I find myself in possession of a few minutes before the final regular season game of the Washington Capitals (against the Boston Bruins) so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts regarding the opportunity the Capitals have given me over the last few months. Back in January, I was discussing (via email) with Tom – fellow WeLoveDC founder – how to take our beautiful site to the ‘next level’, as he had just announced to the group regarding our amazing readership numbers. (We’ve skyrocketed nearly every month since our July 2008 launch.) He was in the process of applying for press access to the Nationals and DC United, so I popped up and asked if we could approach the Washington Capitals. I mean, why not?
The Caps are finishing up one of the franchise’s best seasons ever. Records have fallen all over the place, both within the team and on the NHL stat charts. They’re on the cusp of a Stanley Cup season; if not this year, most definitely in the next three. Fan craze is at an all-time high (rivaling Pittsburgh) and have managed to capture this city’s attention. No small feat, considering the Redskins football team has been (and still is) the reigning sports champion – at least in spirit.
So indeed, why not let our burgeoning DC site cover the Caps more ‘officially’?
Fortunately, I’d posted several features on the team – pre-, mid-, and postseason reviews over the site’s run, including playoff round rundowns, draft looks and fan–centric pieces. So it’s not as if we hadn’t covered the team from a distance. We gathered up some of our best work and our stats and submitted a request to the Caps media team.
Astoundingly, they accepted.
Since then, we’ve added over twenty Caps-centric articles (not counting simple mentions) in the last three months; many of them game recaps. While we’ve not gotten all the games played – the Caps have had a stunted home game stretch, thanks to a three week Olympic break and a two week road trip – we’ve managed to cover quite a few. And I’ve got more slated as the postseason commences on April 14.
The experience for me has been nothing short of amazing. The Caps are very accommodating to local bloggers, something that isn’t as prevalent across the NHL. I’m positive I would’ve never had this opportunity in a similar situation in Pittsburgh – never minding the fact that the Igloo just…doesn’t have that kind of space. The organization takes that attitude from its owner, Ted Leonsis, someone I had issues with up until recently (read my comment in his entry).
Every game I’ve been able to cover has been a great experience. Even just rubbing elbows with national broadcasters (such as today, where I ran into Mike ‘Doc’ Emerick on the elevator) and sports reporters from various sources has been a fun experience. Being “equal” to one of them? Amazing. Though I know for sure in the profession, I don’t have most of their experience and chops, but being let in the door has begun to open up some opportunities for me, even in just the form of simple tips on how to “watch” the game from a journalist’s perspective, to the viewpoints of bloggers across the NHL spectrum. Never mind the fact that since I started shooting photos from my (skewed) press seat, I’ve taken a new appreciation for sports photography in general.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that in these short three months of covering the Capitals for our local blog, I’ve begun to change how I see – and write – about hockey. I’ve been a Penguins fan for 26 years, so up until my relocation to the DC area have I ever only watched hockey from a dedicated fan’s perspective. (Living in “enemy territory” forces you to change that pretty quickly, let me tell you.) Now I see the Capitals – and hockey in general – from a more professional view, and it’s been eye-opening.
I remember the Cup-craze and the slow slide to near-oblivion in Pittsburgh, all from a fan’s view. Here, I’m experiencing a city’s growing intensity and excitement about a team that, honestly, wasn’t much for anything save an alternative to the boredom of baseball season and the aftermath of (yet another) failed Redskin season. The level of excitement is interesting to watch as the city begins to recognize the soon-to-be champions in their midst.
As a student and fan of hockey, I recognize the seeds of success within the Caps organization. While I know that in order to get to the ultimate prize they’ll have to beat my own fan favorite team, I feel like I now have the professional detachment to disengage that fanboyism and enjoy the spectacle and celebration of the Capitals and their fans for what it is.
Many thanks to the Capitals organization for allowing me to cover several games this season for WeLoveDC. I hope to continue this relationship next season…and enjoy the success you’ve brought to the ice and this town for years to come.