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Fledgling Caps Fan Needs Advice

Now granted, this is probably the time that a fledgling Caps fan should be exploring other, more promising and forward-thinking hobbies than following the Caps. (Examples: watching "Kidnapped," practicing penmanship, reading newspapers.) But still, I promised this fledgling Caps fan, who claims never to have been to a hockey game but to have become curious due to Bog influence, that I would throw open her question to Caps fans, who will thus have something to do besides pushing the panic button. Here's what reader Kristin writes:

i now have a slight (read: major) crush on gilbert arenas and the entire washington capitals roster (is that what it's called? roster?). it is likely important to note that i am not a particular fan of professional basketball and aside from accidental snippets of games during olympics coverage, i have never watched a hockey match, professional or otherwise....

to wit: i need some advice: i would like to go and see a caps game, but i have no clue which games would be good. i was going to go on the theory that if i haven't heard of the team and/or if the team isn't canadian, they're probably not all that good and the caps would win for sure. then i was thinking okay, i am kidding myself
w/r/t my hockey knowledge and might think i knew a team's name but really don't, etc., which seats are the best deal for the price, et. al.

any help you can provide would be much appreciated. i'm thinking about getting my best friend and i tickets for christmas....

i would very much appreciate recommendations from the caps readers on both seating selections (are the $20 seats The Suck?) as well as game/matchup choices and anything else, e.g. dress warmly and avoid the women's bathroom on the 2nd level. i am flying blind here and all help = good.

My initial inclination was to recommend Kristin go to the Dec. 8 MD game with the 40-45 invading members of La Barra Brava, figuring that would easily give her the best chance of getting drunk and/or arrested, but like I said, I figured I'd ask the experts. Anyone?

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 27, 2006; 1:44 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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The $10 Eagle's Nest tickets are the best deal, but up high and might not be the best for a first-timer. I would, though, avoid being too low, since you really can't see the whole ice. If she's a student, there are discounts if she shows her student ID at the ticket window.

She probably wouldn't need a coat unless she was really low, even then, it's not bad at all - if you dress for the weather outside (unless you're seeing hockey in Florida or Phoenix), then you should be OK inside, too.

The Ducks game would probably be fun (they're not Mighty anymore, but the team is doing really well this year with former Caps Asst. Coach Randy Carlyle at the helm), and it would be with a bunch of other people who could answer her questions.

There's also Caps U coming up - $100 for a hockey lesson with Joe B. and two tickets to the game Dec. 6 against Ottawa. It's a great way to learn the game (even if you've been a fan for a while, it's still really fun to get a different way of looking at the game) and she would, again, be with a group of people who could answer her questions.

She does know that Arenas doesn't play for the Caps, right?

Posted by: Andrea | November 27, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I think we need to see a picture of Kristin.

Posted by: Wes Mantooth | November 27, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Hands down, Penguins-Caps are some of the most intense games Verizon Center has to offer. I recommend Dec. 11. About the seats, the $10 Eagles nest seats are not that much different than the 35 dollar Mezzanine seats, also on the upper bowl. Since most of the games have around 8,000 empty seats, recently the Eagles Nest Tickets have just been the ticket I use to get in and then I move to empty seats wherever they are available.

But I'm a Penguins fan so take what I say with a grain of salt.
-james "the great hockey date" C.

Posted by: James | November 27, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I thought she wants to see Gilbert Arenas.

Posted by: smperk | November 27, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

If you have a crush on the whole Caps roster, then I would suggest you get something in section 100, 101, or 102, which is quite pricey (90 bucks a pop), but worth it if you want to see the players come on and off the ice. And yes, make sure you're at least 15-20 rows up or more so you can see everything.

Go see a game on a Friday or Saturday because they'll have a bigger crowd which makes for a better atmosphere.

And maybe someone (*ahem* Dan *ahem*) should pass along her email to Leonsis. Maybe he'll hook her up (seats, advice, whatever).

Posted by: Reader Glenn | November 27, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

If there's any confusion, Kristin does indeed know the difference between Gil and the Caps....I excerpted her e-mail, possibly in a faulty manner. Apologies.

And Wes, she has a blog, which I think has a photo, but you two should take it slow. This is the first time you've met, after all. Maybe I'll send you the blog link next week.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | November 27, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

There really aren't bad seats in the Verizon Center; not like some seats in other arenas which have obstructed views or uncomfortable positioning. This makes the cheap seats a good value.

That said, getting down into the lower bowl gives a view of the game that's really spectacular. When you're that much closer you can really appreciate how impressive it is to see these hulking athletes floating around on a sheet of ice. You can hear much more of the action on the ice too, which really immerses you into the experience. New or potential fans should all get to see the game up close before settling into seats they can actually afford.

Posted by: false_cause | November 27, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Any game involving a team from north of here, Columbus exculded (We don't see Chicago this year), should be good, though there's no grauntee of which team wil lsee. The one that came back against Ottowa or the one that lay down and died against Toronto.

The 10 dollar seats are fine, though the avilability can be hit-or-miss. Check to see. It's the Caps own ticket site and it's extra-fee free.

Check out some of the blogs linked off of Ted's blog to for a flavor of the fanbase. Google "Ted's Take".

Posted by: EricS | November 27, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

if you are really crushing on the roster, go to Caps practice. They're practicing at Kettler finally, so you can rub elbows with the guys!

That said, I am a Caps STH and I am always cold at games at the phone booth (I'm in sec 400) -- I try to remember to bring gloves and a jacket/sweatshirt.

Posted by: jess | November 27, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

The Eagles' Nest is where it's at. $10 for professional sports? Come on, you're not going to beat that. Plus, as has been said, there are usually plenty of open mezzanine seats you can move down to (especially on weeknights). Use the $25 savings on beer (it's not hockey without a beer).

If getting Eagles' Nest tickets, avoid section 424. The view of the boards on the opposite side is obstructed by the jumbotron. It's the only time I've ever seen something like that at Verizon/MCI/whatever Center.

Teams to see us play: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York (Rangers more than Islanders, but both are old school rivals), Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa, and Florida.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | November 27, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I bought the $50 seats last year and once I got there, realized I should have gotten the ten dollar tickets. Not much of a difference. If Kristin wants to hang with the Barra on the 8th, she's more than welcome.

Posted by: DB | November 27, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

If you're going for the lower bowl, I would recommend the seats on the ends behind the nets for a good view of the game up close. I prefer the end that the Caps shoot at twice, myself. If you're there to check out the players, then the sections by the Caps bench (100 and 121) can be good calls.

If price is a concern, then the Eagle's nest is a great way to get in the door and have a look around (and on most nights, get a bit closer to the front of the upper deck for the lowest fare around). Sections 400 and 433 put you behind the Caps bench, and 417 and 418 are across from it (so you MIGHT even have a an angle to look down the tunnel to the locker room, which is kinda cool).

The team recommendations here are all pretty good. I think the next Atlanta game on the 6th of January could be a helluva good time (depending on what happens in Atlanta on the 15th of December). But you really can't go wrong with a Rangers, Flyers, or Penguins game for crowd energy (although many of them will be fans of the visiting squad).

If you want to sit near "The Horn Guy," he's in 415.

If they try to sell you section 105, row N, seats 11 and 12, bring earplugs.

Posted by: Goat | November 27, 2006 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Goat's comments :-)

As for the Atlanta game on January 6th, it's Autism Awareness night (to support Olie's foundation Athletes Against Autism and Cure Autism Now) and there are discount seats offered for that with part of the proceeds going to the charity. The website to get tickets through this event is

Posted by: Andrea | November 27, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Teams to go see -- that's kind of hit or miss since we never know which Caps team will show up on a given night (and team rivalries are all kind of changing at the moment). The fan rivalries and usually most vocal (and with best fights-in-the-stands potential) are Rangers, Flyers and Penguins.

If you get to the arena early, go sit in the 100s to watch the warm-ups. Kind of like sitting (standing) with the Barras, just tell the usher you want to watch warm-ups and they'll let you down. You'll get an idea of how big (or small) and how fast (or slow) some of the players are. You can stand right at the glass and see the players just a couple feet away from you.
As a first-time watcher, I'd recommend sitting high (I've seen Eagle's Nest suggestions, for example). You can see the play unfold more easily until you better understand what you're looking at.

In addition, not knowing your soccer affinity, if you are used to a certain angle of view for United games, it might not be a bad idea to try to match it at the Phonebooth. The gameplay is kind of similar, so anything to make it closer to what you can more easily see, probably the better the first time around.
(For example, I'm used to sitting around the centerline, so sitting behind the goal is harder for me to follow, but a lot of people {especially videogame players} have an easier time behind the goal.)
That being said, I'd personally recommend sitting Eagle's Nest in 432-402. You're sitting behind the benches, so numbers are facing you (easier to see than faces when trying to learn who's who and see things like the linechanges mid-play). The game unfolds sideways so it's a bit easier to follow. You can more clearly see both ends of the ice (and both goals) than sitting behind one or the other. Then once you can follow the game, start checking out other places. (You didn't hear it from me, but there's usually enough room that you can try out several vantagepoints around the rink all on the same night.)
But that's just me. Lots of others have all kinds or recommendations. If you sit on the opposite side, you can tease the guy on the organ or yell up to the tv and radio announcers. If you sit lower, you can flinch when pucks come bouncing off the glass in front of you or during a hard check. If you sit behind the goalie, you might get a puck that's flipped into the safety netting. The nice thing about Verizon is there really isn't a bad seat in the place (and I know, I've tried 'em all). You can sit near Goat or Hornguy to more easily get caught up in the noisemaking and cheering. You can sit behind the penalty boxes and try to get under the players' skin with trashtalk. But each one has it's own plusses and minuses.
If you have questions on what's going on, ask the people sitting near you. The answers may not be quite right, but they'll probably be pretty close.
Spend a couple bucks to get a program. It'll give you a little info on what's going on (like the things the referees signal) and they'll have bios and pictures to fuel your crushes.
And I'm sure others'll give you all kinds of advice on where to buy the best beer.

