Caps Fans Rock the Poncho
A few minutes before the puck dropped tonight, an anonymous young girl wandered down to the area behind the Rangers bench with a delivery.
"She handed these to me," Tom Bush later reported, "and said, 'Here, you're gonna need these. I swear to God."
Which is how six fans seated directly behind John Tortorella came to be wearing the nicest red ponchos I've ever seen at a hockey game. They were shown on the big screen, to the loudest cheers I've ever heard for cheap rain gear. And while the clouds never opened, the ponchos remained on.
"We can't swim, and we fear for our clothes," Bush explained.
"The best offense is a good defense," added Scott Tenaglia, another of the ponchoed posse.
Ted Leonsis saw the ponchos and laughed. Another fan arrived midway through the first period with another shipment of slickers. There were umbrella sightings elsewhere in the arena. All that was missing was Pacman Jones on the PA, asking Caps fans to make it rain.
There were multiple signs with targets, inviting Tortorella to make another stab at it. There were "Don't Water Bottle Me, Bro" posters, and photos of bottles with the words "Torto's Ammo." There were signs that read "Forecast: Victory With a Chance of Flying Water Bottles," and signs that referred to Water(bottle)Gate.
Behind one net, there was Kevin Kane, wearing a Capitals hat with two halves of a splintered water bottle sticking out in either direction.
"I thought it was a good form of silent protest," he said.
Nearby sat Martin Kearney, 54, of Chevy Chase. "Yeah, I'm an adult," he noted. And yet he, too, was wearing a red poncho, though he said it was surprisingly warm and he couldn't promise he'd wear it throughout the night. Of course, he was also seated a fly pattern away from the Rangers bench. Jason Campbell--also in the house--would have had trouble hitting him with a water bottle from that distance.
"It may break out with the other players, you never know," Kearney pointed out. "Or it may pour tonight on the way home. You've got to be prepared."
In the spirit of preparation, Verizon Center staffers had also stuffed the gaps in the glass behind the Rangers bench with plastic inserts. No more spritzing and spitting allegations on this night, though water bottle success was still just a hook shot away.
And there were also out of town reinforcements. Before the game, the large man in the Islanders jersey was impossible to miss, holding up a Rangers jersey bearing a non-complimentary phrase and the signatures of scores of ex-Rangers, including Caps d-man Tom Poti. It was Craig "Ziggy" Stanley, down from West Hempstead to share his Rangers' enmity with a different fanbase.
"I have no problem with the Capitals," Ziggy said. "We'll put the Dale Hunter incident behind us tonight. For tonight, we're joining forces."
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