Nurturing the Fashion Passion of HockeyWashington

What does Rock the Red mean to you today, well away from its inauguration and deployment during the 2007-08 season? What does it mean to the Capitals now? How should it be cultivated, nurtured, and deployed in 2008-09?
Also: was it hooey and hokie or a heartfelt rallying cry for you? Do you want to see more of it in the new season? Should Verizon Center be Redded Out for Cristobal Huet’s return with the ‘Hawks on Opening Night?
Let me submit that what we sat among and saw on television in the stands last spring was special. It was an uprising. Of passion-fashion. It was a community powerfully connecting with its hockey team.
(It actually forced old media print columnists to come and cover hockey.)
Let me also submit that it wasn’t fad or fleeting in its heartbeat — that it’s an indigenous state of the contemporary hockey mind here. Team officials in Philadelphia tried to replicate what was originated here in their rink, but they had to distribute thousands of orange t-shirts in their rip-off act, and in the end, it came off as copycat, forced, and generic.
There will be more genuine Caps’ fans in Verizon Center this coming season than perhaps in any season preceding, as thousands of Washingtonians have purchased season tickets this summer. The opportunity will be red-ripe to Red Out the building whenever the team wants to.
Personally, I have one deeply ingrained reason for wanting to see the scheme continue — but with great care: the sight of an orange-and-black-less Washington rink for games against Philthy — playoff games at that! — remains something of a dream theater to me.
In real time last spring there was a searing sense that the Caps had, with the look, connected with their much-maligned fanbase in durable fashion. Metro trains never looked so gorgeous. Folks painted their faces and dyed their hair. Some wore red socks. Men in red dresses never looked so . . . mainstream.
That Alexander Ovechkin would lead our hockey team to great feats like the against-all-odds Southeast Division title last season was, and is, from my vantage, merely predictable byproduct for his other-wordly game. But that he could engineer, in Pied Piper red-fashion, the obliteration of the enemy’s colors and pawns from our building, precisely when they most wanted to be there, that’s special. I’m not sure I thought I’d ever see that happen.
Of course, in identifying Ovechkin as architect and engineer of our awesome new atmosphere I’m conflating his on-ice heroics with the clever atmosphere actions of the team’s marketing pros. And AO alone among Caps’ players shouldn’t be exclusively credited for 07-08’s home rink euphoria. But he is, for lack of a better description, our banner boy — certainly the face of the franchise. He is the Pied Piper of Pucks in this town.
It’s amusing to think that perhaps AO foreshadowed the Caps’ special spring scene at home back in July 2007, when the first installments of the team’s new colors and look made their way to Russia.
Those who participated in the Red Outs, as well as those Caps’ fans watching on television at home, likely are of one mind when it comes to rolling out the Red again: it ought not to be a commonplace occurrence, it ought never to be trite and trifling. It ought to be summoned only for truly special occasions. It’s like a team’s special occasion jerseys or sweaters, in a sense — you always want them to remain special.
Good news on that front. Tim McDermott, the Caps’ Senior VP, Chief Marketing Officer, this morning told me, “Red will be our brand campaign/theme again this year . . . we will select a few high profile games for a Rock the Red/Red Out theme.”

And note that the Red Rally Cry still has to be tested against Pennsylvania’s other team. Hmm . . . should we Red-Out all games against the two Keystone Staters? And by extension, should we avoid the fashion-passion statement against all Southeast division foes, further damning an already depressing division alliance? Or, the Caps and HockeyWashington might opt to Red Out the Phone Booth on November 10, against Tampa, and welcome back Barry Melrose to the NHL in spirited fashion.
And welcome back a certain netminder, too.
Going forward, should the team, on its website, make the selection of Red Out nights an interactive force, and poll the impassioned on their fashion in advance of select regular season games? Should season ticket holders have a special say? For certain there should be specially priced Killian’s Red at the concession stands.
There was a marvelous viral quality to the rollout of the Red last spring. It was a beautiful infection, anything but unhealthy. Long may it afflict us.

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Morning cup-a-joe, Olaf Kolzig, Puck Sodas, Verizon Center, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Nurturing the Fashion Passion of HockeyWashington

  1. doughless says:

    right on!! agree that Red Outs should be employeed strategically. that said, why not start the year against Huet and the Blackhawks where things ended last season: a sea of Caps red!!!! although, I would strongly favor a Killian’s Red discount at every home game. My only complaint about the red sweaters last season is that there was an overabundance of #8. i believe this lent itself to the “bandwagon” label that was pasted on Caps fans.
    Opening night can’t get here soon enough!! GO CAPS!!!

  2. JR says:

    In other good news, Tariq quoted McPhee last week:
    *As you might have heard, the Capitals won’t be among the 18 teams introducing a third jersey this season. But it might not happen next season, or the season after that, either, if McPhee has his way.
    “We just came up with these jerseys a year ago and we’re still building equity in them,” he said. “Personally, I’m not a third jersey fan. Half the time, you don’t know who is playing out there. So I’m in no rush to do it.

