#CapsCon – the Convention Veteran’s Perspective

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Posted September 29, 2011

Statement of Truth: Anyone who attended this year’s Capitals Convention (CapsCon) has officially forfeited the right to give someone a sketchy look after finding out they have attended another fandom-related convention (Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Anime/the list goes on).  Furries, well, they’re still a bit of a gray area.

The above revelation brought to you by my journey down the escalator at CapsCon on Saturday, where I found my first-time-attendee self comfortably home amongst a slew of familiar bits and pieces.  And no, I’m not referring to the fact that I spent half the convention tripping over random friends and acquaintances, though that was a very pleasant experience as well.

Slapshot, the Red Rockers, and a Man with a Microphone distribute T-Shirts. (Photos by M. Richter)

To clarify – this was my first sports convention, but it was far from my first fannish convention.  To put it bluntly, I’m a geek. I’ve hit the cons, walked the walk, and I talk the talk.  The amazing thing about Saturday was just how much of fandom has apparently become universal in the last ten years.  Whether it’s NHL hockey, comic books, or a television series, every convention has its consistencies.  So, how did this year’s CapsCon measure up?

Costumed Employees/Staff

Slapshot, mascot for the Washington Capitals.

While we may not have Orion Slave Girls (nice ladies, in my experience, and absolute saints for still being pleasant after 8 hours standing in 4″ heels), we’ve got Slapshot.  He’s an American Eagle that can ice skate.  Enough said.

Panels

The Good: In 3 out of the 6 panels I attended, there was not a single question that made me want to bash my head into a wall.  Also, Brendan Shanahan’s incredulity toward our resident caped crusader was deeply entertaining.

The Bad: It took the panel staff a few sessions to sort themselves out when it came to consistent microphone use, and a few of the panelists really could have benefited from having a table in front of them.

The Ugly: Even with the best crowds, you’re bound to get a few questions from audience members who don’t understand the invisible lines of good taste (such as “personal requests are a no go” and “if the panelist deflects your question, quit while you’re ahead.  Insider knowledge is not forthcoming”).

Stuff for Sale

Varly's pads from last season.

Every con, no matter how big or small, has a dealer’s room.  CapsCon took the approach of most large conventions, and combined it right into the expo hall.  We had official Con and franchise merchandise, there were venders promoting new publications (most notably Ted Starkey‘s Transition Game), we had silent auction items, and we had independent venders with hockey cards and various autographed items.

Giveaways

I give this year’s CapsCon a B- for giveaways.  When it comes to the extras, CapsCon hit all the cliches – Rally Towels, T-Shirts, and Foam Fingers (or, hockey sticks, in this case) were tossed from the main stage in the expo hall.  Screaming, shoving, and women in skin-tight clothing were all in evidence, though no small children were crushed  at any point (win!).  However, all of the stage giveaways were either items that are regularly distributed at games or leftovers from the 2011 playoff run (with an emphasis on the latter).  The only items that were convention-specific were the distributed-at-the-door bags which everyone received.

Now, don’t get me wrong – bags have been a popular giveaway at the bigger cons for a few years now (including San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), where Warner Bros almost started a riot with theirs in 2008, as did the SyFy Channel).  The CapsCon bags are solidly constructed, and will give the franchise that added boost of free advertising when attendees use them for hauling around day-to-day items like groceries, but they’re not terribly exciting.

The obligatory local-business/affiliate magnets and flyers were also available.

Autographs

A familiar sight for anyone who wanted an autograph last Saturday.

The Good:  Everyone who stood through one of the lines did manage to get an autograph, at least as far as I’ve heard through the grapevine (it might not have been from who someone wanted, but they got two signatures)

The Bad: As has been well documented around the blogosphere, the autograph lines were incredibly poorly organized.  The main sources of confusion could have been resolved easily by having “End of Line – Time Slot X” and “Start of Line – Time Slot Y” signs for the respective individuals to hold, as the lines of people waiting for their time slot kept bleeding into the lines of people in the current/active time slot.  To be less technical – the mix & match lines were awkward and messy.

The Ugly: I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get a complaint from the Fire Marshall regarding the autograph lines cutting off avenues of transit in the main expo hall.  This ties in with the general lines issue, and is something that the Caps staff are going to have to address before next year.

CosPlay (Costumed Drama)

Yes, we had it at CapsCon this year.  Thankfully, it did not involve giant foam weapons (although there was musical accompaniment).  I believe the title for the formal event was “Floor Hockey”, but at least 2 jerseys could be seen in every round of play.  Occasionally the number of Ovechkins seemed to be a touch high for believability, but I’m willing to overlook that in the spirit of creative interpretation.

In addition, there were also the more informal versions, in which fans in jerseys would reenact favorite plays from recent seasons.  As is the case at all fandom conventions, the informal cosplay scenes involved far less exaggerated motion on behalf of the cosplayers.

History was re-enacted on the floor hockey court, although often with an extra Ovechkin or two.

Doing Our Own Thing

The Caps did have one element of the convention this year that sets them apart from your average fan gathering.  There were skills competitions scattered throughout the expo hall that allowed children and adults alike to burn off the fidgets that come from hours sitting in a panel room and a lunch made up of candied almonds or overpriced pizza.

So, where am I going with all of this?  Do I have a point?  What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

What it all boils down to is that the local hockey community is embracing a phenomenon that more traditional “geeks” have been involved with for decades, and the Caps are handling the birth pangs as well as can be expected.  On a grander scale, it means that despite what high school may have led us to believe, the differences between the people who watch sports and the people who captained the chess club are much smaller than they appear.

All photos by M. Richter. Like us on Facebook!

M. Richter

M. Richter

Associate Editor at Capitals Outsider
Em is a fan of hockey first and individual teams second, with geographical ties that cross the NHL. She was born in the Midwest, raised along the East Coast, and graduated from a university in Western Canada. A firm believer in context above all else, and a card-carrying on-ice official with USA Hockey, she splits her time between the big picture and the details. When not covering the AHL and ECHL for Caps Outsider, her photography can be found on Behance and Flickr. She also occasionally chimes in about the Hershey Bears on the Power Play Post Show.
M. Richter

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