The Invasion Nears, Cont.
So anyhow, this whole thing started as an offseason whim for some D.C. United fans, who were also considering outings to go bowling or play darts or whatever. About five of these fans figured they'd do a Caps game. Other bored people joined in, and the group kept growing. They looked into group rates. Duffman, a particularly energetic sort, eventually reserved a block of 50 seats for tonight's game. He's since had to bump it up to 60. A few DCU mainstays, such as Paul from the Screaming Eagles, the Bellowing Captain and Banshee Jay and the drum-beating GrillMaster, are coming. Duff promises that the Invaders won't sit down the entire time, although I'll believe that when I see it. Some people started re-working classic United chants for Capitals usage, since both teams' names have three-syllables, although I'm a bit concerned because the accenting is different. And excited people on the Caps board started expressing their support. For example:
As I will be in 407 (you said you're in 406, yes?), where does one learn the lyrics to these songs/cheers/etc. I'm happy to contribute my vocal chords - any support for the Caps is much appreciated, and hope that this takes off.
And now Duffman's been meeting with Caps executives and thinking about forming some more permanent, independent supporters group, causing a bit of concern about the true independence if the Caps are involved. And as Horn Guy hinted below, there are possible signs of wariness from Caps fans. I do wonder what will happen if, say, a Let's Go Caps cheer starts but the Invasion sticks with Vamos Capitals, or if some fans sitting behind the Invasion would like to sit down for a spell, or if the Invasion continues its cheers whilst Smokin' Al is talking on the video board.
And as several of you have noted, chanting has erupted at recent Caps game, some of it courtesy of a bunch of Germans who stopped by in support of Olie, and who angered at least a few of their nearby neighbors, but who also attracted the Captain and Duffman and several other soccer fans who happened to be in the arena and were drawn to the chants, like moths to a smokebomb.
"One German said, 'I don't understand, why is everybody sitting?'" Duffman told me. "He was seriously confused. I was like, 'I hear you.'"
See, as you probably know, hockey crowds in Europe are a bit different than the American sort.
"It's tough to describe," said Caps defenseman Jamie Heward, who has played professionally in Switzerland. "They're crazy. They're energetic. I mean, for the most part there's usually a section, at least one part of the rink where they stand up the entire time, and they wave banners, and they yell and scream and go crazy.... I mean, I've seen it all.
"I got there, let's say, August 5, and they hadn't even started the season yet, and I had seen riot police on the ice in one of the cities, trying to break up this thing. I'm going, 'What did I get myself into. Like, this is insane.' Literally riot police were in one of the cities, [a game] between two of the biggest rivals. They canceled the game halfway through the second period, the fans had pushed on the glass so hard they knocked the glass over, so it was riot control. At a hockey game. I'm thinking to myself, 'Yeah, ok, I can see if you win the Stanley Cup there might be some shenanigans, but not during the game."
I told him the Barra were coming tonight, and he laughed.
"Well, that should definitely be interesting," he said. And it'll be interesting to see how the fans react to it."
In fact, Ken Berard--who's guest-blogging all day over at OffWingOpinion--told Heward that one of his key matchups tonight is La Barra Brava vs. Suburban Season Ticket Holders. Heward wasn't sure quite what to think--he considers hockey a sport where you can take your family and kids and sit back and enjoy the action--and he wasn't sure how well that would mix with soccer chants, but other members of the Caps were totally into it.
"That would be great, are you kidding me?" Brian Pothier said. " We want to get some intensity in the crowd, some fun, make it a place where it's hard for other teams to come in the rink."
"Any type of fan stuff like that would be good," Matt Bradley agreed.
Even the Ducks were intrigued by the prospect.
"It's hard, because people want to sit down, they don't want to block the views and everything, but at least they should be more vocal, live more with the action," Teemu Selanne told me. "I think a lot of times, especially in the States, the people are almost watching the game like they go to theatre or movies....The more energy, more crowd you have, better you play."
So anyhow, Duffman is already thinking about the future. He already has plans to bring the Invasion back on Jan. 6 against the Thrashers. There is talk of drums and banners and flags (red-white-and-blue, naturally). He's thinking a vocal Caps supporters group could go to maybe 10 home games a year, and fill a 150-person section, and have a drum or two and smaller flags to wave during breaks in action and massive overhead flags for after goals (all of which the Caps seem ok with), and they could attract league-wide attention and all that. He's telling the Invaders to lay off the profanity. He's not worried about people standing on the seats, because they'll be so far up in the arena anyhow. Plus, he already has a well-articulated and modest goal.
"I want," he said, "to make it so you can never hear "Let's Go Flyers" chants going in the arena again."
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