Rockin' the Red (one last time in the '09-'10 season)

Rockin' the Red (one last time in the '09-'10 season)
Max headed to school on Game 7

Saturday, September 22, 2012

If the lockout had been in 2008-09...

If the lockout had been in 2008-09...
There wouldn't have been any playoffs that season, when my then 5-year-old son got hooked the moment Sergei Federov scored the game-winning goal for the Caps in Game 7 against the Rangers in Round 1... He wouldn’t have cried himself to sleep after the Caps blew it against the Penguins in Game 7 of Round 2... A kid who had to be forced onto the field for tot soccer, had shown no interest in sports, and had never been on the ice, wouldn’t have woken up the morning after that playoff game saying “I want to win the Stanley Cup”... He wouldn’t have started skating lessons immediately... He wouldn’t have gotten hockey gear. My husband and I wouldn’t have mastered the art of putting it all on him... He wouldn’t have spent hours playing hockey in our basement or on our driveway, where he consistenly scores the game-winning goal and wins the Stanley Cup... He wouldn’t have become a Mite. Or a Squirt... He wouldn't know what Sticks and Pucks was... He would never have met some of his closest friends, his hockey teammates... His love for hockey wouldn't have rubbed off on his two younger brothers who are learning to play the game. Or his mom, who also is... He wouldn’t be a fan who, despite throwing up in the car on the way to the Caps game, wanted to go anyway... He wouldn’t have played hooky in first grade to spend the day at a Caps pep rally... He wouldn’t have Caps players’ birthdays marked on his calendar and bedroom walls covered in NHL fatheads... He wouldn’t be able to name every province in Canada, which he learned by studying the team roster... He might not care where Russia is... He might not have been glued to the Gold Medal hockey game in the 2010 Winter Olympics... He wouldn't wake up early every morning of the NHL season to watch highlights from the night before, and check league standings... He wouldn’t have stayed up until well after midnight on a school night, only to watch his favorite team lose in triple OT; or to experience the pure exuberance of watching them score an OT-winning goal in Game 7 of the playoffs... He wouldn't always identify Superbowl Sunday with the day that his family traveled through an epic DC snowstorm in 2010 to watch the Caps beat the Penguins in OT... Living in the DC-area, he might have known who Ovechkin was, but he might not have waited hours in the parking lot after practice to get his autograph and pose for a picture with him... After moving to Connecticut, he would never have shown up at MSG wearing the visiting team's jersey... He simply wouldn't be an obsessive hockey fan, or a hockey player. He became a player because he became a fan during that '08-'09 NHL season... And he wouldn't be sad that he's on the brink of never seeing a regular-season NHL game when he's 9 years old... Here's hoping there's a '12-'13 season - not just for a current fan like my son, but for the fan who just needs the chance to become one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A true classic: 24/7 beats that beat up

Post from January:

I've said it many times... there's nothing I love more than when my worlds collide, especially when it comes to reality TV. Over the past few weeks, they collided very nicely as the Caps were featured on a reality show - HBO's "24/7", which was a behind-the-scenes look at the Caps and Penguins in the weeks leading up to the Winter Classic. This was a dream come true for Caps fans (probably even more so for Pens fans, since they definitely came out looking like the funner, happier, better team with the non-cursing coach), and for a reality-TV-loving-Caps fan like me, it just couldn't get any better.

Every Wednesday night at 10pm, HBO aired an amazingly well put-together hour of television. It was nice to look at, well-written, and it showed us those things that we could never, ever see by watching the games on TV, going to games or practices, or even hanging around in the parking lot afterwards. It showed them at home, at team dinners, and in the locker room. It was full access to the raw emotions they showed after losing, and finally, after winning. Then, every Thursday afternoon, HBO thankfully aired an edited version of the show, one that silenced out all of the bad words so that kids like Max could still get the insight into the teams that we got, but without the 10,000 f-bombs dropped by Coach Boudreau in every locker room speech, and a few others sprinkled in by other stars of the show. Max was mesmerized by it, and honestly, so were we.

