18 April, 2014


A Hardcore Hockey Fan’s Lament

Something unique has happened to me this hockey season — I largely stopped caring about the Washington Capitals, and hockey in general.
Between an on-ice product that was less than inspiring to a coaching situation that was handled, from my perspective, poorly, to other management decisions that left me confused, I decided that it wasn’t worth my usual emotional investment in the team this year. (It can be argued that members of the team might have come to the same conclusion themselves at certain points this campaign.) I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in this — I know fans who have followed the club for years who are giving up their season tickets, for instance. Even the friends I have whose passion has not been completely extinguished have a certain grimness in their tone when discussing the team. A certain fatalism. And while the overwhelming message from the club seems to be “the regular season doesn’t matter now,” such an aggressive moving on from the past could cause the organization to repeat history. Again.

I haven’t attended a game in person this season, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time before the Caps making the Stanley Cup Finals, whenever that happens. I’m happy to talk hockey with my friends, and I keep an eye on the on-line community and sources of information, and I DVR every game for later viewing. I simply came to expect the least at every new sub-par effort by the club, and that, in turn, cooled any passion I had for the game and the organization.

To be clear, this apathy has no malicious component to it — I don’t feel I’m owed anything by the team, I don’t feel like they’ve let me down personally, and I don’t feel like they have to prove anything to me. They can go about their business, and I’ll go about mine, watching the games with a mild interest and no fervor or passion.

The Caps made the playoffs to my mild surprise, and I wondered idly if that would change my attitude towards the team at all. The answer, not that anyone’s asking, is that it has and it hasn’t.

As I’ve done for the past 25 or so years, I’ll watch every post-season contest game the Caps play, but it will be with a certain detachment and certainly no expectations. I’m not going to live or die with each shot. I’m not going to fume when the Caps lose, and I won’t be on Cloud 9 when they win. This season just hasn’t been worth caring about enough. Of course I want them to win, and of course I’ll follow the injury reports and TOI stats closely. And of course I’ll be pleased if they somehow manage to go deep into the post-season. I just won’t be ecstatic as I once was.

In the time leading up to Thursday’s puck-drop it will be easy for me to dispassionately review the news and notes leading up to the start of the series. I don’t know what the Caps’ chances are, though I don’t fancy them, and I will again be pleasantly surprised if they have some success. Who knows, maybe this is The Year. Maybe they come out of the gates flying and play like the team that we were hoping and looking for throughout the disheartening and disappointing regular season. It would be a remarkable story, one that I wouldn’t miss. The malaise of the regular season, however, should not be forgotten amidst the relief of making the second one.

And of course, as a Caps and a hockey fan, it’s entirely probable all this goes right out the window when the first body check is thrown on Thursday night. Hockey’s like that.



10 Comments

  1. Chris wrote:

    Wow, that’ sad. Here’s to it all going “out the window”

    12 April, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  2. kelly chuba wrote:

    I think most every CAPS fan I know has felt this way and I appreciate your expressing these very honest feelings….but I want you to come back to the fold.

    I am lucky to be part of the Hershey Bears and I find in their call-ups all I need from the CAPS’ season. I truly enjoy watching their Herculean efforts as they out-hustle and out-gut all the high-paid talent.

    This season has been about these kids and their chances in the NHL and everytime they come back to Chocolatetown with the same heart they showed in their Red and White jerseys I swell with pride.

    The playoffs are everything now because we Bears feed the Caps at the cost of our own success, as it should be; so please watch with all your heart and think of how we both miss these kids with every agonizing defeat while cheering their play with all of our hearts, for you.

    12 April, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  3. Rob wrote:

    You obviously aren’t an O’s fan, or you would be used to caring about a team even when they’re not one of the best.

    12 April, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  4. Mike wrote:

    As a Steelers fan that was heartbroken about the treatment of Hines Ward – I understand completely.

    I was already to the point where I would not go to a caps game or any other top-tier sports game unless I got the tickets for free. It’s simply too expensive. Add the ridiculous markup on food/drinks and it’s a budget-breaker just setting foot in [huge brand name] arena or [other huge brand name] stadium.

    And that branding thing is goddamn retarded. Seriously. Heinz field – well I get that, Heinz is and has been synonymous with the city of Pittsburgh for generations. But most of the other ones are ridiculous.

    12 April, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  5. JW wrote:

    I’m in a similar place. I had a season ticket for this year, which I did not renew. (And I don’t plan to try to get playoff tickets.) I attended about 30 of the regular season games, and watched parts of various away game on Comcast Sportsnet and (unfortunately) NBC – and, too often, it was a chore to watch the Caps.

