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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

New Caps traditions must stand test of time

By Nicole Weissman

This weekend I had the pleasure of joining the Weiswerda family for a St. Louis Blues game (thank you!). I lived in St. Louis while I was in college, so I know a fair bit about the fans there – they’re dedicated, knowledgeable, and for the most part, they’ve loved hockey since before I was born.

In my very first post for Box Seats, I welcomed bandwagon Caps fans, saying that a large fan base was good for the D.C. community. I still believe that’s true, but watching the Blues play this weekend, I felt that some of our fan traditions were somewhat contrived compared to the ones in St. Louis.

The St. Louis Blues were founded in 1967, as part of the NHL’s original expansion from six teams to 12. The Caps’ founding in 1974 means we’re not that much younger, but the major difference is that more St. Louis natives stay there to raise their families, whereas D.C. is notoriously a transient town. The result is that Blues fans are clad in everything from vintage Blues t-shirts, to old Brett Hull jerseys, to blue denim shirts and Blues baseball caps.

The game experience kicks off the with the singing of “When the Blues Come Marching In,” and fans insist that the National Anthem ends “home of the Blues.” The Jumbotron’s graphics are old school, to say the least. Caps fans have always been treated to state of the art and often award-winning media, but in St. Louis fans are urged to “Go nuts” by, of course, a bunch of dancing cartoon peanuts. Midway through the second period, fans participate in Blues Karaoke, belting out “Sweet Caroline” and complying with the Jumbotron’s instructions to “sway back and forth.”

At Verizon Center, our entire approach is more modern. Our technology is newer, our music louder, and our graphics crisper. Our jerseys are bright and clean, we “unleash the fury,” celebrate the rockets’ “RED” glare, and when told who just scored on us, we cry “Who cares?!” And if I may be allowed a brief tangent, I am a believer that if you’ve just been scored on, you should probably care.

Our traditions are fun, and they work. Verizon Center has an impressive reputation as a tough arena for visiting teams to play in, and fans have a great time at Caps games. What more could you want?

I suppose it just doesn’t feel quite genuine to me yet. I first heard the “Who cares” jibe at a University of Minnesota hockey game, and that was long before it showed up in D.C. I’m not sure when “red glare” and “unleash the fury” first arrived, but I believe both are post-lockout, so around five years old. And money can buy great graphics and loud music, but it can’t buy long-term determination, grit, and the kinds of traditions that withstand the test of time.

For that kind of fan tradition, we need look no further than our own Washington Redskins, who provide proof that this town may be full of natives of other cities, but we can still support our teams through thick and thin, coming up with traditions we stick to and a vintage grit the likes of which are not surpassed anywhere else in the league.

Watching the Blues this weekend gave me a sense that, as fans, we have work to do. The way that fans in Detroit are known for throwing octopus onto the ice, we need to be known for traditions of our own. To make that happen, we need to work to “Build America’s Hockey Capital,” as the Caps so aptly put it. It is our responsibility to integrate this team and the traditions we’ve created throughout the D.C. community, so everyone knows what it means to be a Caps fan.

By Nicole Weissman  | January 5, 2011; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  | Tags:  Capitals, Nicole Weissman  
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I'm pretty "meh" on he "who cares" chant, but "all your fault" needs to go. It's hideous.

At least change it to something like "we want 4" after goal 3, "we want 5" after goal 4, etc. It isn't much better, but it's a start.

Posted by: GFisher1 | January 5, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Nicole I hope you're from DC Metro area. If not, then this article can go in the "who cares" pile along with some of the other, they do it better then us articles out of towners like to write in this paper.

Posted by: JDB1 | January 5, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I was at an RIT game before the Winter Classic and they did an "all your fault" chant just without the counting and just repeating the phrase.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 6, 2011 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Sweet Caroline? Really? That's totally lame.

Posted by: mbm1 | January 6, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I've grown up in this area. Ok, I haven't been to tons of games, but I did go to a couple of Caps games at the Cap Center and lived through the blue-and-bronze age.

I wouldn't say that there are any ingrained traditions at Caps games. And I'm fine with that. Some of the new stuff that fans are doing now are fun. I'm sure they'll die off after a while. And I'm sure that some fans are bringing them to Caps games from wherever they came from.

I agree. Traditions take time to become a tradition. I just don't think there are any at Caps games. It's more about having fun. Yes, a lot of the chants and stuff at the Caps games have evolved with the recent success of the team, the Rock the Red campaign, and the influence of transplants. So what if we don't have some sort of tradition that goes back 30 years?

Posted by: JasonM1 | January 6, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out the point of this article.

Posted by: cnewso01 | January 6, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

When the Washington Capitals fans yelled rockets "RED" glared was the moment in the game when the players, the coaching stuff, the unbelievably loud Caps fans and the stunned Pittsburgh fans knew that we were there to win. Capitals fans entered Heinz field with great swagger knowing full well that were coming out with the all important 2 points. Our players responded as they often do when they feel that fans are confident in them.

Nicole I am just going to assume that you yourself is one of the bandwagon fan.

You really don't know what you are talking about. What about the horn, or C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS, or the O(vechkin) done by the proud Maryland fans and even OLIE OLIE OLIE!

I am glad you had such a great experience at the Blues game, but seriously most of those "traditions" you mentioned sounded stupid. I know everyone loves Sweet Caroline, but that's not a hockey song.

I am really jealous we don't practice "traditions" like Blues Karaoke, but I think I am perfectly fine with the Capitals home game experience. Been to plenty Caps games over the past 12 years to tell you that even though our traditions have evolved with time and the whole "Red" thing (which is actually pretty cool) they are very true to D.C.

Posted by: capsfreak66 | January 6, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I have heard from people that have been to hockey games in St.Louis that it's boring.

Again another article that has nothing to do about anything. I have been going to Caps games since 1982 and I will tell you that the Verizon Center is alot more entergetic that ever before.

Here is one tradition. We all wear RED to the games, And add that the red shirts or jersey's were not free shirts given away to fans walking in the door.

Having a team that is home grown gets the community behind them. And that is a tradition that we have and that we have always wanted!

Posted by: darrylrbaker | January 12, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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