The best moment to be kept on the DVR: after a miserable 8-game winning streak that unfortunately coincided with the arrival of the HBO cameras and made for a very depressing first episode of 24/7, the Caps finally come out on top, in a 3-2 win over Ottawa. In the locker room afterwards, the team breaks out to (yes, another reality show mash up) Pauly D's (of Jersey Shore fame) Beat that Beat Up. The pure exhilaration over the fact that the long drought was over... the fist pumping... the woo hoo's... they have all been played over and over and over in our house, with the boys fist pumping right along.

While by far the best moment, there were some other gems from the series (coming from a Caps fan. I have completely disregarded the Pens highlights, even though they did have some good scenes).

What I'll miss most:
- seeing Ovie at home with his parents "quote"
- watching Backstrom holding hands with ice skating girls
- the Swedish Christmas Eve at Nick Backstrom's house
- the hard hat being given away. This was so great, that Max's hockey team even adopted the idea. The "Ice Kings" give away a crown to the most-deserving player each week
- duh, the Winter Classic win

While I loved it so, there were a few things I didn't need to see:
- the infamous Ketchup/BBQ sauce on Boudreau's face during (way too close) interviews in the first episode
- too many losses for the Caps
- watching Mike Green riding his Vespa. Even though I have seen Mike Green in skinny jeans and know in the back of my mind that he's slightly metrosexual, I do still like the idea that he is a tough, rugged guy who might drive a Ford F150. But no, he rides a Vespa through DC, wearing some sort of leather slippers.
- the jock straps/cups being worn over the shorts. Not something any girl wants to see. While I wanted true, unplanned-for moments, I do wish HBO had given them a a minute to take those things off.

But really, nothing "beat" the fist-pumping scene that ended episode #2. It's exactly what you want to see out of the team you love - a celebration over a win. We like to know that it's not just the fans that jump for joy, cheer and even dance after a big win. It's nice to know the big guys with the black eyes and cups over their shorts feel as completely excited about a win as we do. Wish we could always follow them 24/7.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the Caps game

I decided about two weeks before Christmas that Caps tickets would be the perfect present for Max, and since Russ works all home Caps games, for me too. I was eyeing the Dec. 28 game vs. Montreal Canadians - not only because it was over Max's winter break so it would be a good time for him to stay out late, but also because it was against the infamous team that knocked the Caps out of Cup contention in Round 1 last season - a rematch we needed to see. As I was looking at ticket prices online, I got a call from a friend who was selling two tickets to that very game. The price was right, I lined up a sitter for my other two kids, and enthusiastically said "I'll take them!"

Max was beyond thrilled when he opened his Caps tickets on Christmas morning, along with his Winter Classic Nicklas Backstrom shirt, his Caps hockey socks for his own practices, his Caps pajama pants. He had a great Christmas and couldn't stop talking about how he was going to the game on Tuesday night.

In the wee hours of Sunday, Dec. 26, when everyone else was asleep at my parents' house in Delaware, where we'd gone Christmas Day, Russ and I both were awakened by the stomach bug. Russ had it worse than me, so we got up in the morning, my dad packed the car, and we hunched over the steering wheel and drove 2 hours back home so we could spend a miserable day lying around and sleeping while the boys tore the house apart with their new toys. I kept thinking "please don't let Max get this for the Caps game... please."

Monday was all-clear, Tuesday (gameday) rolled around and everyone was good and healthy. We had friends over for a playdate all afternoon - complete with pizza and Krispy Kremes*. When his friends left at 4:30pm, just an hour before the babysitter was to arrive, Max was psyched up about the game and talking about which shirt he was going to wear (Winter Classic).

I ran upstairs to shower and get dressed in my own Caps clothes, and when I came downstairs, I found Max sound asleep in the couch. Not a good sign. I woke him up and told him it was time to get dressed and he slowly dragged himself upstairs, only to lie back down in bed. He insisted that he wanted to go the game, felt fine, but was just tired. I tried to block out the nagging feeling that the bug had gotten him too, and I knew it was quite possible the pukes, or the runs, weren't far behind. We decided that instead of taking Metro, like we planned, we'd drive down in case he wanted to rest in the car. Then we left, with a warning to the babysitter that I wasn't sure how long we'd last.

