The View from Hostility’s Hotseat

Temple student Tatsiana Kopach, super spirited about Sasha while seated in Flyers territory

The few (very), the proud, the *very* brave — Caps’ fans attending a game in Philadelphia against the Flyers . . . while wearing their heroes’ colors.

Yes, they exist. Tuesday night I saw them, spoke with them, and most especially, asked them if they had escorted passage back to their cars at game’s end.

We do have OFB readers at the Pentagon; our nation’s defense leadership may want to recruit these valiant souls for service.

You’ve heard the horror stories of extreme rudeness, and worse, befalling the visitors in Philly arenas and stadiums over the years — it’s a large part of this sports town’s lore. Tuesday night I set about surveying the reception experiences of the Red-clad in Wells Fargo Center. Their numbers were modest, as you might imagine, but what they lacked in brigade breadth they more than made up for in proud fashion bravado.

Matt Kosmel, 23, of Silver Spring, Md., made the trip up Tuesday with his college buddy, David Clifford, of Bethesda, also 23. The two attended the University of Maryland together. Tuesday night Kosmel wore a red Nick Backstrom sweater as he navigated the Wells Fargo concourse in search of frothy refreshment. Clifford was wearing a red Alex Ovechkin sweater, hard by his buddy’s side. This stunned me: not only didn’t they report any assaults against their persons, instead they reported more than civil treatment prior to puck-drop — Flyers’ fans, struck by the novelty of seeing such fashion courage in their home rink, actually asked the pair to pose for pictures and engaged them in cordial, welcoming fashion.

The world is supposed to end in 2012, not 2011.

But this civility, alas, didn’t last.

Three questions into my interview of these brave Terps a bellicose brute in orange, seizing upon our patriotic confab, walked by us, shot us a dagger stare, and bellowed, “Asshole! . . . Asshole!”

Ah, Philly.

“Well that didn’t last,” a smiling Kosmel said of his party’s pleasant early evening experience.

Kosmel is a newcomer to the Red Army, having been introduced to hockey by his buddy just in 2007. His mid-week roadtripping, while wearing the colors of his team in one of hockey’s greatest hornet’s nests for visiting fans, qualifies him for fanbase captain’s status. Clifford is a Capitals’ fanatic from deep in his youth — since age 8. The pair were seated in section 217 Tuesday night, and I asked them how prepared they were for taking in a hockey game in hotseats.

“I can run!,” if need be, Clifford told me with a laugh.

More Courage Caps: no less than the owner, Mr. Leonsis, who spent most of Tuesday night seated two rows behind corner glass nearest the Capitals’ bench. No attending security posse, it seemed, just Ted, in the company of a business companion and friend. Leonsis’ son Zach, who attended Penn, once went to a Caps’ game in Philly with college buddies while wearing the patriots’ sweater and had beer dumped on him by surrounding ruffians. I thought about that incident last night while looking down on the exposed owner from the Wells Fargo press box. Hopefully, I thought, Mr. Leonsis was wearing one of his older, more replaceable suits.

No Caps’ fan, though, was more noticeable in vulnerability than Tatsiana Kopach, an international business major at Temple University who arrived in the States five years ago from Belarus. Tuesday night Kopach moved about the beachhead in an authentic Alexander Semin visiting white sweater, replete with a stylish red cap. Her admission Tuesday was the gift of friends who know well her passion for the Caps. When I interviewed her she was all alone in her row, unguarded.

“I’m not intimidated at all!” the Baltic beauty told me from her seat about 20 rows up behind the Capitals’ bench. “I feel special in all this orange,” she added with a beaming smile. Tuesday was Kopach’s third Caps-Flyers game in Wells Fargo. I asked her if she owned a copy of ‘Braveheart.’

“The first time I came, I was walking with too many Caps’ fans outside [the arena], and then I did get grief, but nothing too bad,” she acknowledged.

“All my Russian friends liked hockey, so one day they invited me to a game here. I prefer the Capitals because of Ovechkin and Semin.”

Two years ago Kopach was in Miami at the same time the Capitals were playing the Panthers. She went to a nightclub popular with athletes and learned of the presence there that night of Ovechkin. She failed to see him, but the proximity to a hero from near her home delivered an excitement she remembers vividly to this day.

She has been to D.C. twice, but never been seated in Verizon Center for a Caps’ game. I think the owner should host a night honoring the Philadelphia courageous in his Verizon Center box. Theirs is a special badge of honor.

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This entry was posted in Eastern Conference, Hockey Heroes, Hockey roadtrips, National Hockey League, Philadelphia Flyers, Ted Leonsis, The Red Army, Washington Capitals, Washington the hockey town. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to The View from Hostility’s Hotseat

  1. slacky84 says:

    Who knew Caps fans were such wusses?!

    ZOMG, that scary Flyers fan STUNNED me with his stare! I was so frightened!