    I spent too many games wondering if they would have a shot on goal before the first TV time out, or if I’d need more than the fingers of one hand to count the shots on net in the period. (To say nothing of wondering why the other team set up camp in our defensive zone when we weren’t on the PK). It reached the point where I was having trouble giving away tickets for games I did not plan to attend.

    Maybe the attitude and effort level will change in the playoffs – I can only hope so. But I have to confess, I’m glad I don’t have tickets to games at Verizon Center. It appears that the games will start at 7:30, which means that they will probably end at, or after, 10. I generally walk to games straight from the office, and go home via Metro. That extra half hour is a killer. There has been a hiatus in track work for the Cherry Blossom Festival, but once that ends – Metro schedules track work to begin at 10pm. When the game starts at 7, I can leave Verizon around 9:45, and get to Rosslyn in time to catch a bus at 10:25. When I leave Verizon a half hour later, the wait for the train gets longer (especially when track work is involved),buses run less frequently, and the trip home becomes more difficult.

    When I received my invoice for next year, there was an increase (of about 12%). I happened to see a program from the 2003-2004 season, and saw that the gate price for single game tickets for my seat would have been $39. In this year’s program (for 2011-2012), single game tickets were $97, $82, $67 and $52. If I do the division, I think my full season package averaged about $36 per game. Next season, it would be about $40 per game.

    I think if the Caps had played the regular season with anything close to the intensity they showed in Game 1 against Boston, I might have been more interested in a package for next season. (I certainly would have had more confidence that I could find takers for my unused tickets). As it stands, between the regular season half court hockey, the issues with Metro and the price increase, I don’t want to renew my season ticket. Next season, I’ll step back and see if the team becomes any more fun to watch. But I’m happy to make that evaluation from my living room.

    12 April, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Patrick wrote:

    Really? Why post this now? It’s the playoffs!

    LETS GO CAPS!!!!

    13 April, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  7. Todd wrote:

    Well, I couldn’t agree more. I moved here five years ago and bought season tickets. I threw in the towel right after Thanksgiving weekend and didn’t renew for next season and passed along my playoff booklet to my seat partner. I honestly feel that in the week leading up to Thanksgiving Mr. Ovechkin actively attempted to lose games in order to Boudreau fired. I don’t care that they didn’t get along, it doesn’t matter to me that Boudreau got fired; it does bother me that I’m certain in my mind that the -3 and -4 that Ovechkin hung in a few games that week were an intentional move and I can’t abide by a player, particularly a captain, quitting on the ice. That fallout, plus the hiring of Hunter and the lack of ownership by McPhee and the new head coach (Ovechkin should have had the C stripped right then) pretty much turned my stomach.

    Will I check boxscores and follow the progress? Yep. Will I contribute any further time and money to the organization? Nope. I wish them the best in the playoffs, but my time is more valuable than what the offered me in return.

    13 April, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  8. penguin pete wrote:

    i love you guys, but come on. immediate response to the pens loss (understood and well played) but not as quick a recap of the caps/bruins game?

    it begs me to repeat a question i ask myself…is it more fun to root against, or to root for?

    13 April, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  9. Indiana Caps Fan wrote:

    Kudos Empty Maybe!

    Tremendously honest post, and as someone who fought tears when we lost to the Rangers in 1986, and did the same after our loss to Montreal in 2010, I cannot agree with the heart of your comments anymore.

    It really is an amazing accomplishment for an entire organization to suck the verve and passion out of people that have cared so much for so long.

    No bitterness……our franchise is what it is, maybe some “what if’s” i ask myself…but no bitterness.

    I could go on and on about how nuts the front office is to legitimately look themselves in the mirror and think injuries were the problem this season, while the Pens lost better players for just as long and playing in a brutal division, were just mere points away from the Presidents trophy without ever using the Injury word as an excuse.

    We are what we are. And while I do still dream of “The Hoist”, there’s a part of me that is just a little bit emotionally unavailable at this point in time.

    13 April, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  10. Bert wrote:

    I used to go to 12 games a year. Now down to 2 a year because of the expense and only do those as a long-standing commitment to a friend and my wife. Twice before over the decades I gave up on the NHL because of the thuggery, but events made me think the game would get better and I gave it another chance. A cheap shot to the head knocked my favorite player out in January and the repeat offender got just a 5-game suspension. My hopes that Shanahan would be an improvement were dashed. His work in the playoffs has been even more haphazard. In an SI survey, more than 99% of the players wanted to keep the fighting. Bettman brags about the aggressive way they were treating concussions but offered nothing about trying to prevent them. So to my wife’s consternation I stopped watching on TV in January. Even stopped reading about it until today just to say, if that’s the sport the players and management want, they can keep it. I did enjoy the blog while I was a fan.

    18 April, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink