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Caps Win D.C. Attendance Contest

The attendance champs. (By Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

Owing to FedEx Field's remarkably high capacity, D.C. is likely the only market in the country where the NBA, NHL and NFL franchises could hold a legitimate annual attendance battle. In many years, the totals have been surprisingly close, and yet one team has consistently been denied the top spot. Still, as Mike Holden noted this week, the Caps changed things around last season.

Turns out that was the Caps first attendance victory over both the Redskins and Wizards since FedEx/Verizon opened. (For our purposes, we'll compare NFL seasons to the NHL/NBA seasons that started in the same calendar year.)

Clearly this doesn't define fan base size--the NFL has just eight dates, and the Nats will crush any of these teams in total attendance. Still, while waiting for the year's final preseason game to start (and that says it all), let's take a look at the teams' total attendance figures in the modern era.

(By the way, I was reading some stories dating from the fall of '78 this morning. Love this bit, from a story about the Bullets having trouble selling tickets.

Bullet official concede that the Redskins still are the area's dominant sports team. They already have complained that they deserve more attention from the local media...."A lot of our fans became fans on June 7, when we won the title," said one player. "They got on the band-wagon and they will get off it the first chance they have. This is still a Redskin town."....

"From what happened to us after the title - the parades, the celebrations, the awards - I thought we had won over the town,' Abe Pollin said. "I don't know what else we can do. We won a title for them but, so far, the enthusiasm (of June) has not turned into concrete examples of support. Others in the league are shocked and astounded at our situation."

The more things change, and all that. Anyhow, those figures. We have to start in 1999-2000, the first year the Caps and Wiz played full schedules downtown.


1. Redskins 619,749
2. Wizards 616,599
3. Capitals 593,922


1. Redskins 647,424
2. Wizards 638,653
3. Capitals 636,914


1. Wizards 847,634
2. Capitals 710,990
3. Redskins 624,374


1. Wizards 827,092
2. Redskins 643,950
3. Capitals 647,272


1. Wizards 645,363
2. Redskins 643,997
3. Capitals 603,528


1. Wizards 705,069
2. Redskins 702,670
3. Capitals N/A


1. Redskins 716,999
2. Wizards 705,062
3. Capitals 570,113


1. Wizards 753,283
2. Redskins 701,049
3. Capitals 571,169


1. Wizards 736,461
2. Redskins 704,722
3. Capitals 634,381


1. Capitals 741,992
2. Redskins 708,835
3. Wizards 681,117

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 3, 2009; 1:48 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Redskins , Wizards  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Sounders Fans Take On D.C.
Next: What We Learned From the Final Preseason Game



What's the difference in capacity for the hoop and puck set-ups at Verizon?

Posted by: metatext | September 3, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Dan is a lousy owner who treats the loyal fans like crap, and the Wizards suck. The Capitals have excellent, fan-friendly ownership. They've carefully put together an excellent team, and they have clawed their way out of the basement to being a perennial winner and not a loser. Screw the Redskins and Snyder, and forget the Wizards.

Posted by: futbolclif | September 3, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Pretty easy to tell which years were the "Jordan Years" for the Wizards.

Posted by: colerwilson | September 3, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"The Wizards suck"...ed for one season. Otherwise they've accomplished exactly what the Caps have in the past few years -one playoff series win. And they'll be about as competitive in their league this season as the Caps will be in hockey.

Don't get me wrong, Im a fan of BOTH teams. In fact, that's my point. Don't jump on one bandwagon and slam another local team in the process. That mentality only hurts DC as a sports town, IMHO.

Posted by: Kev29 | September 3, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"And they'll be about as competitive in their league this season as the Caps will be in hockey."

The Caps are a legitimate contender this season for the Stanley Cup. You're not really saying, Kev, that the Wizards are going to contend for the NBA title? Are you?

Posted by: billieb | September 3, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, the Nats drew 2.3 million last year, more than the three other teams, and they're considered a laughingstock.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | September 3, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

A lot of morons still rooting for the redskins... thank god, they are not at Verizon Center.

Posted by: hock1 | September 3, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The Caps will not win the Stanley Cup. The Wizards will not win the NBA title. Both will make the playoffs. Both might win a series. Both will have talented players worth the price of admission. I don't think there will be a huge difference.

Posted by: Kev29 | September 3, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"The Caps are a legitimate contender this season for the Stanley Cup. You're not really saying, Kev, that the Wizards are going to contend for the NBA title? Are you?"

The Caps are probably a top 3 team in the East, the Wizards are probably looking at being 5th or 6th. The Caps are in a better position, but only slightly.

Posted by: pondaz | September 3, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

metatext, the VC holds 20,173 for basketball, and 18,277 for hockey.

Posted by: RedBirdie | September 3, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg: The Caps are at a disadvantage compared to the Wizards because the capacity for hockey is 2,000 less. Also, are you including playoff games in those numbers?

As for the Wiz-Caps debate, I root for both teams. But I've sensed a buzz about the Caps (I can't believe they've sold 5,000 tickets to their "convention" in Sept for 40 bucks a pop, that's impressive), that I don't sense for the Wiz. I think people believe the Caps can bring home a Cup next season. I don't think anyone believes the Wiz have a realistic shot at a championship.

Posted by: poguesmahone | September 3, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"The Caps will not win the Stanley Cup. The Wizards will not win the NBA title. Both will make the playoffs. Both might win a series."

LOL. Nearly every hockey publication has the Caps playing for at least the conference championship yet you've got them at best winning a single series. And the implication that the Caps and Wizards have comparable talent is absurd. The Caps have the two-time MVP in Ovechkin, the league's highest scoring defenseman in Green, Alex Semin was just behind Malkin and Ovechkin in points per game and Backstrom was top ten in league scoring. And both Green and Ovechkin were first team all-stars. Just who exactly do the Wizards have that's comparable? And don't say Arenas who hasn't played in almost two years. Check back in late May, Kev, when the Caps are still playing hockey and the Wizards are doing whatever basketball players do when their season is over.

Posted by: billieb | September 3, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"The Caps will not win the Stanley Cup."

Okay, let's not even play this season then because Kev29 said the Caps will not win the Stanley Cup. What's the point of playing this year when Kev29 has predicted the future and said the Caps wil not win the cup?

Kev29- Can you tell me how many games the Skins will win this year? Who's going to win the Super Bowl? Stanley Cup? World Series?

Posted by: rachel216 | September 3, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The Caps are a first class-run organization comprised of gentleman who not only serve the community well, but stay off the police blogs. Ted made his fans the number one priority - as it should be. Winning helps, too...The Redskins and Wizards are surrounded by people who "don't get it," especially evidenced this week with the WaPo's articles on the Redskin's overwhelming greed. This town will embrace winners, but will cherish heros-Ted L. is a hero...Danny not so much!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | September 3, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

just fyi, but at 18,277 seats times 41 regular season games, the Caps max out at 749,357. Expect them to hit that this season.

That also means if the numbers Steinberg posted above are regular season only, that caps sold all but about 8,000 seats for the entire 2008-2009 season. Wow.

Posted by: RedBirdie | September 3, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I think we can say the Redskins came in third for the first time last year, owing to 30,000 Steelers fans that shouldn't be counted in that total.

Posted by: crashinghero | September 3, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, I thought this was going to be judged by percentage of capacity filled, rather than total attendance.

Does that change anything? I bet it gets the Nats in the discussion, and probably fourth.

Posted by: KeithMcMillan | September 3, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse


You are exactly type of Fan that needs to stay away from attending Verizon Center this year.. Ohh wait! Caps have sold out the whole season. Maybe you can pay above the gate price and get in and watch the TOP player in the world go for possibly 3rd straight MVP award and lead the team that finished 1st in its Division in back to back years.

How can you even say they have comparable talent? Caps took Stanley Cup Champion to 7 games. And every single Hockey expert knew that the winner of the Caps vs Pens series was going to the Cup Final because Carolina had no chance against either. Educate yourself on the topic before you post some blaberish.

Posted by: lightshow | September 3, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why all of Germantown or Vienna of wherever the hell Caps obsessives come from are so certain that our team will be Cup challengers when we all saw them get laughed off the ice in a certain game 7 last Spring. I hope they go all the way, but all this talent has gotten them to the second round of the playoffs - same as Gilbert and Antawn.

Maybe we shouldn't start calling our city Hockeytown II till they've accomplished something more than the Wizards. Oh and stop yelling "O" during the National Anthem when you want to call yourselves the best team in DC.

Posted by: Kev29 | September 3, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse


Don't bother man, most of them only know hockey since March of '07.

