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The Bearded Caps Fan in the White T-Shirt



Throughout the game, several people seated immediately behind the visitors' bench took advantage of the looseness of the glass panels and the unusually wide gaps between the panels to assault the Rangers with some of the most obscene language imaginable. Because of the way the glass is installed, the patron sitting behind Coach Tortorella (the gray-haired, bearded man in the white T-Shirt) could literally scream into the coach's ear.

And thus, did one longtime Caps fan earn a permanent spot in the official record of this first-round series. I finally got him on the phone today, after his hair and clothing had been included in Rangers GM Glen Sather's "Dear Gary" letter, after his face had been shown repeatedly both during Versus's game broadcast and during post-game national highlight shows, and after he had helped prompt the NHL to increase security for Game 7 tomorrow night.

The fan's name is Ron, he's 57, and he lives in Nevada, of all places. He grew up in P.G., was a season ticket holder at the Cap Centre for more than a decade before leaving the area in the late '80s, and was attending his first Caps game in D.C. since then, with front-row tickets he bought online. And by the end, according to his account, he had been doused with water by John Tortorella and had responded by throwing a half-empty cup of beer at the coach, leading to Tortorella's flung water bottle and stick-brandishing adventures.

"I have never been involved in any of that kind of stuff at a sporting event in my entire life," Ron told me. "I'm sad that that's happened. I feel bad about the woman who got hit with the bottle. I hope she's ok. That kind of stuff just shouldn't happen. This'll pass. And hockey is hockey, and rowdy fans are rowdy fans, and things happen at the games. It's just part of the deal."

(Ron spoke with me on condition that I not use his last name; he sent me a photo to verify that he was the fan in question, and an account from another fan in the vicinity confirms much of this story.)

His out-of-townness helps clear up one of the mysteries: why this extremely passionate fan wasn't wearing a speck of red. Ron, who was in D.C. with his wife and stepson on a business trip, had forgotten about the Rock the Red thing; he bought his son a gray Caps hat at the game, which was the only team regalia they wore.

He said a trio of younger Caps fans sitting a few seats away from his family began directing a "merciless" and profanity-filled stream of taunts at the Rangers bench early in the game. These fans, Ron guessed, were the inspiration behind the "egregious fan misconduct" referenced in Sather's letter. As the letter claimed, Ron said these fans indeed earned a reprimand from a female security supervisor (after which their language, at least, improved), but that he himself remained largely out of the fray until the incident. At that point, he and a security guard had been discussing the minimal offensive output the Rangers had mustered, and Ron extended the conversation to Tortorella.

"I leaned in to the little crack [in the glass], and I didn't yell and scream, I just said it very calmly," Ron told me. "I leaned into the crack and I said, 'Nice job coach, your guys put up 15 shots and your [slang term for cats] couldn't even put in a goal.' And then he just went crazy."

From his days in the Cap Centre, Ron said he was accustomed to coaches spritzing rowdy fans with water bottles, and when Tortorella turned, that's what he anticipated. But he said Tortorella crossed a line by soaking him with water.

"If it had been just a little squirt I would have just laughed it off, but he just went crazy and darn near emptied that bottle on me," Ron said. "After he emptied that bottle on me I just threw that beer. Well, it was half a beer....And it just went crazy from there."

According to Ron's account, Tortorella rose up to throw the bottle at him. Ron ducked, and the bottle hit a female fan seated behind him. Tortorella grabbed the stick and the two men stared at each other, with Ron not saying much besides "You want me, I'm right here," and things of that ilk.

"It was just not a good night for him, he was just really frustrated, and apparently decided to take it out on me," Ron said. "Perhaps I shouldn't have thrown the beer, but if he had just given me a quick squirt with the bottle, it wouldn't have been any big issue. I would laughed said, 'That's the way it was in the old days,' and moved on. But when he drenched me, that deserved some sort of retaliation, I think, and he certainly shouldn't have been able to throw that bottle....

"I said one thing, but it was apparently the one thing that just broke the camel's back. The taunting is a bit a part of the game. I didn't yell, I didn't scream, I didn't cuss, I wasn't belligerent. He should have just shrugged it off."