  2. Zach says:

    I went to the game as a Caps fan but not clad in any gear – I so badly wanted to be wearing red but the friend I went with, in exchange for free tickets, didn’t allow me to wear any Caps gear. So that was too bad. But that’s the price you pay. I did see Philly fans boo a little kid wearing a Caps jersey, though. Overall, the fans weren’t too, too bad, but there was definite booing of any Caps fan there, especially after the game, when it felt like some fans were getting ready to attack a car that had MD plates.

  3. SKINSCAPSTERPS says:

    Given the location of Temple’s campus in the city going to a Flyers game in opponents colors is the least dangerous thing that fan could do.

  4. Tre Kronor says:

    If only DC were a real sports town like Philly. Instead of insulting its incredibly knowledgable and die hard fans with hackneyed yarns (these fans have been packing it in to see Flyers games since the 70s when the Caps could never come close to selling out games on a consistent basis until only recently when it became trendy to watch the now disappearing act called Ovie), you should show them respect and ask what will it take for DC to become a real hockey town where the visting team and its fans fear to tread? No one thinks twice about attending a Caps game clad in an opposing team’s jersey and you certainly never hear the opposing team say how rough it is to play here (like BB did before last night’s loss). Reading this article makes me proud to have grown up with the Black and Orange!

  5. John says:

    Are you kidding me? They’re two UMD students!!! Have you ever been to a UMD football or basketball game? I was at nearly every one in my four years there and a pretty good number since. The students yell asshole all the time! And let’s not forget the AD prohibiting the band from playing Rock & Roll Part II (aka The Hey Song) because of the students yelling “you suck!” They still sing the song now after 10 years without the band playing a single note. They’re just shocked at being on the receiving end of an “asshole” chant for the first time in their lives. Grow a pair, boys!

  6. Kronor,

    As a diehard Flyers’ supporter, your patronage of this Caps’ blog flatters me. Apparently you think Capitals’ blogs of value enough, despite the inherent shortcomings of our hockey community.

  7. Skramz says:

    As a former resident of DC and a lifelong Flyers fan.. this article rubs me in the completely wrong way. I’ve been to Verizon center for quite a few Caps-Flyers tilts and was heckled by a huge number of fair weather caps fans… and the sad part was they just didn’t seem aware of the sport in a way that could lead to a great argument or anything, they just told me the Flyers sucked and when asked for evidence just repeated the statement

  8. Roger says:

    Also a life-long Flyers fan here. I actually used to read On Frozen Blog quite a bit 2 or 3 years ago and then for some no-good reason it dropped off my radar so it’s fun to stop in again. Even if just to see the rehashing of the Philly Caveman Fan stereotype.

    Is it an unfair stereotype? Only when presented from the viewpoint that Philadelphia sports fans are somehow MORE boorish than those of other cities. There are cave people everywhere. I even heard a story recently where someone wrote something down. Like on paper. WITH A PEN. How backwards can a human being be?

    The point is, no city’s fans appreciably behave any different than any others. It was a great game last night, obviously greater for my comrades – my brethren similarly bleeding orange & black – as two points are always better than one or, unthinkably, none.

    For all the bile, all the vitriol, we all know what kind of teams we have. The Caps are fantastic. The Flyers are fantastic. Good luck. I can’t wait for the playoffs.

  9. SKINSCAPSTERPS says:

    As someone who spent many a night in Cole Field House, yes it could get pretty rough. When I went there people would hold pages of a newspaper in front of their faces, pretending to read it while the opposition was introduced. And people thought that was disrespectful.

  10. Mario says:

    If ONLY us Philly fans could be civilized like you gracious gentleman in Washington.

    Like throwing garbage at opposing teams players:

    It’s almost like you’re just perpetuating a stereotype that actually fits every city in America….

  11. Pierce says:

    Some quality fans the caps have.

  12. penguin pete says:

    SKRAMZ,

    As a Penguin fan, do you think I like reading falsehoods like Ovi is the best player in the world?

    Or reading all of the Pittsburgh mullet jokes?

    Welcome to visting the opposition’s blog. Sometimes the words may sting, and when regarding your own team the words are always(of course!) wrong, but at least the words are written by knowledgable hockey fans.

    And I’ve learned that if you want to have a good hockey discussion, don’t ask the guy in the Crysby Sucks jersey…

  13. Roger says:

    Penguin Pete,

    Just kindly inform that fan that Crysby IS pretty terrible but that Crosby’s pretty much the best player in the league.

    Does this mean I have to turn in my Flyers Fan license?

