Caps fans rescue a stranded Josh Godfrey
As the Caps have morphed from near-irrelevance into perhaps the region's most beloved team in recent years, another love story has simmered under the radar: between Caps fans and the team's minor-league affiliates. Caps fans now run blogs devoted to the Hershey Bears, plan group outings to AHL games, and follow the organization's prospects at every level.
Which is partly why Caps season-ticket holders David Masterman and Steph Sutton drove from the D.C. area to Reading over the weekend to watch the franchise's ECHL affiliate - the South Carolina Stingrays - face off with the Reading Royals.
Sure, Sutton is friends with the Stingrays's broadcaster, who was celebrating a birthday. But she also takes photographs for the Caps in Pictures blog, and Masterman - whose red Camaro has Nicklas Backstrom-themed personalized plates and Weagle stickers - is always up for checking in with the prospects.
"I figured for $20 I could sit at center ice," Masterman told me. "How bad is that?"
After the game - a 5-3 Stingrays loss - Masterman and Sutton and maybe a dozen other fans went to the back of the arena. Sutton chatted with her friend, some fans asked for autographs, and players made cell phone calls. And then the bus gave its warning honks and Caps prospect Jake Hauswirth hurried on board and the Stingrays pulled away.
And then everyone turned and stared at Stingrays defenseman Josh Godfrey, who was still standing there on the sidewalk.
"One of my friends turned around and went, 'Josh, um, they're leaving without you,' " Sutton told me. "We were all laughing pretty hard."
"This would be like the Caps forgetting [Karl] Alzner," Masterman joked. "I don't know whether they use a buddy system or what, but some kind of protocol broke down."
Naturally, the dozen or so fans sticking around offered to take the Caps' 2007 second-round pick wherever he needed to go. Some of the offerers were young. Some were young and female. Some possibly were extremely excited about the prospect of getting Josh Godfrey into their cars. So Masterman, a 51-year old from Burke, figured he needed to step in.
"I was looking a little more senior than the others there, and I wasn't drooling at the time," he pointed out. "We aren't starry-eyed fools. I think that helped some. I think he could tell that we were like, 'It's ok, dude, we've got this.' "
So they all walked over to Masterman's Camaro, complete with its "19 Fan" license plate. They talked about the usual things you talk about when you've picked up a stray pro hockey prospect outside an arena: directions to the team hotel, '80s music, and so on. And they got back to the hotel as the bus was leaving for dinner, allowing Godfrey's teammates to gleefully point out the window at him as he got out of the Camaro and ran over to the bus.
"He was very polite about it," Masterman noted. "I think he was embarrassed but also amused."
The next day, the Caps sent out a notice on their Twitter account Sunday afternoon, offering two tickets to that night's game "for the best random act of Caps kindness story - done by you or to you."
One fan won seats for returning two tickets he found on the sidewalk. Another told of a fan returning a lost engagement ring. "Last night Caps prospect Josh Godfrey was left behind at arena in Reading (dead serious) so we took him by car to catch the team," Masterman submitted.
As a season-ticket holder, he didn't need more seats, but when the Caps offered him a pair, he handed them on to an out-of-town friend, keeping the good karma going. I asked Masterman whether he'd be willing to again shuttle a lost player to his proper destination in the future.
"As long as they weren't dressed in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh attire, sure," he said.
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