Each season, the Washington Capitals prepare for their on-ice campaign with a renewed sense of purpose and drive. New players and returning veterans battle for roster spots, all with an eye to making that final cut and joining the team’s starting lineup.
The Red Rockers, the Caps’ spirit squad, went through a similar (if much briefer) process this past weekend. I stopped by the Washington Sports Club in Columbia Heights to catch some of the Rockers’ auditions. Roughly 100 young hopefuls came to WSC to convince the judges that they have the energy, personality, and savvy to be Red Rockers.
After Day 1, thirty women remained in contention for, according to the Caps’ Director of Game Entertainment & TV Production Mike Wurman, a final squad of twelve to eighteen Rockers—this season, 16 hopefuls made the final cut on Day 2.
Wurman emphasized that the Rockers act as “Ambassadors” for the Capitals—their role is not to be traditional cheerleaders, nor are they ice girls as you’d find shoveling the snow between periods at some other hockey arenas (e.g., Nassau Colisseum, American Airlines Center—not that there’s anything wrong with that…). After all, the Caps have their own professional ice crew to tend the playing surface, and engage local youth hockey teams to chip in with the on-ice work… so the Red Rockers are instead focused on enhancing the in-game experience for fans, as well as charity & publicity appearances.
“We’re constantly trying to refine the role of the Red Rockers,” Wurman said—finding the right way to add to fans’ game-day fun without distracting fans from the game itself. “We want to get them out there; we want even more exposure during the games without going over the line. The worst thing, however, is if no one is paying attention.”
The fans, particularly little boys and girls according to Wurman, love the Rockers. The Rockers now have a table in the Phone Booth concourse to interact with the fans—prime real estate given the goal of avoiding “concourse clutter” (five years ago, on a Tuesday against Florida, not a concern . . . now, with the sold-out games, more important than ever). Clearly this is one parcel of land well-deserved by the Rockers, judging by the fans clustered around the table for photos and autographs.
What’s on the agenda for the Rockers this season? Three-year Red Rocker Emme Porter, a professional skater (she was the skating instructor for my buddy’s little boy) and now the squad’s leader, has some changes in store. For instance, though most of the Rockers’ work doesn’t require skating as such (again, not ice girls), “[Porter] and her husband are leading classes for Rockers who want to get better on the ice,” according to Wurman.
For a taste of the two-day tryouts, check out the video below. You can meet the new squad at the Capitals Fan Fest this Saturday, 8:00 – 2:30, at Kettler Capitals Ice Plex.