If you’re looking for an official guide to attending a Washington Capitals game, you can find it on their website. That will give you all you need to know about alcohol sales, elevators and accessible seating. But there are unwritten rules that fans should know when attending a Capitals game, and those who don’t know them may find themselves either confused, or even embarrassed, if they don’t read these guidelines. So Capitals Outsider presents… A Fan’s Guide to Attending a Washington Capitals Game.
Scalpers and Scalping
You go to the game without tickets, the game is sold out, but you’ll pay anything to get in. The scalpers are outside the Verizon Center, in plain view, asking anyone who walks by whether they need tickets or have tickets to sell. This is where your negotiating skills matter, and this doesn’t vary much from team-to-team. However, if you follow the ‘National Anthem’ rule, in which you wait for the anthem to start before you approach a scalper, you’ll likely get a cheaper ticket. In fact, the longer you wait, the cheaper the seat may be. However, by then they’ll be more likely to be out of tickets, so we highly encourage you to go to the game with tickets. By the way, you can get in trouble for buying and selling tickets on the street, but the police seem to allow certain people to do it.
The National Anthem
It has become a tradition at the Verizon Center – and in most Washington and Baltimore-area arenas – to scream “O” during the “O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” part of the national anthem. That started in Baltimore for the Orioles, but made its way across the region long ago, though Washington has since gotten its own baseball team.
For the last several years of Olaf Kolzig’s career, keen fans shouted “Olie” in hopes of changing that tradition. However with his departure it seems like the crowd is back to the nonsensical “O” and we really wish they’d just stop it. Occasionally, someone will yell out, “This isn’t Baltimore!” right after that, which is even sillier.
In the past two seasons, a new tradition has emerged during the national anthem – so far only for Capitals games. Fans now also scream “Red” during the “and the rockets’ red glare” part as tribute to the slogan “Rock the Red.” All the screaming is probably a bit inappropriate, but at least we don’t boo the Canadian Anthem. Ted Leonsis has made a push to encourage the fans to sing along during the anthem, and it seems to be catching on. So we suggest singing along, shouting “Red” if you must, and losing the “O.”
Check out Capitals Outsider coverage on the national anthem singers.
Goals and Hat-tricks
After a goal by the Caps, on queue, you’ve gotta yell “It’s all your fault!” and point to the opposing goalie.
When the other team scores, after the announcer says who scored it, you yell out “Who cares?”
Fans typically toss their hats onto the ice after a home team player’s third goal of the game. While this behavior is technically against NHL rules, it rarely results in a minor penalty against the home team.
A shootout goal does not count toward a player’s goal total, and therefore cannot be the hat-trick goal. However, fans in Washington don’t seem to care and still liter the ice with their hats.
Let’s Go Caps. This happens throughout the game, and especially right before the opening face-off as the horn guy leads the way. Also look for Caps fan Goat, who leads this chant.
C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps!
We want wings! Fans chant this when the Caps have four goals. A fifth gets you a coupon for free chicken wings at Chilis.
Woop! Woop! Chant this when former Capitals on the opposing team have the puck.
Depending on who it is, and what’s going on, the fans may taunt the opposing goaltender by chanting his name over and over again. This was very common in the days of Ron Hextall when the Philadelphia Flyers came to the Capital Centre.
If they play the Hockey Song, sing it. The lyrics are on the screen. Here’s a Capitals variation of the song:
If they play the Unleash the Fury video, it is about the most intense fan-participation chant I have ever heard anywhere. The place virtually explodes with adrenaline.
Here is another great video the Caps sometimes play. Now show me your war face!
If you’re sitting in the 400 level during the Capitals Move of the Game, stand and cheer and hope for a seat upgrade once they zoom in on you.
If you’re caught on the Kiss-Cam, kiss the person you’re sitting next to, regardless of who they are, even your sister. Trust us, the kiss is better than getting booed, because they will show you again until you cave to the pressure. And watch this closely because if it’s a friend or coworker up on the scoreboard, you’ve gotta make fun of them the next day. (As of 2015, it’s rare to see the Kiss-Cam.)
Getting Capitals Fan of the Game is difficult, but if you come in an original costume, such as being dressed as Ted Leonsis or an astronaut, you not only have a good shot at winning it, but a shot at getting invited up to Ted’s box. And you will be shown on the big screen.
Study your pop culture history, because you may get selected for the Name That Year quiz, in which they typically name a movie, a song or album, and a Capitals’ feat. They’ll give you three consecutive years and if you guess the year right, you get a prize pack.
At some point the Caps will give you three songs and they’ll ask you to text the one you want to hear. Also at some point they may ask you to text a message and it will show up on the big screen.
Other things to know
Don’t stand during play or enter your seat during play. You get in the way of the game and you will get pelted with popcorn.
Don’t hit on the Red Rockers. They’re like cheerleaders, not strippers.
If the team mascot Slapshot is around, pose for a photo with him.
Free food: The Papa John’s Pizza Giveaway and the Chick-fil-A Giveaway. They also sometimes throw T-shirts into the crowd, sometimes via parachutes from the rafters.
For games where they’re giving away something, like a bobblehead or fridge magnet, arrive early before they run out, though they normally order enough for everyone.
The intermission events vary, but usually the Mites play. Always fun to watch kids falling down on ice.
Want to drink good beer? Check out Dan Steinberg’s guide to the beer at Verizon Center.