  3. vt caps fan says:

    “was it hooey and hokie or a heartfelt rallying cry for you?” — P&B — I don’t understand this comment? Hokie means its the coolest thing EVER. hooey means its smells kind of funny. I’m lost here.
    Seriously, I think the Red out was something this city has never seen. As successful as the Skins are in this town (and they are a clear cut #1, even before politics) we’ve never seen the unity dressed a like. The Wiz did the White outs for the playoffs. They were nice, but they gave away white shirts to EVERYONE. The Red out was not funded by Uncle Ted. Every single person that rocked the red this past spring did so under there own power. They went out an bought the Red and they decided to rock it to games, work, and school. It was NOT given to us. Thats why it was so impressive.
    I hope the Caps do it every now and then for the regular season. Lets not over do it. Do it for those ‘premium’ games. And right around the push for home ice advantage (maybe late March, last few games of the regular season) ROCK THE RED for the rest of the year.
    I’ll be ready to rock the red on those days (yes Gustafsson I’m finally going to get a red jersey, I just have to decide which player I want on the back of the jersey, so much talent I don’t know who to choose — Alzner? Backstrom? Laich?).
    October 11th seems like its 1 year away from us.

  4. Gustafsson says:

    Pronunciation: `hō-kē
    Part of speech: adjective
       Definition: corny and contrived, fake and melodramatic, insincerely emotional; also written hokey
    Part of speech: noun
       Definition: an emasculated turkey

  5. vt caps fan says:

    Urban dictionary doesn’t count.

  6. Stokley Rose says:

    I loved Rockin the Red last season and this season will be no different. Like you mentioned, Philly and the Pens had to force a white-out by giving out t-shirts and ours was organic…it was special. I really hope we don’t eventually go back to the white home jerseys.
    But because of the nature of our Red Outs, I’m not sure we can’t rock the red for the entire season. Everybody has their red already so why wouldn’t they wear it to a game? It’d be great to see it game-in and game-out.

  7. Stokley – I’m quite sure we’ll see a lot of red at just about every home game next season, but I think the Caps’ instincts in reserving/limiting calls for an official “Red Out” are spot on. It really needs to be a distinctive occasion. To the extent that it’s durable, it could be called, for instance, when a significant player plays his final game at the Phone Booth. Imagine that Sea of Red as a send-off for a player.

  8. Jay says:

    I’m a Flyers fan at heart, but I have to say I really enjoy reading this blog. I went to college in DC and adopted the Caps as my second team, so it’s good to see hockey getting some love in that all-Skins-all-the-time town. Not too many hockey blogs out there I like, but this one is spot on, so kudos to you guys.
    That being said, I need to correct you on one thing here. Flyers fans started wearing orange t-shirts to playoff games during the 2004 playoffs, not 2008. It really picked up in the conference finals against Tampa and pretty much became a mainstay for the playoffs after that.
    Anyway,like I said, great blog and keep up the good work.

  9. Jay,
    Thanks for the kind words. Assessments like yours, from fans of other teams, are particularly gratifying.
    You’re absolutely right about the legacy of orange-wearing in Philly — it predates 2008’s Red Out in D.C. But the Flyers’ organization, it seems to me, clearly sought to replicate the to-the-rafters enthusiasm of Verizon Center with their passing out of thousands of orange Ts this time around. I can also tell you what George McPhee told media at July’s development camp: that Paul Holmgren approached him during the series and told him that Verizon Center’s atmosphere ranked among the best he’d seen in his entire hockey career. The Flyers took notice all right.

  10. Jay says:

    The Flyers could have passed out orange $100 bills and it wouldn’t have replicated the Verizon Center. I think part of that is due to the relative newness of the playoffs for Caps fans. Add the excitement of the second half playoff push plus the rivalry between our teams, Caps fans went over the moon. I think Flyers fans (especially me) don’t really get up for the playoffs until after the first round is done, kind of a been there, done that situation. But it’s good to see the Flyers and Caps going at it like back in the ’80s.
    Hey, we both hate Pittsburgh. We got that in common.

  11. Hockey Mom says:

    I agree – loved the Rock the Red! Bring it back, but strategically for certain games. Definitely for Huet’s visit, for Cindy Crosby and for the Flyers. Should bring back the red mullet wigs for Barry Melrose’s Phone Booth debut!

  12. Rock the Red Nights should be reserved for big games (I’d say no more than 6 or so during the regular season) and of course for the playoffs. That will help maintain its special stature.
    Let’s keep it reserved for special occasions so it actually means something. Plus I want the chance to wear some of my non-red jerseys. πŸ™‚

  13. sk84fun_dc says:

    The Philly poster is correct, the Flyers handed out the orange t-shirts to fans entering the arena in 2004, at least during the conf. finals against TB. I recall watching a game during the TB Philly series and for a minute thinking the Wach. arena was empty, before realizing everyone was wearing the t-shirt, as the whole place was orange. I even have one of those t-shirts (different one handed out for the different games) as I attended game 6 of that series.
    A difference between the Philly fans orange and Caps fans red is that the Caps did not hand out the red, other than the towels. However, “this time around”, “replicate”… not accurate.

  14. Victor says:

    @sk84fun_dc: To be accurate, the Caps handed out several red items during the playoffs. The first game was pom-poms, which are still in the back of my car. They also gave out towels, thundersticks, and headbands. I don’t recall the order in which they were given, but two of them were distributed at the third home Caps game. It’s a minor point, to be sure, but they did give out more than towels.
    But shirts? No. The “Rock the Red” shirts were $30 each…when you could find them…
    As for Redouts–I, too, feel the call should be for a limited number of games. Any team from New York or Pennsylvania deserves a redout. Also Canada, just to show ’em there’s some spirit south of their border.

  15. sk84fun_dc says:

    Victor, fair point, it wasn’t only towels; I was focusing on the Philly vs Washington situation more than my list of giveaways, thanks for the clarification. Of course, I wish they hadn’t handed out the thundersticks, I am not a fan.

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