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Posted at 12:44 AM ET, 01/ 2/2011

Caps fans at the Winter Classic, plus a Yeti

By Dan Steinberg

(Real photos by Toni L. Sandys and Jonathan Newton - TWP)

Here are the four things I'll most remember about the Winter Classic.

1) Eric Fehr.
2) The rain.
3) Mike Knuble's post-game quote: "Everybody gave a crap tonight."
4) The Caps fans.

The first two are fairly self-explanatory, and well-covered elsewhere on this Web site. The third thing is just five great words. The fan thing I've probably beaten to death, but I'm gonna beat it some more anyhow.

The announced attendance was a tad over 68,000. The Caps sold 20,000 tickets. People from the league and the Caps franchise estimated that another 7,000 to 10,000 fans came from the D.C. area, scoring tickets via the secondary market or other means. That's what NBC was going with, anyhow, describing the crowd as a 40k/30k split.

That might be a bit overly generous, but the key point is this: after years and years and years of seeing way too many visiting fans in their arenas, the Caps flipped the script. Even if the league tilted the scales by giving those 20,000 tickets to the team, the fans came, and they filled a Pittsburgh stadium with red. And at the end, the Penguins fans left early, and the Caps fans stayed and cheered.

"I thought I heard 30,000," Matt Hendricks said after the game, when I mentioned that number. "Wow. That's great. To spend their money to come up here and support us and cheer us on, and I'm really glad we got the W for them. We could hear them after we scored, and you look around and it's seas of red."

"You really noticed them right off the bat, when they did their national anthem chants and whatnot," John Carlson said. "I think that helped us right away, knowing that everybody was there and cheering for us. I'm sure they had more fans than us, but our fans are loud, our fans are loyal, they stuck with us and we played a good one for them."

"What a game! We have the best fans in the NHL! What a rush!" John Erskine wrote on Twitter.

"When the national anthem was playing, and all the ohs and the red and all that, that was where I really figured that there was a ton of us there," Karl Alzner said.

"You can see, you can hear when we score goals how many people was fans of Washington," Alex Ovechkin said. "I see a thousand people in one spot, a thousand people upstairs. It was really unbelievable. When it was the National Anthem, and they are screaming, like, it was unbelievable."

Several fans I talked to before the game explicitly mentioned the reverse invasion, the potential shedding of all those years of inferiority complexes. One night, but it counts.

"For all the years when Pittsburgh fans dominated in Verizon, there's a little bit of payback," Mike Reidy of Springfield said.

"It's doing to other cities what they do to us," John Myers of the District told me. "Our fans are traveling."

"It was very meaningful," said Ted Leonsis, who said the Winter Classic would be in D.C. within two or three years. "If we can deliver 30,000 people here, my bet is we could fill an arena, be it a football stadium or a baseball stadium, just with our own fans."

"It's just awesome. Just awesome," said Nats owner Mark Lerner, a partner in Caps ownership. "It's incredible. [Caps fans] were a lot louder than the Pittsburgh fans. The horn got them going, and they didn't stop all game. It's great. It'll be a nice trip back to D.C. for everybody."

Plus, there was this one guy who dressed like this.

"Simply a completely ridiculous outfit that I thought would be fun," he said.

Plus, there was this one guy who dressed like this.

"I'm a Yeti," he explained. "It's 80 degrees, and there's no snow. It's hockey, we need snow. We need a Yeti."

Right? Everyone needs a Yeti now and then. I don't know. I guess I'll remember the Yeti, too. So that's five things. I guess these guys don't make the cut.

By Dan Steinberg  | January 2, 2011; 12:44 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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The Pens fans sure talked a lot of trash ... that is until there was three minutes left AND THEY ALL HEADED FOR THE EXITS!


Posted by: philarmy | January 2, 2011 2:09 AM | Report abuse

If Ted can convince the NHL to put the Winter Classic in DC, the game MUST be held at RFK and not FedEx. As great as Heinz Field is for football, it looked like fans were a million miles away from the ice and it would be no better at the monstrosity in Landover. RFK, on the other hand, would have fans literally hanging over the ice and hardly a bad seat in the house. I guess that Nationals Park would be an option (putting more money in the Lerner's hands), but baseball stadiums are really single-purpose venues.

Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 2, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Yet Crosby IS still the King, Dan. I'm no fan of either team, but it is true, innit?

Gold medal, Stanley Cup, current points leader.

Yeah.....I'd say he's still the King.

Happy New Year!

Posted by: popopo | January 2, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The Pens were outplayed, overmatched, and dominated by a superior team - on their HOME ICE! The Crosby "dynasty" is over, that sorry excuse for a team will be lucky to make the playoffs.

Washington is the best team in the league right now, and it's not even close.

Posted by: getjiggly2 | January 2, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

If Ted can convince the NHL to put the Winter Classic in DC, the game MUST be held at RFK and not FedEx. As great as Heinz Field is for football, it looked like fans were a million miles away from the ice and it would be no better at the monstrosity in Landover. RFK, on the other hand, would have fans literally hanging over the ice and hardly a bad seat in the house. I guess that Nationals Park would be an option (putting more money in the Lerner's hands), but baseball stadiums are really single-purpose venues.

Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 2, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Don't get me wrong, I love RFK. But the above comment symbolizes how irrational people's hatred of Fed Ex is. First of all, to believe that fans at RFK would be closer to the ice than at Fed Ex is simply ignorant. The lower level sections at Fed Ex are closer to the field of play than at RFK. I know because I just sat up front at the Military Bowl at rfk the other day and it was much further away from the field (at least 15-20 feet further) than at either Byrd Stadium or Fed Ex. Not to mention Fed Ex holds almost twice as many people.

People need to get over their hatred of Fed Ex. It's a perfectly fine stadium, and for all the complaining about traffic, I've never had a hard time getting there from Montgomery County in under an hour.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 2, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

By the way Steinz, I think that may be the first pic on the WaPost site of people urinating. You should get some kind of prize for that.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 2, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Fedex is a pure dump and RFK is falling a part.

DC Classic would be played at Nats Park

Posted by: Nats1924 | January 2, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

i second that the DC winter classic should be at RFK! it would be amazing!

Posted by: destewar | January 2, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Umm - RFK is a baseball stadium first, hence odd shape without the temporary stands that were there when the Skins played there. Might as well have it at Nats Park.

Posted by: geotherm21 | January 2, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

The most impressionable memory I will take away is how the Pens showed no class and skated off the ice, becoming the first team to do so without shaking the opponents hand at a classic. With that, they went from Champs to Chumps.

Another memory I will have, being someone who watched from home, will be the horrible camera work and overhead blimp shots. through clouds. WHILE THE GAME WAS BEING PLAYED!

That being said, it was great for the Caps to win and to hear "Red" so loudly at the onset of the game.

FedEx will be the best spot for our classic. Baseball stadium set ups for hockey S-U-C-K!

Posted by: sordidvox | January 2, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

For a DC classic.

If you want to fit the most people you put it at FedEx, with its huge capacity, 90,000 fans at a hockey game would set the record for decades.

If you want to get the best facilities, you go to Nationals park, with its still new and clean look, and having far and away the best food of any stadium in the area. For all the bashing of layout of baseball stadiums. You get the fans closest to the ice in a baseball setup, because you can put it off center.

If you want to get DC fans the most passionate possible and ensure that Fan atmosphere guaranteeing a win for the Caps, then you put it at RFK. Any local knows what that stadium symbolized for the city, and if we had legislators with 1/2 a brain, the skins would never have been allowed to leave that site.

It will probably be at Nats Park. But if somehow they play it at RFK, then it should be the last sporting event in that stadium.

Posted by: alex35332 | January 2, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

FedEx would not set a record. The 12/11/00 game between Michigan and Michigan State at Michigan Stadium had 113,411 fans.

Posted by: rw-c | January 2, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

RFK is a dump, but it's a great dump and there's no place better to watch a game. Don't think the Winter Classic will end up there, though--the facilities are just too poor to have a major event like that there, I would think.

Posted by: TheFingerman | January 2, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Capitals-Penguins is inarguably the greatest NHL rivalry today!

Every game is a battle!

NHL have Division Championship,
Conference Championship,
Stanley Cup Championship
and since 2005-2006 season the CAPS-PENS Championship!