If you have other questions, or want to know more, tell the Bogster. (Sportsbog... hmm... should we just call him Swampthing?)

Posted by: Grooven | November 27, 2006 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Don't waste your time, the Caps suck. So do the Wizards. Verizon Center sucks. Abe Pollin sucks. Ted Leonsis sucks. This post sucks. The bog is good. Cheese sucks.

Posted by: suck | November 27, 2006 9:45 PM | Report abuse

The lower bowl is absolutly where you want to be if you want to check out the Caps. They're a little pricey, but take it from me, a female fan who sat through the entire 7-1 loss the Caps suffered against Toronto on Friday but still managed to have an awesome time because I was just feet away from the ice/action/players.

Posted by: Eryn | November 27, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

If you have the money, you can't beat the lower bowl, between the blue lines (middle of the rink on the long side), about halfway up or higher. Right on the glass is exciting but you can't really see what's going on unless the play's right in front of you.

If you're not drowning in cash, consider the Eagles Nest seats. 10 bucks is nothing for pro hockey, or any sport for that matter. And if it's a quiet night you can usually sneak down lower -- just don't tell Ted I said that. :) Our crew is the front couple rows of Section 426, so c'mon by if you'd like.

As for good match-ups, you can't go wrong when the Caps play the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, or Devils. Obviously the weekend games have bigger crowds; more fan energy, but tougher to move down to better seats.

Wherever you sit, and whatever game you choose, try to attend with a hockey fan. It makes all the difference if you sit next to passionate fans for your first game.

Have fun!

Posted by: OrderedChaos | November 27, 2006 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget, the Caps have lots of student discounts if you show a valid college ID. Just call the box office and ask for details.

Also, I agree with sitting in the end zone. If you want to see most of the action, sit in sections 115-118, because that's where the Caps will be defending twice, and that's where the puck will be the whole time.

Posted by: FS | November 28, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"...that's where the Caps will be defending twice, and that's where the puck will be the whole time." - FS

Nice. Unfortunately it's all too true recently.

Posted by: Goat | November 28, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"Now granted, this is probably the time that a fledgling Caps fan should be exploring other, more promising and forward-thinking hobbies than following the Caps."

I must wholeheartedly disagree! This is THE time to start getting into the Caps. As a huge fan who only got introduced in the '01-02 season, I feel I can safely say that the Caps are only going to get better as time goes on. Mostly because they couldn't get any worse than they were right before/after the lockout (I hope). And if you start being a fan now, you won't look like a bandwagon jerk when the Caps win the Cup in a few years down the road! :)

Posted by: sonia | November 28, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

thanks to everyone for their suggestions. they'll help lots when it comes time to buy tickets. although my ridiculously cadenced email might lead you to believe so, i am not, unfortunately, a sassy co-ed eligible for a student discount. sad. i might have to go and see the ducks if only to be [] that much closer in spirit to my main man emilio estevez. woo!

Posted by: kristin | November 28, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

If you go to see Ducks/Caps, expect a blowout. The Ducks are one of the elite teams in the league this year.

Posted by: FS | November 28, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

We can help get you set up. Please call the Capitals at 202-266-CAPS (2277) and ask for Anthony.

Posted by: Anthony | November 28, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I personally enjoy going to Penguins, Thrashers and Flyers games but im sure you'll enjoy the caps vs. any team. I agree with everyone else, dont waste the big bucks on good seats because the place is usually pretty empty so you can move. I never use to like hockey until my ex-boyfriend took me to a game a couple years ago and ive loved it ever since :)

Posted by: capsfan | November 28, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

There is also the option of purchasing tickets at It seems to sell tickets of season ticket holders - sometimes at the season ticket holder price.

Posted by: RJ | November 28, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, the Anthony guy is legit. He's been able to help me out a few times when the Verizon Center staff were...being less than truthful about the ticket situation for a game.

Section 426 eh? I'll keep that in mind next time I'm down there.

Posted by: EricS | November 28, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

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