As we drove down 270, I checked on him several times and he kept saying he was ok (not convincingly) and to keep going. As we got off on Cabin John Parkway and headed closer to the DC border, he said "Mom, I need you to turn around. My tummy hurts and I can't go." Not the words I wanted to hear at all. I like to believe I'd do anything for my kids and I am that perfect, nurturing mom when they are sick, but I REALLY wanted to go to that game, so I have to admit that I was more than bummed. But, because I knew that taking a miserable, sick kid to a Caps game wouldn't be any fun anyway, I turned around. Called the babysitter to tell her we were on our way, and we wove our way back up to 270. Just as we got on the highway, I asked Max how he was doing, and he didn't answer me. I could see that he was awake in his seat two rows back in the Suburban, and when I asked again, his answer was, and I quote, "(the-puke-sound-all-moms-know-and-hate--especially-when-it-comes-from-inside-the-car--three times-in-a-row)"... AGH.

I started freaking out, telling Max "we're almost home!", "it's OK!", all those things moms are supposed to say. I was now officially over the fact that we're going to miss the game and am totally consumed by the poor, puking kid in the car. And just then, when I'm at the lowest of lows, convinced we're having one of the worst.nights.ever, it was as if all the Who's down in Whoville started to sing even though the Grinch stole their presents, when Max, in his healthy voice says "Mom?? I feel fine now! I want to go to the game!"

For all the moms reading this - what would you do??? He wants to go to the game... YOU want to go to the game... the puke is out, but stinking up the car, but you know your kid and know that he actually really SOUNDS better. Luckily for me, my good friend, fellow Caps fan and mom of four, called me at that very moment and didn't act like I was completely nuts to actually think about taking him to the game (thank you, Heather). She even directed me to what she thought would be the best place for a quick clean-up, the Best Western in Rockville. Remember, we're almost home, it's 6:30pm (game is at 7pm) and we left the house at 5:40pm. We ran into the hotel bathroom, wiped off Max's pants, grabbed as many paper towels as possible, went back to the car and wiped up as much of the barf as we could (there was a LOT - *refer back to pizza and Krispy Kremes), called the sitter to tell her we're actually NOT coming home, put the windows down, and headed south on 270.

We turned on the radio and listened to pregame coverage, which turned into the start of the game as we got closer and closer to Verizon. I cringed as we went over every bump on Connecticut Ave waiting for the next round, called out about a thousand times "you ok, Max??" and was actually pretty sure that when he said "yes" in a very determined voice that he meant it. We found the closest garage to the arena, parked and made a mad dash up the ramp, into the arena, up four flights of steps, into our seats and the score was 0-0. With a HUGE sigh of relief we realized we didn't miss a thing, and, more importantly, that we made it... just in time, within about 2 minutes of us sitting down, the Caps scored. That was the first of three Caps goals that night. The Habs scored none. First shut out for the Caps since Nov. 26 (according to Max). It was a perfect game, and Max was one of the happiest fans there - jumping, cheering, shouting, and thrilled to be there to witness the Caps' last game of 2010. Happy even though I wouldn't let him eat or drink anything when we were there (those seats are pretty steep - no telling what damage some vomit could do).

The car still stinks no matter all of our attempts at spraying, wiping, cleaning, so it's being detailed next week. That's one lingering after-effect of our big night - we have only one picture, taken with my phone to prove that we were actually there. I even accidentally left the tickets in the pocket of my jeans and washed them, so that evidence is gone. But this is truly a night that will go down in history for me, for Max, as the night that we proved to ourselves how much we love a good Caps game... and how in that arena with all those superstar athletes, Max might have been the best sport of all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baby, I Laich It

This story will never get old. Brooks Laich stops to change a tire on the way home from losing Game 7 in the first round play-offs. The two women happen to be Caps fans on their way home from the game, and they call the Washington Post to report his good deed.