    /hopes not
    //wouldn’t anyway

  14. I am noticing an increasing inability in readers today — presumably younger rather than older — to recognize long-entrenched composition tropes, such as tongue-in-cheek/satirical prose. A fairly broad inability to differentiate the literal from the figurative. I view it as symptomatic of relatively restricted instruction in rhetoric within contemporary English classes. I have no doubt, for instance, that with my photo file of late yesterday afternoon some readers believed me the wisher of an actual nuclear Armageddon on an American city. I don’t know how to confront this intellectual degeneration other than to sigh.

    But in defense of the spirit of my jibes at Philly, it is true: no other stadium anywhere in America (including old Yankee in NY) established an *on-site* criminal court, replete with presiding judge, as was the case at the old Vet.

  15. Roger says:

    With all due respect – and believe me, that respect isn’t being feigned, nor am I dropping the line just to sound like a cooler-head-prevailing anti-stereotype – I think if your piece was actually intended as tongue-in-cheek satire, your mastery of subtlety is greater than any writer I’ve ever read.

    More bluntly, I simply don’t think that was your actual intent. Perhaps I’m an example of the failing of the educational system but from what I can see, this post simply reads as a laudative accounting of those daring to wear red in a sea of orange.

    So yes, I guess everyone missed the point(?).

    The “courtroom/holding cell” argument proves little. Having a holding cell for offenders doesn’t necessarily mean we have “worse” fans. Perhaps we actually care that much more about stadium security and safety.

  16. HBH WC says:

    Isn’t it kinda cool that OFB is visited and commented upon by fans of the Phliers and Pens???

    Now if ya get visits and comments from Canucks, Wings, Kings and Oilers fans, you know you’ll really be popular throughout hockey cyberspace!

  17. the weatherman says:

    “Kosmel is a newcomer to the Red Army, having been introduced to hockey by his buddy just in 2007.”

    Yeah him and every other Capitals “fan”.

    http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance/_/year/2006

    COOL FANBASE YA GOT THERE.

  18. Tommy K says:

    So this whole article is condemning Philly fans when they did, in fact, nothing wrong?

  19. HBH WC says:

    @ Weatherman
    I’m all for bringing new fans to the sport of hockey no matter what team they root for. It’s all about increasing awareness and growing the game.
    As for me, I’ve been consistent in declaring who my favorite team is in the 40 odd years I’ve been playing and watching hockey. It’s easy, whoever’s playing the Phliers that night and the Hershey Bears?

  20. MadCap says:

    @ Weatherman
    Attendance for US-based hockey teams is based directly on the quality of the product on the ice (Philly has had very few bad seasons in the team’s history, while the Caps have had long periods of poor performance, one of which was the season that you decided to reference in your comment).

    I’m guessing you are probably a Phillies fan as well who claims to have supported that team forever. I suppose you were one of the many Phillies fans dressed up as an empty seat when I was attending some of those interleague contests against the Orioles at the Vet in the late 90’s (before the Phillies improved the on-field product).

  21. MadCap says:

    Does anybody else think that Tatsiana looks a bit like Chelsea Clinton in a Caps jersey ?

  22. Deadskins says:

    @ Tommy K: I don’t think this article condemns Philly fans. In fact, the civility exhibited earlier in the night shows that many Philly fans just enjoy some good-natured rivalry. But chants of “asshole” and the like, well, those fans are just shitty people, regardless of what team they support.

  23. OrderedChaos says:

    @ PETE: Well said, sir!
    @ ROGER: Heh, great response re: Crosby, particularly the // 🙂

  24. Darryl says:

    Philly fans tend to forget that the Cap Centre used to be full in the 80’s with Capital Fans, And yes visiting teams fans as well. But on a whole, The building had alot of Washington fans.

    When the team moved downtown, Alot of residents in MD decided not to renew and therefore the Caps had to basically start all over with it’s fanbase.

    I get tired of hearing how the Caps have only been fans since 07, Yes we have gained alot since then, But we have had a solid core from the beginning. As one comment abouve states, The Phillys never use to sell ut until when????? We thought so.

    So it happens in all of sports in all cities across the US. I dont see alot of people at Sixers games these days, So lets not chime in and say that Phillly is the best sports town, Its a great town that loves thier WINNING Teams!

  25. Eric says:

    This “blog” is further proof of the idiocy of the Caps fanbase. Have fun choking in the first or second rounds again.

  26. Swamp City DC says:

    Washington DC, the city that elected a crackhead mayor, then reelected him.

  27. Looks like pucksnbooks really struck a nerve with the Flyers fans, to the extent that one created multiple screennames for commenting here. Now that’s dedication.

  28. Swamp City DC says:

    Yep, dedication, something Caps fans know nothing about.

  29. Mark says:

    I would love to go to a game in Philly.Hockey is like a religion up here in Ontario but of all the US franchises i think Philadelphia likes their Flyers as much as their other pro sports teams.The Phantoms pack the fans in to their games to do they not?

  30. Not anymore, the Phantoms moved to Glens Falls, New York and are now the Adirondack Phantoms.

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