The yesterday's game was a further proof!

Watch out for that:

10/16/2008 Capitals 4 @ 3 Penguins
01/14/2009 Capitals 6 @ 3 Penguins
02/22/2009 Penguins 2 @ 5 Capitals
03/08/2009 Penguins 4 SO @ 3 Capitals
01/21/2010 Capitals 6 @ 3 Penguins
02/07/2010 Penguins 4 @ 5 OT Capitals
03/24/2010 Penguins 3 @ 4 SO Capitals
04/06/2010 Capitals 6 @ 3 Penguins
12/23/2010 Penguins 3 SO @ 2 Capitals
01/01/2011 Capitals 3 @ 1 Penguins [NHL Winter Classic]

Final Result in the last 10 regular season games:

Remarkable Record for Washington Capitals 8-0-2
against Pittsburg Penguins!

8 wins and just 2 shootout losses!



Posted by: tiagotricolorcardoso | January 2, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I am a lifelong Washingtonian and I love RFK, I really do. It has the best parking (Lot 8 tailgating) and the steep upper deck gives you a great view of the field. But going to the Military Bowl reminded me that amenities like food and rest rooms are sorely terms of handling the crowd, I think Nats Park would be a much better venue. (Plus, there wouldn't be time to hold the Military Bowl and get the rink constructed for the Winter Classic.)
I have to admit that until gametime, the idea of watching hockey in miserable weather from the upper deck of a stadium seemed like an awful idea, but hearing from my friends who were there, I'm sorry I missed it.

Posted by: RightField | January 2, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Easily one of the top 3 sporting events I've ever been to. I was very surprised by how well my friends and I were treated by the Pittsburgh fans before, during and after the game. They were classy and we all shared one common hatred.. Anything Philthydelphia!


Posted by: Toochilled | January 2, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Caps fans.

As a Nats fan, though, I take issue to Caps fans continuing to shout "O!" at the national anthem. I used to do it, too, when I was an Orioles fan. But years of Peter Angelos being awful, plus the arrival of the Nats put paid to that. I don't do it any more, because, well, that's not who I'm rooting for.

Posted by: ouij | January 2, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Sidney "Protected" Crosby is the most spoiled brat in the hockey world of all time!

The Canadian Media applauds!

But don't acknowledge that Penguins and Team Canada has a great support team/ superstar lineup for him!

So, it´s easy to win contests!

Posted by: tiagotricolorcardoso | January 2, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

As someone who attended the game yesterday (and sat just two rows from the top of Heinz Field), I can tell you that there weren't any problems with the sightlines in an NFL Stadium. I certainly lost track of the puck more often last night than I usually do at an indoor venue but that was to be expected.

If the NHL wanted to hold the Clunker in FedEx, it would be a fine. Though the only reason to do so is to set an attendance record for an NHL regular season game.

Like many life-long Washingtonians, I'm partial to "Historic" RFK hosting this event though Nats Ark wouldn't be a bad choice either.

Finally, Ted needs to wise up and squash any notion of playing this game in that Podunk Redneck town of Bhawlmuher. After going to the game in Pittsburgh last night, I'm very much looking forward to attending the game in D.C., not 40 miles up the road.

Posted by: CapsNut | January 2, 2011 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Just got back and I'm glad to see Dan's covered this angle like only he can. Well done here, and in previous posts.

Highlight of my weekend:

Participating in not one, not two, but at least three spontaneous "Let's Go Caps!" chants at NYE bars. 3 different locations. 3 chants. So, so, so loud. The look on the outnumbered Pittsburgher's faces was so, so, so priceless. This is only a small step towards healing a lifetime of scars from Pens fan invasions. But a small step I will relish for a while.

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 2, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

""It was very meaningful," said Ted Leonsis, who said the Winter Classic would be in D.C. within two or three years."

RFK will still be standing in 2-3 years?

Even as a DC United fan I have to admit I'm not optimistic that the stadium will still be around in 2 years time. Power outages, broken seats, broken toilets and limited concessions does not bode well for the future of the stadium. Not to mention the DC Sports and Entertainment commission will likely have its budget slashed by Gray and the council in next year’s budget.

RFK is already on life support and the tube is about to be cut.