Now Laich is a nominee for Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. While it's usually Ovechkin, maybe Green, racking up the awards, it's great to see someone recognized for more than just being an incredible player. Brooks Laich seems to be a really decent guy - if he weren't for him, our stalking might never have taken off, as he was the first player to sign Max's shirt. I have heard from other stalker fans in the parking garage that he has been nothing but nice in person and always makes time for signing autographs.

While fans cheer for fights and Power Plays, it's nice to also be able to cheer for the good guy - the guy who stops to change a tire just hours after his team suffered what was probably the most shocking loss in its history. Gotta LOVE Laich for that - #21, we'll be rooting for you!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ovie, what's in your wallet?

Max and I attended the Caps Convention this weekend and I rediscovered one of the reasons why, as a mom, I love this team. The panel “Kids Press Conference”, when kids ask the questions of the players, is one of the most popular draws of the day. Three players – Matt Bradley (#10), Eric Fehr (#16), and Alex Ovechkin (duh) – by the way, three players that have all been successfully stalked by me and Max – sat on a podium with a microphone and answered any and all questions asked by the kids. The questions ranged from “what’s your favorite color” (blue for Ovie and Fehr; red "rock the red" for Bradley), to “what kind of car do you drive” (ha, try waiting for them in the parking lot, kid!), to “what is your least favorite part of hockey (Fehr and Ovie – “injuries”; Bradley – “an early exit”), to the clever-but-obviously-prepped-by-an-adult question “Ovie, what’s in your wallet?” (answer “a credit card” – of course, but sorry Capital One, you missed that plug). One little girl came up and told the players it was her birthday, and asked Fehr and Bradley to sing to her in English and Ovie in Russian. They all happily obliged and it was so sweet. When one of the best hockey players in the world is singing “Happy Birthday” in Russian to a little fan, talking about how he picked his number because his mom was #8 when she played basketball, and telling everyone he’s the youngest of three boys (no pressure, Will), you can’t help but forget just how good he is and see him as a regular person. As for Fehr and Bradley, who are awesome players too, I developed a new-found respect for these guys as people that will definitely translate over to how I feel about them on the ice. And the best part of all, Max (and a room full of kids) got to see this too, and truly understand that their idols are people too – funny, engaging, and nice ones at that.

Meanwhile, as I write this, we are just one day away! The Caps start their regular season tomorrow night in Atlanta at 7:30pm (on Comcast SportsNet, I might add) and we can’t wait. After last year, we know the regular season is a long one, and some would say it doesn’t matter as long as they do well in the play-offs. While I definitely do care about the play-offs, I can’t wait for all 82 games between now and April 9, when the tension isn’t so high – games to watch with Max, with Russ, with friends, and with Nate and Will when they care enough. While I really hope they win the Cup this year, I can’t wait for us to just enjoy being Caps fans again.
Let’s Go Caps!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stalking, for Max's sake

After nearly 5 months since the epic loss, Caps Training Camp officially opened at 10am on Saturday morning, and Max and I were there at 9:40am. Sure, we couldn't wait to get into the cold ice rink and watch the players - both old and new - skate and hit and shoot and score. We couldn't wait to see the familiar names on the backs of their practice jerseys and think about all of our expectations for the upcoming season. And it's very cool at Kettler, where they practice, because you sit in bleachers right there on the ice, with the players banging up against the plexiglass when they play, and catching their breath right in front of you as they take a break. You see their faces when they're intensely practicing, when they're pushing themselves during sprints, or when they're joking around with a teammate. Having the chance to see our favorites players up close and personal makes us fully appreciate just how good they are, and it makes us feel even more attached to the team. But practice is just part of the equation for us - I'd say it's half of why we make the trip to Kettler. "Stalking," as some call it, makes up the other half...

