Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behind The Goal Line Returns

We're BACK!
I initially started this blog back in December of 2006, which were trying times for the Caps, and thier fans. I am a lifelong, and avid Capitals fan, and had attended my first game in 1977 at Capital Centre. The Caps are the sole reason I became interested in ice hockey, and played it for most of my life from age 9, until just a few short years ago. At the time I started this blog, I was a current season ticket holder, residing in section 408, row A for the 06/07 season. Prior to that, I was in 408 C, and 410 H. I had been a season ticket holder with my father from the 1982 season, until 1992, when my father became irritated at rising ticket prices, and general direction of the NHL and player salaries at that time. Being 21 years old back then, I could not afford to get my own season tickets. I still attended as many games as I could on a per game purchase basis. Of course, I always sat in the cheap seats. Finally, in 1999, I was once again in a position to afford my own season tickets, and purchased 2 seats. I maintained those seats up until the end of the 2007 season, when I too cancelled my season tickets, for multiple reasons.

The NHL lockout had a profound affect on the NHL, and the fans. One thing I found that it did, was to show me that I did not "need" to have hockey season tickets. The NHL all but disappeared from the sports radar, and the world contiuned on. I found myself not missing it quite as much as I thought I might. Once the NHL resumed play, I once again had my season tickets, however I found myself questioning the direction of the NHL, and the Caps. At that time, the Capitals were a mess, largely comprised of AHL level players, and two bona-fide superstar players, who were seemingly toiling away on a team that was going no where fast.

The team was struggling, once again on the road to finishing dead last in the NHL, or close to it. The attendance numbers were dwindling, as more and more long time fans decided it wasnt worth thier investment to continue w/ thier season tickets, all the while ticket prices continued to rise, and it appeared that ownwership was not comitted to improving the club, and giving thier 2 super star players the tools they needed to help them succeed in making strides in moving foward. About the only time Verizon Center had decent attendance numbers for hockey, was when some opposing teams would come to town, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffal Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. On those occasions, Verizon Center transformed into the visiting team's home areana away from home.

After sitting through, and standing by the Caps through all of the ups and downs of 30 years supporting the Caps, I reached a breaking point. More on that in a minute. Just some of what all of us caps fans witnessed / endured over the years follows: From the player scandals, ALMOST relocation, finally beating the Flyers in the playoffs on Dale Hunter's magical game 7 overtime goal, winnging the Eastern Conference Championship in 1998 and the subsequent 1st Capitals Stanley Cup Finals appearance, to the move into downtown Washington, the ownership and uniform change, the Jagr years and thier subsequent failure, the dismanteling of the Caps just before the NHL lockout, winning the NHL Draft Lotter and obtaining the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and using that pick on Alexander Ovechkin.

The breaking point, at least for me, was March 8, 2006 when the Caps played the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center. I was not in my usual seats in 408 A that night, I was down in section 114, row K. As the arena began to fill, it seemed like 2/3rds of the gear being worn, was by black and gold clad Penguins fans. I would venture a guess that about 75% of the fans in attendance that night were Pens fans. Most of those in the lower level sure were, and I counted roughly 10 Caps fans in my entire section. I was surrounded by Pens fans, and felt as if I was watching the game at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Something in me that night broke. It was not just the simple fact the Pens fans all but took over Verizon Center, for that was just a symptom of much deeper, and larger problems facing the Capitals and thier fans. It was that night, that I decided I was not renewing my season tickets for 2007 / 2008 season, and that was the last Capitals game I attended for the 06/07 season. I gave the rest of my tickets away. After a 30 year rolloer coaster ride, I guess I had just finally had enough. Im still a big fan, I still watch most games on TV, and I have been to about 7 home games this year. Weather or not I will renew my season tickets once more, remains to be seen. I need to see marked improvment in the Caps, and alittle more comittment from the ownership to spend the money to bring in the calibre players the Capitals need to continue to improve and move to the next levels. They have made some strides, but there is still a long way to go.

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Which team is the Capitals biggest threat in the Southeast division this season?