Posted by: Southeasterner | January 3, 2011 12:44 AM | Report abuse

""When the national anthem was playing, and all the ohs and the red and all that, that was where I really figured that there was a ton of us there," Karl Alzner said."

I hate it when fans call the team "us," but it sounds kind of cool coming from a player.

Posted by: zimbar | January 3, 2011 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm about to ramble, so I'll tell you my points are: awesome time at the Classic even if we couldn't see much from our seats, the DC version should be at Nats Park, you can say Oh during the National Anthem and not feel like you're supporting the Orioles.

We had an amazingly awesome time. However, we were in the lower level and couldn't see much at all. I think you'll have that at most stadiums.

After getting stuck in the parking lots at FedEx too many times, I think it's terrible. Also, in going to Heinz, you realize what a dump FedEx is on the inside.

If I'm having bad views in either stadium for hockey, I'll take Nats Park every time.

As for the national anthem, my husband feels the same way about the O. I take the Ovechkin approach though. I think it's honestly said in many places for different reasons and childhood Orioles fans turned Nats fans are just sensitive about it. We always did O at WVU football games because there was an exclamation point there in the words around the stadium (at that point you're just following gramar rules...).

Posted by: ChinatownExpress | January 3, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Caps fans, does anyone know where I can get one of those Ovechkin/Party Hard shirts that were making the rounds at Heinz? I saw a few people with them, but nobody could point me to the direction of the guy who was selling them.

Posted by: GFisher1 | January 3, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

FedEx has actual urinals in the Men's Room, Heinz field has troughs...

Game, set, match FedEx Field.

Posted by: CapsNut | January 3, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Funny thing...when you have 20,000 tickets from the NHL to sell to your own fans, people buy them. So that somehow says that the Caps fandom has arrived? Now if the fans would have found a way to buy them from Pens fans, that would say something. Just seems rather odd to see all the chest-pumping from Caps fans about how they "invaded" the Burgh when they were actually invited to do so by the NHL. When you can "invade" ConSol the same way without the invite, then, let's talk.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | January 3, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

If I read the reports correctly, the 20k allotment was sold; and then an additional several thousand, not in the allotment, were bought by Caps fans. That's impressive.

Posted by: ouij | January 3, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Phillies fans were invited to Nationals Park, it didn't stop them from chest thumping either.

Posted by: evwill | January 3, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I was at the game, and I would say 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 were Caps fans. That's about the 20,000 allotment or less. To be honest, I got my tickets (as a Pens fan) from a Caps season ticket holder that couldn't go to the game. I'm just saying that for sure the Caps fans came out, but you can't make it out to be some sort of "invasion" when you actually allot an amount of tickets to the fanbase. Guaranteed, the Pens could have easily sold the stadium out with just their fans and had a very long waiting list.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | January 3, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

vahockeyfan...Caps fans going to ConSol Center is not the same as Pens fans at Verizon Center. Many of those Pens fans live here. I sit next to a Bruins fan who is a Caps fan for the other 38 games. Where else are there so many people from somewhere else? Atlanta, Florida maybe?

Posted by: didnik | January 3, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

vahockeyfan clearly missed the part about 7-10k being bought by Caps fan through other means.

Oh, and that a few years ago, you could have given the Caps the entire stadium to sell and they wouldn't have put 5k in the seats.

Benefits of a Pittsburgh education.

Posted by: CapsNut | January 3, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

CapsNut: Might have sold an extra amount of tickets, but they must have been bought to resell because not more than 20K Caps fans at that game. I bought my ticket from a Caps fan...just saying. Also, nice comment about the PA education. Funny thing is that my lowly PA education got me the whole way through Grad school. You DC guys and your negative comments about the Burgh are so clever. The self-important arrogance of the DC crowd gets really old.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | January 3, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

As a born and raised local fan, it was thrilling to see so many Caps fans in attendance. I've attended far too many Nats games when I feel if not outnumbered then at least outshouted when certain teams come to town. That said, we've got to give up shouting "RED" and "O" during the anthem. It sounds so contrived and, well, silly on national TV. Plus, the "O" is a Baltimore thing. Let them do it. Otherwise, great job Caps fans!

Posted by: rodeorob | January 3, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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