For the first time in team history, the annual Season Ticketholder “Meet the Caps” event was held at an amusement park: Six Flags America. To say it was a success is an understatement; as one who has attended the past ten years’ events at the Verizon Center ‚Äî and seen those events gradually shift from fun little gatherings to long-lined exercises in boredom as the season ticketholder base has increased ‚Äî moving to a venue with other forms of amusement was indeed a big improvement.
The event started at 6:30 p.m. for fans, though the players got run of the park before the fans. In fact, for those wondering why Sergei Fedorov was a little late for his scheduled autograph session: he lost his cell phone while riding the Batwing roller coaster. Normally a hero’s helper, today Batman’s ride turned villain and snatched Fedorov’s phone mid-flight; apparently, though, his phone was recovered, so Truth and Justice (and good fortune) prevailed.
The Caps-fan-only event this night was in the park’s Gotham section; rides included the roller coasters Batwing, Superman: Ride of Steel (yes, I know Supes patrolled Metropolis not Gotham, but it’s a cool ride so no complaints), and The Joker’s Jinx. Autograph stations were positioned throughout the area; lines for most players, barring Ovechkin’s of course, were more reasonable than last year’s despite the increase in season ticketholders. That may be partly due to the weeknight Maryland location (it took over an hour for us to get there from downtown DC). But having activities for all ages, instead of exclusively child-focused as in years past, provided more to do than simply waiting in line for an autograph and contributed to reduced lines. Not to worry, parents: the kid-friendly fun of years’ past was still abundant, including SlapShot antics, balloon animals, hockey-themed games, and face painting.
The ride queues were as fast-moving as the coasters themselves ‚Äî at one point my wife and I simply sat on the Superman coaster and rode it again immediately since no one was waiting in our row. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I was able to ride a roller coaster twice in a row without waiting in line again. Lines were practically non-existent unless you insisted on the first or last car . . . and even then the wait was perhaps two or three trips deep. Just a bit different than the typical 60-minute wait on a sweltering summer Saturday.
After the autograph sessions, the players, all still clad in their Capitals sweaters, spread throughout the park for some more fun before being hustled back to the team buses. For instance, a group of players including Mike Green went by practically at a jog ‚Äî not to avoid autograph-seeking fans (though there were a few trailing behind), but to ensure they had time for the 200-foot plunge to earth on Superman: Ride of Steel. Others hit the carnival fairway to try their hand at the games, like Karl Alzner and Tom Poti tossing handfuls of rings, the circumference of which looked slightly smaller than that of the targeted bottles; and Nicklas Backstrom, Michael Nylander, and Jose Theodore attempting to win a few stuffed animals (photos below ‚Äî though none top this brilliant shot provided by the team).
As my wife and I were leaving the park around 9:00 p.m., we heard an announcement over the park-wide speaker system: “Will all Capitals players please proceed to the buses immediately. Thank you.” Hopefully the team (and fans) got their fill of roller coaster thrills and enjoyed the evening ‚Äî we certainly did.