Posted by: Section117 | September 3, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Section 117,

I've played the game since 5. 32 now. I am the STH holder in your section. I can guarantee you i know more about the game then you. Kev is a typical example of someone who comments without knowing all the facts. He is the type of fan that would walk out on the Caps in the 3rd period when they are down by 2....

Posted by: lightshow | September 3, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

What do you want, a cookie?

Posted by: Section117 | September 3, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes baked by your Mom!

Posted by: lightshow | September 3, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Where are the Mystics? When I go to Caps games, I see they were "attendance champions" for 2-3 years.


Posted by: MyJobsMyCredit | September 3, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Job-They're winning and fighting for a playoff spot this year.

I upped my ticket package to a full season this year after 8 years of buying a lot of single games and a 12 game package last year, plus the playoffs when I got my season's ticket package. Yeah, there are a lot of bangwagoners, but there's a ton of real fans in those stands to. Also, I think it's an almost 3,000 seat difference from hockey to basketball as the Wiz setup holds over 21,000.

Posted by: EricS2 | September 4, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Actually, lightshow, I was at Game 7 applauding the team right through the handshake - in appreciation for their exciting season.

I just don't appreciate Caps fans hating on other teams in DC. It's pointless, nerdy and shortsighted. If you don't care for basketball or football, then shut your mouth and enjoy your hockey. Good times come and go.

Posted by: Kev29 | September 4, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

For real....its like picking your favorite child. All of them are our teams. It's hard enough as it is with us being a transplant town.

Posted by: Petey82 | September 4, 2009 4:21 AM | Report abuse

Yes baked by your Mom!

Posted by: lightshow | September 3, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for being the articulate voice of the fanbase I'd expect you to be.

"I just don't appreciate Caps fans hating on other teams in DC. It's pointless, nerdy and shortsighted."

Posted by: Kev29 | September 4, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse


Slow clap to you sir.

Posted by: Section117 | September 4, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The Caps are a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. Last year they finished 4th overall in the regular season and lost to the eventual champions in the playoffs in 7 games. The team has improved this offseason in that the younger players have gained some real post-season pressure experience and they've added two grizzled veterans in Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble, who fill in two precise needs this team had (the right wing for Ovechkin and Backstrom, and the second line center for Semin and Laich). Add in a rock-solid defenseman like Karl Alzner (30 games last year, looked like he belonged) and the team is much improved.

Oh, and let's not forget that the Caps farm teams in Hershey and South Carolina won the AHL (Triple A) and ECHL (Double A) championships last year, so there is tremendous depth in this organization.

Once Semyon Varlamov gets in better condition (which he has been doing) he'll be a top-notch goaltender and might beat out Jose Theodore for the job. Of course, Theodore isn't a bad goalie to have, as he's a former NHL MVP as well as Vezina Trophy winner, All-Star, etc.

While there is no guarantee that the Caps will win the Stanley Cup, they clearly have to be mentioned in the discussion of teams that have a legitimate chance to win (along with Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, and Pittsburgh).

As for the Wizards, their record of 19-63 last year says a lot. They have a lot of eggs in three baskets (Arenas, Butler, Jamison) and they are great baskets, but when Arenas went down, it showed how vulnerable they are. If they're healthy, then they win 45-50 games, but there's no depth. Can the Wiz make the playoffs? Sure. Can they win a round? Maybe. NBA Championship? No way. They're not going to beat the Celtics, Cavs and then a team from the west like the Lakers.

Last year, in a few games, the Caps had 6 NHL defensemen on the injury list. Normally a team dresses 6 defensemen, so they had an *entire* defensive group unable to play, and they still were winning games (see the note about depth in the farm system above.)

A Redskins Super Bowl? Playoffs maybe. They have great defense, but again the depth isn't there. Plus to win the Super Bowl, they'd have to beat at least 2 of the following teams in the NFC playoffs: New York, Carolina, Arizona, Chicago, and *then* beat a team like Pittsburgh, New England or San Diego....

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | September 4, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I would agree that pitting local teams against each other is stupid. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Posted by: poguesmahone | September 4, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

You ought to compare percentage of seats filled. The Nats would be low by that metric (and rightfully so). Sadly, the woeful skins would be high on that metric as well. Caps rank highly either way, Wizards would be lower because of the higher capacity of Verizon for basketball. IMHO, the best live pro sporting event in Washington is the Caps. I can't wait for the season to start. Even talking to non-hockey fans, they are PSYCHED!

Posted by: lanthier | September 5, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

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