectacular," says Sheridan. "The crowd is just a sea of red, and we're so loud. It's just such a fun time, and you end up losing your voice from cheering so much."
A season ticket holder for the past five seasons, freshman Michel Devynck is a Capitals fan who also plays for the Blazer ice hockey team in the net. Devynck also identifies with the camaraderie with fellow fans at Capitals games. "My favorite part would definitely be the atmosphere of the Verizon Center. All the fans are cool to other fans," Devynck says. "Caps fans are probably the most supportive. We always rock the red, and we've sent the seats purchased through the roof," says Devynck. Seniors on Blair's hockey team were asked to work on the Capitals' staff as ice re-surfacers during two games this season, one that has already happened and one coming up in March.
Lottie Ignacio, president of the Capitals Fan Club for two years and a fan since the mid-1980s, agrees that Caps fans exemplify devotion. Ignacio loves the excitement of her fellow fans and knows that it is a tight-knit community with strong devotion to their team. "I love the games, particularly now; all of the games are sellouts – it is a sea of red, and I truly feel that the team sometimes can feed off of the energy of the fans," says Ignacio.
But though the fan base is extremely devoted, many fans believe that the Capitals are underappreciated in the D.C. area. "As good as the Caps are, it's unfortunate that the number one sport in D.C. is still football. No offense to the Redskins, but the Caps don't get nearly as much recognition as the 'Skins," says Sheridan. "I just think there should be more Caps love, or at least more recognition of how good they are."
Arriving early to the Verizon Center, Chloe Sheridan glances around and heads down to watch her beloved Capitals warm up. As Alex Ovechkin glides onto the ice, Sheridan extends her hand and gives him a high five. The gesture is simply icing on the cake to her night typical at a Capitals game.
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