Surreal New Years Eve scene at Pittsburgh’s riverfront German bier hall Hofbrauhaus: from 9:00 on last night, easily 250-plus Capitals’ fans reveling with the aid of giant steins of frothy, bringing great spontaneous pageantry and passion to their chants of “Let’s go Caps!”, while a sizable-in-their-own contingent of locals volleyed returns of “Let’s go Pens.”
There were Washington hockey bloggers, traditional Washington hockey media, even members of the Capitals’ organization on hand. Hofbrauhaus’ Bier Garden flowered in Red this New Years Eve, with an at-times hundreds-long line of additional Red Army reinforcements ever waiting outside to get in.
No comment on whether or not I New Years Eve kissed Dan Steinberg’s beautifully bald head near midnight, but this morning he offers a vivid description of the scene down by the river:
“Various reports have suggested that 20,000 or 30,000 people came from D.C. to Pittsburgh on this weekend. They filled hotel rooms and bars. You saw them everywhere you went in the city’s downtown. At one of the semi-official gathering spots — a bar called Hofbrauhaus — the security guards were saying they’d never seen visiting fans take over the place like that, in any spot. They stood on tables, singing goofy songs and chanting about the hockey team. They wore winter hats and jackets and jerseys. They hugged each other. They bought car bombs for bloggers who occasionally write about the team. It was quite a scene . . .
“People used to say that the only thing that could unite Washingtonians was the Redskins. I don’t want to say a bad word about that team, but whatever you think of their recent history, there’s something decidedly musty about the whole operation. These Caps, though, feel vital. They feel fresh. They still feel new and shiny and pretty, something to brag to your friends about, something to reverse the neverending stream of fan invasions into D.C.”
Dave Nichols of the Capitals News Network, an Originist Capitals’ supporter like me, asked me at one point, “Could you ever have imagined the day when Capitals’ fans would travel to Pittsburgh and overtake one of it largest beer halls?”
No indeed. And that’s precisely what is coming to define this amazing outdoor party spectacle this weekend.