Hockey ‘N Heels: Hottest Ticket in Town

Posted October 27, 2011

An attendee receives shooting instruction from Peter Bondra at the November, 2010 Hockey 'N Heels (Photo Credit: Katherine Eickhoff)

Here’s a little-known secret for the 70+ % of DC hockey fans who are of the masculine variety:

There’s a Caps event that’s harder to get tickets to than the Winter Classic or the Stanley Cup Final, and it’s just for us girls.

I’m talking, of course, about Hockey ‘N Heels.  It’s an evening of instruction about the basics of hockey, hosted by 3-4 players and a few of the team coaches and alumni.  Normally, it’s a form of rookie hazing – last year’s “hosts” included Marcus Johansson, Braden Holtby, DJ King, and Matthieu Perrault, though familiar faces Semyon Varlamov and Tyler Sloan were also in attendance.  The concept is getting to be more widespread event as it’s proven successful, as well – the Pens host one, and there are similar events scattered around the NHL.

That being said, it’s almost impossible to get tickets.  I don’t mean “Stanley Cup Final, tickets start at $500 on Stubhub” impossible, I mean “Nothing on the resale market and only 200 to start” impossible.  While the number of attendees for Hockey ‘N Heels has been kept reasonable static for the last few years, interest amongst the female fanbase has exploded in reaction to increasing popularity and visibility of hockey in the region.  Tickets have been selling out online in under five minutes for the last two years, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s a roll of the dice whether one will even receive an option to purchase at all – yesterday morning the Ticketmaster sub-site that handles the sales was overloaded before the tickets were released, and the problem wasn’t resolved until after the event had sold out.

I attended the event last spring, on the strength of a recommendation from a friend that the session with Capitals Strength & Conditioning Coach Corin Nemish was worth the price of admission alone.  Despite the chauvinistic name, they treated the attendees as hockey fans first and foremost – things were explained, but not dumbed down unnecessarily.  A perfect example of this was the 5 minute argument over pros/cons/strategies against Tampa Bay’s version of the Neutral Zone Trap that occurred during the video review session.

This fall’s Hockey ‘N Heels was likely a greater draw than ever before for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, there are some big names on the  proposed player roster – Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer are both slated for the on-ice instruction sessions, though lineup changes have been known to happen.  In addition, the Capitals’ marketing department is remarkably good at its job.  While ScarletCaps (the website aimed specifically at female fans) may be perpetually ignored, the Caps consistently mount a solid bid for attention through both online and traditional advertising venues.

The final factor is that pesky thing called the NBA Lockout.  While the impact is just starting to be seen in hockey, and if the NBA season washes out entirely it’s likely to become a much stronger force, the current lockout means that basketball fans are looking to try new things.  Hockey ‘N Heels is all about trying new things, combining ground-level instruction on the game of hockey with a ticket to a weeknight hockey game.  Admission isn’t cheap – up to $105 this fall – but it hasn’t yet reached the threshold where price outweighs the value of the ticket.

As long as the Caps remain successful, it’s unlikely that particular line in the sand will be seen any time soon. It makes a Hockey ‘N Heels ticket, if you can snag it, one of the most sought after items on the NHL market.  Someone will sell you an autographed jersey; nobody’s going to sell their HNH seat.