Over the next few days, you will start to see more blogs going up on Hockeyleaks.com's Column Section. The first of which is by Stacie Beasley, a great writer who has a passion for the Washington Capitals. Make sure to check the blog out below, and stop by the Columns forum to comment on it. Welcome to the team, Stacie!
C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS! LET’S GO PENS! F**K THE FLYERS!
What would happen if you traveled to your teams’ rival city?
By: Stacie Beasley 1/7/11
Prior to this NHL season, many questioned if the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins had established a true rivalry. While each of the eight playoff series that they have played against each other were intense, Pens fans will argue since they won 7 of the 8 series that they don’t consider the Caps a rival, just a punching bag to warm them up for the Finals. It’s the Caps fans with a grudge that are creating the image of a rivalry, they say.
When the NHL announced this past summer that the Capitals were to play the Penguins in the 4th annual Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, everyone started talking. For most, it went something like this: “What!? The Pens are in the Winter Classic, AGAIN?” and “Caps and Pens aren’t a rivalry… Bettman is just trying to shove Ovechkin and Crosby down our throats again. (Insert team here) should be playing (insert team here) in (insert city here.)” However, Caps and Pens fans immediately researched how to get tickets and set the countdown clocks to New Year’s Day.
Being a Capitals season ticket holder, I was privy to getting tickets. Excitement built over the days leading to the event despite concerns about abnormal weather putting a “damper” on things. Due to the rain, the Winter Classic was postponed to 8pm which allowed A LOT more time for tailgating in the parking lots near Heinz Field. As my group of Caps fans wandered through the cars, ice sculptures (hockey fans take tailgating to a whole new level) and thousands of happy Pens and Caps fans, we were cheered and mostly jeered due to Pens fans buying up all the tailgating spaces. We mingled with fans from both teams, and I learned that Pens fans really aren’t so bad.
You see, in the Washington, D.C. area, Caps fans passionately hate Crosby and the Penguins. When Pittsburgh came to town before the Caps regained popularity, too many Penguin fans did too, which triggered the Caps/Pens fans rivalry. Anxiety was high for Caps fans hanging out in enemy territory. One could compare the feelings to a Redskins fan hanging out in Dallas before their team played the Cowboys (the biggest rivalry in the NFL) or something Canadians might relate better to is a Leafs fan attending a Habs game in Montreal.
After hours of drinking and playing games with good-natured hockey fans from both sides, everyone walked to Heinz Field in good “spirits”. We all knew that when the game ended, things would be different… or would they?
Standing in line to get into the stadium, Caps and Pens fans were in awkwardly close quarters. Despite some fans exchanging a few hostile words, Caps fans and Pens fans were enthusiastically chatting about various topics. We all appreciated the fact that we were getting to take part in an extraordinary event and we respected each other’s passion for the great sport of hockey. After a battle of screaming “C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS” and “LET’S GO PENS”, we found common ground as someone began a chant of “F**K THE FLYERS!” which was something fans from both teams could agree on.
Though once the puck dropped, civility stopped. Snide remarks were everywhere. When one fan base chanted, the other would attempt to override them creating a “Let’s go Pens/Caps” blend. When the Penguins scored first, the Pens fans rubbed it into the faces of the Caps fans. When the Caps scored, Caps fans did likewise but then some unfortunately discovered a beer puddle in their seats as they sat back down. Some Pens fans displayed as poor sportsmanship as the team they cheered for (as the Penguins left the ice before shaking hands with the Capitals after the game ended.) With a couple of minutes left in the game as the Capitals lead 3-1, Penguins fans began to stream out of the arena leaving Caps fans boisterously cheering for the visiting team and enjoying a victory of a highly publicized battle. Remaining Pens fans were quick to remind the Caps fans how it was just 2 points in a regular season game and just wait for the spring.
After the game, we giddy Caps fans celebrated in the local bars. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised at how nice the Penguin fans were to us. Though they were depressed about their team losing, they bought us beers and engaged in lighthearted conversations with us while loudly exclaiming the Stanley Cup count of both teams. With the exception of two disgruntled Pens fans starting a scuffle with a few Caps fans after we left a bar, overall Pittsburgh was a wonderful host.
The 2011 Winter Classic no doubt fueled a rivalry that has been in the making for a long time between the Capitals and Penguins clubs. For their fans, however, it somewhat has dulled down the rivalry amongst them. For it brought to our attention that we share the commonalities of being very passionate about the sport of hockey, that we are lucky to support such entertaining talented hockey teams, and that we both hate the Flyers. Now when our next match up on Super Bowl Sunday at Verizon Center occurs, that camaraderie may be forgotten and will be a distant memory shall the Caps and Pens meet in the playoffs.
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