When It Comes to Being a Caps Fan, It’s Good to Be a Girl!

Posted January 24, 2012

A pair of fans rock the red, both with their jackets and the swag they picked up at last night's Hockey 'N Heels (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

Last night, the Washington Capitals demonstrated that they’re an organization that’s willing to go out of their way to make it worth being a female fan.  For the first time in years, Hockey ‘N Heels has returned to its roots and was held at the Verizon Center, and the change in venues brought with it a wonderful opportunity.  280 attendees took part in the familiar on-ice demonstrations and Q&A sessions, but this time around there was something new in the mix.

Brock Myles, Head Equipment Manager for the Caps, answers questions in the locker room.

Because of the location, the participants were given the chance to spend time in the Caps locker room, press room, and equipment room – and to speak with those who work there on a regular basis.  It’s the kind of behind the scenes access that fans of both genders drool over, and it was just for the women.

Let’s make something clear: being a female member of hockey fandom has its downsides.  Puck Bunnies, Pink Jerseys, the stereotypes are almost as solidly entrenched as the air of machismo that wafts out of the locker rooms.  It’s been discussed here before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time it comes up on Capitals Outsider.  It can be frustrating, the idea that one is judged by their gender before they ever have a chance to open their mouths.  It’s one of the reasons why female fans in the DC area take advantage of the events sponsored by Scarlet Caps.

Rookie D-man Dmitry Orlov provides tips at the shooting station.

Since its inception, Hockey ‘N Heels has walked a fine line between catering to an established market/fanbase and attempting to draw new interest.  One of the ways this is accomplished is through the variety of “stations” presented over the course of the evening.  The on-ice demonstrations are a chance to meet players (traditionally rookies or new members of the team), while the classroom-esque sessions allow the more knowledgeable in the groups to ask what often turn out to be highly technical questions.

Roll Call: Because no promotional event is complete without a list of “who’s who,” here’s the Hockey ‘N Heels breakdown.

Tomas Vokoun gives advice on catching like a lefty.

Dmitry Orlov, Dennis Wideman, and Tomas Vokoun all took part in the on-ice demonstrations.  The defensemen coached how to take shots on goal, and the netminder provided tips on how to stop them.  Because there’s a Caps game scheduled for this evening, everything involving players on the active roster occurred in the first half of the night’s festivities.

Dennis Wideman helps a participant select the correct stick for attempting a slapshot.

Capitals Alumnus Alan May did double duty, first using Vokoun (and everyone else within range) as target practice, and later running a general Q&A session.  Other members of the Capitals off-ice staff led sessions about a variety of behind the scenes elements of the hockey life – the practical aspects of laying and maintaining an NHL rink, the family lounge and who uses it (complete with kitchen and children’s play area), the press workroom and interview room, and most importantly, the locker room and equipment facilities.

Alan May wants you!! (to provide his next question, preferably not on the Ovechkin suspension or player confidence deterioration)

It’s always reassuring to listen in on a “women only” Q&A session at an event like Hockey ‘N Heels, because the quality of the questions asked is always phenomenal.  A year ago, one of the “Chalk Talk” sessions saw a five minute discussion on approaches to countering the 1-3-1 system.  This year, a question about coaching styles led to a comparison between strategic differences found in junior hockey, the minor leagues, and the NHL.

Alex Semin takes a breather from round number 3 of awkward photos. It should be noted that the woman chatting with him here makes a point of catching several Hershey games every season - a very cool member of the senior hockey crowd.

Because Hockey ‘N Heels does make the effort at catering to both sides of the female fan spectrum, last night’s event included a photo-op with Alex Semin as one of the stations (conveniently coupled with a stop in the Mites-on-Ice locker room for dinner).  Things don’t always go as planned, however, so Semin wandered out to be friendly when his queue emptied out (and to check his texts/emails/etc, since cell reception in the hallways beneath Verizon Center is sketchy at best).

A fan studies the wall of sticks outside of the equipment maintenance room. The more sticks in a section, the more often they get broken (unless you're Semin, who just likes to hang onto his broken sticks).

Hershey Note: It speaks to how quickly things change in professional hockey that Tomas Kundratek‘s gear and sticks were still in place at Verizon Center.  He was sent down earlier in the day, but his equipment and cubby in the locker room clearly hadn’t gotten the memo.

Tomas Kundratek's locker in the Verizon Center locker room. One expects it will have vanished by Tuesday morning.

It wouldn’t be an HNH event without a Club Scarlet giveaway, and this time around was no exception.  In deference to either global warming (or an overly optimistic approach to the current January thaw), this year’s giveaway was a red cold-beverage cup filled with candy.  The decision seems to have gone over well, although it comes in a distance second to the change in venue.  Holding the event at Verizon Center was definitely a highlight reel worthy move.

A gallery of images from the event will be going up on Flickr over the next few days, and can be found here.