Stalking, for us, is waiting outside for players in hopes of getting an autograph and/or photo. Max and I have become masters at it. Ever since our first practice last season, when we happened upon Brooks Laich as he walked out the doors of Kettler and signed Max's shirt, we were hooked. The next time we went, we waited outside the main doors of the practice facility and waited for more players. Max got autographs from David Steckel and John Erskine, while Will was lucky enough to get Ovechkin's after throwing a crying fit. While it was awesome to get Ovie's signature, it was a bit lost on 4-year-old Will. Max did not get his jersey signed by Ovie that day, and wasn't going to let it go. So, we went back two more times last spring, just me and Max, and were able to get Mike Knuble, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Thomas Fleishman, Semyon Varlamov, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley, Jason Chimera, both Morrisons (who are now gone), Laich again, and even Coach Boudreau. Max even got gutsy enough to ask all of those players for a photo after they signed his jersey. He had gotten Backstrom's autograph and photo at a Wizards game, so he had most of the team, but with two major omissions - Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green - arguably the team's two biggest stars. So we knew in the '10-'11 season, we had our work cut out for us.

On Saturday, we checked out two separate parking lots where the players park - one on top of the mall, and one a level below. We spotted Ovie's car up top, so we knew where he'd be exiting after he finished on the ice. We headed inside to watch "Group A"practice - Ovie was part of this group. As soon as the players left the ice, we headed outside, in front of the doors, Max armed with a sharpie and me with a regular camera and cell phone camera. We waited, and waited, and waited. It was hot and sunny (and remember, we were wearing pants and long-sleeves since we had been sitting inside the ice arena), Max was hungry, but we didn't budge (and I swear, he consented - I offered him several chances to go back inside, but he wanted to wait it out). I was nervous that after all of our waiting Ovie would either never appear, or just blow us off and head to his car (can't blame him - he just practiced for the first time in months, and looked a bit tired - probably wasn't super in the mood to mingle with a bunch of crazies outside). Finally, after more than an hour, Max said "Mom, here comes Ovie," and sure enough, he was on the other side of the glass door, about to come straight at us. I have to say, it's a bit surreal when he walks out - you think it's going to sound like Justin Beiber appeared, with people screeching and yelling his name - but it's quiet and kind of calm. So Max was the first person to approach Ovie (wearing a white wife beater), and ask him to sign his jersey. He did, thank goodness. He wasn't unfriendly at all, but he definitely didn't seem to be overjoyed about it. Then someone else got a turn, and Max was back in front, asking him to sign on his 8 (come on Ovie - do it right!), which he did. Then, Max asked for a picture, and thankfully, he did that too. Then, just like that, he was off and only stopped to sign one more autograph for a pretty teenage girl waiting by his car. My heart was racing and I couldn't wait to tell Russ, and to post my pictures on Facebook. But it was Max's moment - we high fived several times, stared at the photo on the camera, showed off his jersey, both talked to Russ on the phone, and just marveled at his moment. I mean, he had his jersey signed by one of the greatest hockey players of his time, and a picture taken with him!

After our Ovechkin success, we headed back inside for some long awaited lunch and to watch more practice (oh right, practice) where Mike Green was now on deck in "Group C" (we completely missed "Group B" for the Ovie stalking). As soon as this last group was done, we headed outside, checked for Green's car in the upper lot and when we didn't find it, headed down below, where sure enough, it was right by a more secluded exit. And there we sat, for more than an hour and a half. When you go down below in the parking garage, a whole subculture exists. It's not just the person who caught wind that Ovie might walk out to his car in broad daylight who sticks around for a few minutes just in case. The people down below go there for one reason only - to get to the players. To get jerseys, photos, and memorabilia signed. They know every car that's parked there, who drives it, and who came/went when. When I arrive with Max, we become "them" and we sit and swap stories about which players we have met, when, how nice they were, and we show off our signed goods. Max is often the only kid there, and I am the only mom sitting with my kid. The others are 20-somethings, retirees who have a new hobby of getting Caps autographs, or uberfans (we met the guy with the light up fingernails in that parking garage one day). For whatever our own personal reason might be, we're all there together, waiting patiently for any player to walk out. On Saturday, we were swapping our stories, when suddenly Mike Green - the guy we'd all been waiting for - walked out in skinny jeans and spiky hair. Max was first in line to get his jersey signed, then asked him to sign his stick (we happened to have it in the car and pulled it out just in case), and for a picture. Thankfully, Mike Green also did everything Max asked. Our very long day that was equally divided between watching practice and waiting in parking lots, had come to a very thrilling and "mission accomplished" end.

