Caps Get Recognized Around Town
Yesterday I was drafted into writing this "New Ice Age" story about the Caps, which contained mostly things you already knew, which is fine because it wasn't written for you, it was written for the people who exclusively read A1 of the Washington Post, possibly including the president of the country. Anyhow, there were some parts I didn't get to include in the story, including the latest list of players describing how things have changed in D.C.
Donald Brashear spoke to me about this at great length.
"When I was with other teams--Montreal or Philadelphia--you'd come in here and there wouldn't be anybody. You knew in the back of your mind there was a 100 percent chance you would win the game. Guys wouldn't really prepare that hard, you'd just come in here and play. In the stands, there was nobody, so you knew it'd be a boring game.
"And you'd have your own fans in the stands. When you were here with Montreal, most of the fans would have Montreal Canadiens jerseys. Same with Philadelphia, Vancouver.
"I'd walk around downtown and nobody would recognize me. I could go out to the pubs and sit at the bar and they wouldn't even recognize me. Even the bartenders. Usually the bartender knows, because they're standing in front of a television showing the game. But nobody would recognize me."
I didn't know this, but Brashear lives in downtown D.C. and would sometimes frequent bars around the Verizon Center for a post-game beer. Living in D.C., he's a massive minority; the only other local superstar I know of who lives downtown is Ben Olsen. A few lesser-known Caps once lived downtown, but they've left the team. The Redskins mostly live in Northern Virginia. So do the Wizards. I don't know the Nats well enough to say definitively, but I'm told they largely live in Arlington and Alexandria.
But Brashear is downtown, and he says the whole recognition thing has changed dramatically, including, he said, with black D.C.'ers who have gotten into the Caps.
"Now every time I go in the room I'm signing jerseys, there are tons of fans. I'm sitting on the bench in the third period, I'll look around, all I see are Caps jerseys. They know the players, they like the players, they recognize the players."
I asked how often he gets recognized; "every day," he said. "I started to stop going in public places. We were in a pub [Tuesday night] for a TV thing, and it was madness. It was like we were gods. And we just lost the game. My first year here I thought nobody knew about hockey and nobody was ever going to go to the rink to watch us play.
"Players are going to want to come and play here now," he concluded. "That's how it happens. Hockey is just going to grow more and more in this area."
Of course, this is all within the context of things still being Redskins first. "No questions asked," agreed Chris Cooley, a major Caps booster who was at Tuesday's game. He went with Brashear, Ovechkin and Backstrom to that MMA show last weekend; "I think the guys are awesome, but it's wild, you go there, all the guys do their interviews, then I get in the ring and the whole place erupts in COOOOOOLEY chants," Cooley said. "Maybe it's just because I have a recognizable name, I don't know."
Cooley, too, has seen a recent change; "If we wanted to come to a Caps game [in the past], it would be a guarantee we'd sit on the glass," he said. "Now we have to call a week in advance to get tickets. You hear people talking about them, I see their highlights on ESPN. It's exciting. They're a cool group of guys, a good group of guys to cheer for."
Anyhow, more recognition tales. It even extends to the grinders.
"I was in a Whole Foods [Tuesday] and some guy told me 'Good luck in the game,' " John Erskine said. "No idea who the guy was."
Erskine echoed Brashear's comments about the changes inside the rink.
"When I first came here there'd be 9,000 people here and the crowd would be dead," he said. "Now it's just done a total 180. It's crazy."
Matt Bradley talked about the noise, saying "honestly, when they get rocking here, I haven't been in a louder rink." And he, too, has been recognized more.
"I joked, my dad was visiting [last week] and I got recognized at Chipotle," Bradley said. "I said, 'Dad, you're lucky, that's the first time that's ever happened.' Obviously the Caps are getting a little bit more recognition, especially star guys like Greenie and Ovie, those guys are a little bit more recognizable around town I think. But everything goes hand in hand with winning and doing well. As long as we can keep winning and doing well, I think things should be good around here."
And Bruce Boudreau also talked about the recognition thing, though his face is obviously on the news more than, say, Erskine's.
"Individually, I guess I'm more noticeable than I was last year, where you were sort of anonymous," he said. "Now I guess more people know me. I don't know if that's good or bad. [It's] wherever I go. If I go to a mall, I might get recognized by one person, but that's one more than I would have been recognized by last year."
I asked whether he thought this was possible when he arrived; "I didn't know what to expect," he said. "When you grow up in Toronto it's always like that. Hershey was like that. Even Manchester was like that. So I just expected everybody to want to see hockey."
Posted by: greggwiggins | February 26, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 26, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhorstma | February 26, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TheFingerman | February 26, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: greggwiggins | February 26, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BettorFan | February 26, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | February 26, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mikesgirl1 | February 26, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JDP_ | February 26, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dkitsou | February 26, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: EdTheRed | February 26, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: brad40 | February 26, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: IzzySez | February 26, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ouvan59 | February 26, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SA-Town | February 27, 2009 5:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: noreaster1 | February 27, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.