That Time Caps Fans Got a Giveaway Banned by the NHL

Posted August 7, 2014

Today’s random schwag memory is the Washington Capitals Gimme Five! Clapper, quite possibly the loudest noise-maker handed out in team history (assuming there wasn’t a cowbell night that I missed along the way. UPDATE: THEY GAVE OUT COWBELLS). We believe this was given away at two playoff games – one in April 1993 and another in May 1995.

Shaking just one of these back and forth creates a racket that would wake the neighbors. Just imagine 18,130 Caps fans waving these frantically in the air after Al Iafrate scored his third of the night against the Islanders. Capital Centre’s decibel meters likely exploded.

In case you can’t tell, this item is a paddle with plastic ‘hands’ attached (you be the judge if the middle finger is extended as a wink to the opposition), and surely drew parents’ ire as young Caps fans continued using it to celebrate victories around the house. It’s got a big ole’ sponsor on the back from HealthPlus/New York Life.

According to

In April 1993 (Editors note: This is a mistake – this game was in 1995), the Washington Capitals hockey team had a playoff game against the dreaded Pittsburgh Penguins. HealthPlus, a local HMO later acquired by New York Life, was a corporate sponsor for the team and negotiated to give-away HealthPlus & Capitals imprinted “clappers” at the event. The item was similar to a ping-pong paddle but with acrylic hands on each side that made a very loud clacking noise when shook. As the Washington Post stated, “It was 5-0 Capitals, when the building got as loud as it’s ever been.” In the ensuing frenzy, the clappers were thrown on the ice, halting play for over twenty minutes causing quite an uproar. HealthPlus’ marketing manager was at his desk early the next morning awaiting the inevitable call from the CEO, expecting to hear an earful. Instead, he received praise for the best advertisement the company had ever had! The aftereffects were so strong that the NHL banned the clappers from use in any arena in the country.

The Washington Post’s William Gildea wrote:

At last. The unthinkable happened. Washington Capitals fans could sit back, soak in the rare feeling of a playoff . . . rout! Or, jump up and scream and clack the plastic clappers given away at the door; enough did that to fill the USAir Arena with the sound of something like a million cicadas. It was a rout against the high-flying, high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins, achieved with a killer-bee approach; the Capitals would appear out of nowhere all Wednesday night and sting the Penguins, who then would topple with a thud and be done. When the Penguins tried the same approach, the Capitals would hit the ice and pop back up and do something devastating — hitting back harder, sometimes even scoring, as both Keith Jones and Peter Bondra did. There’s nothing like getting up and scoring with the ice chips still stuck to the back of your sweater. It was 5-0, Capitals, when the building got as loud as it’s ever been.

Want one of your own? They pop up on eBay every once in a while!

About Those Cowbells