So when people make fun of me for my stalking habits, this is why I do it. For the chance to spend the day with Max, and for the chance to have a permanent reminder of those days - photos and signatures that can't be taken away, and to always take us back not only to this era of the Caps, but to the time in life when you're a kid and you're a fan, and you think your favorite players are just about the greatest people on earth (besides your parents, of course). It might seem like I am a crazy Caps mom, and I am, but there's a deeper reason for my madness - I stalk for the Max's sake.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fan Fest - The Perfect Summer Fix

As the mom of young kids, summer is supposed to be the best time of all. Sun, fun, pool, beach, lazy days... while I do love all of this, I can't help but yearn for winter a bit - not only because my kids will be back in school (they're driving me a bit crazy), but also because it will be Caps season.
Since the loss in April, we have:
1) watched the remainder of the Cap-less Stanley Cup playoffs
2) adopted the Hershey Bears (the Caps farm team), watched them win the Calder Cup, and imagined a few of them (Carlson, Alzner, Neuvirth) wearing red and holding up the Stanley Cup
3) watched the NHL Awards and was thrilled to see Ovie take the stage to win the Lindsay Award. I watched his whole speech with a huge smile on my face - he can do no wrong
4) bought tickets for me and Max to attend the Caps Convention in October - can't wait to watch them reveal their Winter Classic uniforms!
5) sat by myself, in prime time, watching the NHL draft
6) started Max in a new hockey class and was psyched to pull out the pads and jersey again after a few months off, even if it meant going straight from bathing suits at swim team practice to changing in the back of my car into warmer clothes for the ice rink
7) BEST OF ALL - attended the Caps Fan Fest. Russ was going to be out of town, so a few weeks ago I gave Max the choice of going to the beach for the night or to the Fan Fest - it was an easy decision for him. "Fan Fest." So I got the boys (and me) dressed in Caps clothes (minus my youngest, who was grouchy and insisted on wearing a green shirt), loaded them in the car, and headed down to Kettler Ice Arena, where we hadn't been since the Pep Rally before the playoffs started. We were greeted by the familiar humongous blown up Caps jersey, but this time there were Caps moon bounces in the parking lot that the boys loved. Inside, it was packed beyond belief - we couldn't even get in the arena to watch the rookies scrimmage at first because it was "filled to capacity" (clearly the epic loss in the first round didn't hurt their fan base). We got faces painted, arms sprayed with tattoos, bounced outside, and then came in for the scrimmage. At that point, it wasn't so full that we couldn't get in, but it was so full that we couldn't get seats, so we sat on the floor in front, pushed up against the plexiglass. Rookies we've never heard of and might never hear of again wowed us with their play, their speed, and their pure desire to look good out there. It wasn't the familiar faces or numbers that we're used to, but it was no less exciting and exhilarating to watch. It ended in a shootout, but with three hungry kids, we only made it to the of regulation before it was time to eat lunch. Afterwards, we waited in the store line for 20 minutes before spending way too much money on Caps stuff for them, for me, and for our friends the Goodmans' new baby boy that we thought just HAD to have an "Unleash the Fury" shirt. We even got a quick visit with Slapshot.
This time, we didn't stalk any of the players, didn't get any autographs, didn't watch our favorite players out there, and don't have a game to look forward to in the next few days, but it was the summer Caps fix that I needed, and that I know Max needed. My younger two boys who haven't completely jumped on the Caps bandwagon yet even felt the Caps love and I think they're coming around. Even Will, the youngest in green, wanted a "Rock the Red" t-shirt for himself.
I realized that we're about halfway there - the loss was on April 28 and the first game is on October 8. Just under three months away from the loss, just under three months away from the start of the new season. I think this gave us what we need to get through the next Cap-free months, at least until preseason begins. Before we know it, summer will be a distant memory, and Max and I will be in the Convention Center, looking at those Winter Classic uniforms, just a few days away from Game 1. But first, we're off to the pool.