Sather's letter also said that Rangers personnel "were spit on by one or more 'fans' as they yelled through the gaps in the glass," and Ron said Tortorella had specifically accused him of spitting on the coach shortly before the major confrontation. This charge, Ron ardently denied, and said he didn't think it was possible for any other fan to have spat at Tortorella, since he and his family were directly behind the coach.

"I would never do a [stupid] thing like that, certainly not with my wife and kid there," Ron said. "There was a security guard one foot away from me; he would have seen me, no question about it. But he somehow in his mind believed I had spit on him. He went to security and complained, and the guard said 'I've been sitting right here, there's no way this guy did that.' I swear to you I did not spit on him."

Which pretty much completed Ron's story. He went back to Nevada the next morning, and will watch Game 7 on the television. He didn't specifically hear the three young Caps fans tossing homophobic insults at Marc Staal and Dan Girardi of the kind suggested in Sather's letter, but he said that would have fit into their generally merciless arsenal. He said he thought Verizon Center staffers handled all the incidents appropriately, and that Tortorella was reacting to his frustration with the game, and with the three young and vocal fans.

He said the half-beer he drank (pre-throw) was the only alcohol he had consumed all day, that he had yet to read the letter in which he was referenced, and that he thought Tortorella deserved a longer suspension.

"He's been in the NHL in one capacity or another for 30 years," Ron said. "He has seen it all, he could have just shrugged it off and laughed and moved on. I'm sure he's seen worse. This, to me, was not an incident that lended itself to being squirted with half a bottle of water, and throwing bottles, and raising sticks and doing all that kind of stuff. Certainly, my comment should not have deserved that."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 27, 2009; 6:32 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , NHL  
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Comments

It's nice to get the story finally.

Posted by: Ovechwin | April 27, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I love you Dan! (and not just because you are from upstate New York).

Should have known that you would get this guy's story - AND finally confirm which team's fan he was and why he wasn't wearing red if he was a Caps fan!

Thanks!

Posted by: suzannepdc | April 27, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Of all places....

Thanks Dan.

Posted by: sitruc | April 27, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff!

Posted by: ThisGuy | April 27, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

This is why you ARE Dan the Man

Posted by: CPortisRun | April 27, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow - solid reporting Steinz!

BTW, were you the one who tipped off ESPN about Greener's 1 game suspension?

Posted by: jhorstma | April 27, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

This is monumental Dan.

Woodward and Bernstein had Deep Throat, and you've got Bearded Dude from Nevada with a white t-shirt!

Those skills you picked up along the way tracking down GUTS competitors has paid off.

Posted by: kolbkl | April 27, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Well f'ing done, Mr. Steinberg!

I am officially a fan of Ron. If you're reading this, sir, please come back for another playoff game at some point.

Posted by: Goat_74 | April 27, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Ron might want to have a word with the folks at TSN. Their announce crew said he was "overserved" among other things....

Posted by: ValleyCaps | April 27, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

One game suspension for assaulting a fan; six game suspension for a blindside check on a Ranger. The NHL really has it right.

Posted by: poguesmahone | April 27, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

can we all chip in and get ron back in those seats for game 7...id like to by him a replacement beer!!!

well done...

and to think brash gets 6 games for his hit and antics...torts shoulda got more than 1 and avery deserves some games for his antics not to mention by a few others that deserved soeme attention...

Posted by: deadskin | April 27, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Check a guy who's just passed the puck a little late, get 5 games.

Assault a fan in the stands from the bench, get 1 game.

Remember, it's a New York bias, not an east-coast bias.

On the bright side, after decades of complaints that playing for the Caps meant little to no fan support in a quiet, peaceful building, we now have the NEW YORK RANGERS COMPLAINING!!! I mean, OMG, how freaking ironic is that? The team traditionally regarded as the rowdiest, most unruly fans in hockey, if not all of sport? This has GOT to help our street cred!

Rock the Red, go CAPS!

Posted by: sillj | April 27, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Was his beer cup half full or half empty? Me thinks the former.

Posted by: AleksanderOMunchkin | April 27, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Great Story Dan

Posted by: Sonyask | April 27, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Nice work, Steinberg.

Posted by: oo7 | April 27, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm forever a Bog man now after reading this! Fantastic research and story Dan.

Unlike a TV "world wide leader", you fact checked and reported a story accurately.

Posted by: BBride | April 27, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Either way you slice it- personal, mean spirited attacks are wrong! The people mentioned were no better than Rangers blue seat fans. They aren't real sports fan. They were acting out what their IDEA of what a hockey fan should be. It angers me. Real Caps fans are better than that.

Posted by: SarahKate | April 27, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

OK, mostly I read and don't comment, but I think this warrants throwing in my two cents. Let's start by saying I'm a season ticket holder and diehard Caps fan. But is it just me misunderstanding or are most of you cheering for someone who used the slang word for cat in front of his son? There is no call for what Torts did, I'm not defending his actions but I also think that what this guy did was objectionable. No matter if his son is 10 or 21, he's setting a bad example of how to behave in public. Were there women or children sitting near him? What he did was fire up the coach who got so mad that an innocent bystander got the brunt of the anger. I seriously do not condone his bahavior one tiny bit, even if he did 'whisper' it through the crack. Caps fan or not, his behavior was objectionable. The rags were already down, why rub it in? I never understood the 'kick 'em when they're down' attitude. Be loud and proud and supportive of your team in a positive way and be the 'bigger' person and be above that type of behavior. Clearly this type of action can spiral out of control quickly, but could have been avoided completely if he just sat back enjoyed the Caps winning.

Posted by: BlondeCapsFan | April 27, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Well done Mr Steinberg. I have no problem with a little taunting. Torts was in the wrong in this one. I'll give Ron one of my extra seats any time he wants to come back and check out a game.

Posted by: SombreroGuy | April 27, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm not condoning his actions either BlondeCapsFan, but he said he was wrong. Plus, it was his stepson so it's obviously ok. :P

Posted by: sitruc | April 28, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

The two things I love most about the above picture are a) the photo clearly shows the man wearing his wedding ring and b) his cupped hand to make sure his delicately worded suggested were placed in the right direction.

The Rangers actions are really funny in all regards. I hope they also suggested that the NHL provide more security to protect the Capitals fans from the Rangers bench. In fact, protecting the Caps fans might have been the gross negligence after all. I'd want more security between myself and Tortorella and Avery

Posted by: diego_r | April 28, 2009 1:34 AM | Report abuse

Video during the game seemed to suggest the security guard was very much standing between Tortorella and Ron in order to protect Ron from Torts going postal. That's what looked weird when they showed it w/o any context. I think the Rangers' letter is very much directed at that security guard, the one who was in a position to know what had actually happened and denied some of Tort's accusations. 2 cents. Maybe tonight we should all wear white shirts and Rock the Ron?

Posted by: minorthread | April 28, 2009 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Ron, you should be inducted into the Caps fans hall of fame! FLY THIS MAN BACK FOR GAME 7!!!!

Posted by: SkinsOsHokies | April 28, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

After what I saw last year in Philly Ron's acts were quite PG and at least non violent. However, a win tonight would be the only thing that makes any of this nonsense remotely amusing. Go Caps!!!

Posted by: cappies | April 28, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

This guy doesn't really seem to scream "classy" to me and I'm a little puzzled why you guys think he's so great. As mentioned above, the guy claims he didn't cuss - but Stein had to redact his language from the post. He doesn't seem like a guy I'd want sitting near me during a game.

Posted by: ArlingtonVA3 | April 28, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

The hockey stick, which is what we all saw during the game - once the two sections rose up as one down there - was was bothered me. This is probably exactly what most of us thought happened and I agree that Torts has heard far worse than this in his years in hockey. He shouldn't engage. But, one he grabbed the hockey stick, stood on the bench, and either tried or pretended to try to get over the glass, it's a new deal.

And I'm with Blonde, I'm not really cool with the cussing and homophobic verbiage of a lot of Caps fans. There's not really anyway to justify your own behavior if the words coming out of your mouth are so juvinile. You can act like you've been there before.

Posted by: saintex | April 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Sheesh, Ron should know better.... to waste perfectly good beer (well, so-so beer that costs $3 an ounce) on someone as undeserving of anything more than IC Light like Tortorella. For shame...

But then, it's not like you can get any cheap beverages at the arena (aside from city water from the fountains...)

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | April 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Regalia??

Paraphernalia???

What is this a spelling bee??

Caps fans Rock the Red "GEAR"!!!

(No spell check needed!)

Posted by: Darren_ | April 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Well done Dan. That's some fine journalism there. It's great to hear his side of the story and you know you wouldn't hear it anywhere else. See you tonight!

Posted by: TheRealDuffman | April 28, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Ron deserves an apology from TSN. I don't know who it was, but the gentleman who gave Torts the benefit of the doubt and referred to Ron as being "overserved" needs to issue an apology. Any idea how/where we can lodge complaints to TSN?

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | April 28, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Funny how I don't see any Rags fans posting on this one. It tells the truth about the situation and not a one. Tells you something about 'em, doesn't it?

Posted by: jwash4472 | April 28, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Do we have any story from the guard?
I don't condone vile & vulgar language around the kids.
But I would like to hear what the security guard heard or saw from the 3 un-identified young ppl behind Ron.

Thanks for the post Dan.

Posted by: Rocc00 | April 28, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

My nine year old son and I were sitting behind the "three guys." They were relentless in their heckling of the trainer. After security spoke to them, they stopped "cursing," but the vulgar, homophobic language did not stop. Luckily my son didn't understand what they were saying but he did say that even though he wasn't the trainer, he was still annoyed.

Posted by: caps999 | April 28, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

By his own account this guy is total idiot, and most likely a liar to top it off. Too bad there was a glass in between them, he would have received what he was asking for. Go back to Nevada and stay there, the Caps don't need that kind of idiotic fan.

Posted by: opita1 | April 28, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Another example of how useless and awful security arrangements are at American sporting events.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 28, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Since Ron will be in Nevada tonite for Game 7 and safely tucked away from Coach Tart, all Caps' fans at Verizon Center need to walk up to the nearest Rangers' fan and smash him/her in the face and then put a chokehold on them. This would make Ron proud.

Posted by: djdavew2002 | April 28, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Great post, Bloggy.

My take is that 57 year old guy should have been tossed. Yeah, Torts shouldn't have sprayed him but I could see why Torts did it after that guy admitted using that language, especially in front of kids.

Posted by: playahatah | April 28, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

New York has Jeffrey Maier, DC now has Ron. After that punk interfered with Tony Tarasco, he was given lower level seats for the next game. I think Owner Ted should fly Ron back to Verizon center and give him the seats he had for game 5.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | April 28, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Robin Ficker--the original Heckler--is my heckling idol. But you Ron are my hero. Ficker would be proud.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 28, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"I would never do a [stupid] thing like that, certainly not with my wife and kid there."

what a clown. ten bucks he went to maryland.

Posted by: Effyeahterps | April 28, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

A few points:

1. Torts needs to control his temper. His suspension should have been longer.

2. I'm glad that Security at least tried to tone down the profanity. I was at the first 98 cup final game at Verizon, sitting behind the Red Wings bench. There was a guy sitting behind me with a little child. For two periods, all that game out of his mouth was: "Bowman sucks, Osgood sucks. Federov sucks," and so on down the roster. A great role model for the little boy. He about ruined what was a once in a lifetime thrill for me.

3. Interesting that no one has mentioned the other bearded gentleman sitting behind the bench, this one in a Rangers jersey. I didn't see any bruises, cuts or bullet holes on him. Try wearing a Caps jersey to Madison Square Garden.

4. Finally, earlier in the playoffs, weren't a couple of beer bottles thrown at Ovechkin and Semin at the Garden? Is that what the Rangers call adequate security? Whata bunch of hypocrites!

Posted by: StevefromSacto | April 28, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Well, StevefromSacto probably won't win on his second point, especially 11 years later. That word has entered the lexicon as a synonym for "stinks." Just ask Bart Simpson. In its verb intransitive form, according to Websters New World Fourth Edition, it is slang (not with vulgar in front of it) meaning "to be contemptible or very unsatisfying, as because of low quality [this show sucks]." So I can say it sucks that I had to give up my tickets to tonights game. Because it does.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | April 28, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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