An Evgeny Kuznetsov autographed puck. A Dave Martinez autographed baseball. A Markieff Morris...
Female Fans Slip Behind the Curtain at Caps 2013 Hockey ‘N Heels
Wojtek Wolski coaches a participant at Hockey N Heels 2013. (All Photos Credit: M. Richter).
Despite a return to Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Hockey ‘N Heels managed to keep the feeling of “Behind the Scenes” that made last spring’s event at Verizon Center so exciting.
A bit of context, for those who missed last year’s event: the title “Hockey ‘N Heels” can be a bit misleading. While hockey is definitely involved, attendees are clad in jeans and jerseys rather than cocktail party attire. HNH is normally a semi-annual event put on by the Capitals female-focused outreach branch, Club Scarlet (members will be happy to learn that it’s going to be getting another overhaul soon, now that things are settling down at Monumental Entertainment). It’s three hours of educational demonstrations from players and coaches about different aspects of the sport. There are traditionally either two or four on-ice coaching sessions (depending on the location), followed by classroom sessions.
This year, content ranged from tips on winning a face-off (Assistant Coach Calle Johansson) to the subtleties of tape review (Video Coach Brett Leonhardt) and proper core muscle utilization (Strength & Conditioning Coach Mark Nemish). Summer acquisitions Joey Crabb and Wojtek Wolski, along with NHL rookie Tomas Kundratek, also lent their talents to the ice. Forward Jay Beagle took a somewhat different role, posing for photographs with attendees.
The photo op was one of two carryovers from last January’s Verizon Center experiment. The other was a session with Capitals Equipment Manager Brock Myles, held in the Capitals locker room. This time around, he took the opportunity to demonstrate some of the quick-fixes of his trade – skate blade replacement in under 30 seconds and hockey sock repair. He also detailed the preparation work required to accommodate sudden roster changes, due to either trade or call-up, and the steps that he and his staff take to keep gear from deteriorating faster than necessary.
In keeping with tradition, attendees at HNH ended the night with a Club Scarlet-themed gift. In prior years, giveaways have included shirts, tote-bags, stainless steel water bottles, and reusable cold drink cups. This year, Valentine’s Day was reflected in the contents of the glass mugs awaiting the women at the end of the night. Not only did the mugs contain chocolate – an assortment of miniature candies, including Reese’s, M&M’s, and Almond Joy – but they included a coupon from Club Scarlet’s latest partner, the Red Door Spa.
It’s easy to brush off Club Scarlet as catering to the so-called pink jersey brigade, but in fact they do quite the opposite. CS events offer a refreshing opportunity for female fans to meet each and share their love of hockey without worrying about being pigeonholed before opening their mouths.
Evidence of the event’s success can be seen in the number of repeat attendees in the crowd at Kettler tonight. Many women were on their third or fourth HNH, and others had been trying unsuccessfully to snag tickets for years. Some were novices to the sport, but there was the odd player in the crowd as well – including one woman with collegiate hockey on her resume. While the 2011-2012 HNH session still hold the records for fastest sell-out, that’s in part due to technical difficulties with the site this time around (the window for purchase last week was closer to 30 minutes than 2011-12’s 10 minutes).
Due to the lockout, this will be the only Hockey ‘N Heels this season. Next year, the twice-a-year schedule should resume, though no word yet on whether they’ll be holding it at Verizon Center or Kettler Capitals Iceplex.