Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hockey n Heels 11/13/13

This was my third time at a Caps Hockey n Heels event (read about the other events here and here). It was a little more disorganized this year, and I don't think it was as well attended. It was a little more expensive this time, because they included a ticket to an upcoming game. I would estimate that there were about 150 women in attendance. It was still a great time, though, and as always, the interactions with the players and coaching staff were the best part.

Like last time, I attended with friends and fellow die-hard fans Catherine, Kristin, and Janet.

We started our evening by learning how to pass the puck with defenseman Alex Urbom. Since it was my third time at an event like this, I wasn't as nervous when taking part in the on-ice portion, but I still needed some help remembering the proper form. We each got a few minutes to practice passing, which was nice. We didn't feel rushed at all.

After the passing station, we headed over to get our picture taken with defenseman Karl Alzner. Needless to say, there was a lot of talk about his awesome mustache. (And if you haven't donated to the Movember campaign, here's the Caps team page.)

Next, we learned proper face-off technique from coach Blaine Forsythe. I found this to be the most challenging of the stations, but it's fun to try. I am always impressed that the players are able to do this on skates and with full padding.

The last on-ice station was shooting the puck with former Caps player Alan May, defenseman Steve Oleksy, and rookie forward Tom Wilson. Each time I do this, I get better, but I'm still not very confident. I appreciate the time that Oleksy took in helping me. I was able to get the puck into the net each time I shot it, which is definitely an improvement!

After the on-ice portion of the event, we headed upstairs for some light refreshements: drinks, sandwiches, salads, and the cutest little cupcakes.

Then it was time for video coach Brett Leonhardt's demonstration. Like last time, he talked about how he tracks the games on video live during the games. It amazes me that he is able to tag more than 600 events (such as forechecking, face-offs in all three zones, goals scored and against, power plays/penalty kills, etc) in real time as the game is being played. He showed us how he makes video packages to show individual players or the team as a whole, both for in-game and the next day. He also talked a little bit about the team's strategy on the forecheck and during break-outs, but I won't divulge the specifics here. :)

Next, we listened to a Q&A with former goalie and current goalie coach Olie Kolzig, moderated by Alan May. It was a very lively discussion that touched on memories from their playing days; their opinions on fighting, equipment, and rules; and their ideas for changes to the NHL, such as getting rid of the shoot-out or changing the way points are awarded; increasing the size of the ice; and changing the refereeing. They didn't hold anything back and answered everyone's questions. Olie was one of my favorite players, so it was cool to see him.

Our final stop of the evening was the locker room at Kettler. Even though I've been in there before, it's still fun to see all of the equipment set up for the next day's practice. This time, equipment manager Brock Myles talked about the players' helmets and also showed us how he labels every piece of clothing that the players wear. He compared it to labeling kids' stuff for school, ha! And I learned a new word "tuque", which is evidently what Canadians call a knit cap. :)

All in all, it was a great evening. As I've said before, I really appreciate what the Caps organization does for its fans. And the players and coaches are truly class acts; I've never had a bad interaction with any of them.

You can see all of my photos from the evening here. All photos are copyrighted by me and may not be republished without permission. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Caps Convention 2013

I was very excited to take my 7 year old son Benny to the Caps Convention this year. Our experience at CapsCon was tailored with him in mind. Had I attended alone or with another adult, I probably would have chosen to go to more of the panels, but we had a blast nonetheless.

We arrived at 10am when the Convention opened and stayed until 6pm. 8 hours was a long time for Benny. There was definitely some line waiting, and he got a little stir-crazy toward the end. I saw plenty of people with kids younger than 7, but I wouldn't do it myself.

When we first arrived, we went directly to the main stage to hear Ted Leonsis talk. We probably sat there for about 30 minutes before Benny had enough. The Winter Classic announcement wasn't really exciting for him, since he doesn't remember 2011 vs. the Pens and there's no way I'm letting him watch my 24/7 DVD. At least not until he's much, much older. :)

He was excited that we were sitting behind the Brouwer Rangers though. They were kind enough to pose for a picture, so he was thrilled by that.

Adjacent to the main stage area was a synthetic ice rink. Benny and I both put on some skates and tried it out. It was definitely weird. The "ice" was some sort of plastic and it didn't seem to grip the blades the same way as real ice. We ice skate pretty frequently, so it was a weird adjustment. The kids kept losing their balance, but they were having a great time. And as Benny said, since it's not cold and wet, it's no big deal to fall on it!

Next, we went over to the Kids Zone area. I saw lots of adults in the Kids Zone because there were lots of fun things to do there. :) They had ping pong, foosball hockey, air hockey, face painting, NHL video game stations, Stanley Cup plinko, a mock locker room, and lots of cut outs to pose in.

CSN even had a free photo booth where you could pose and they printed your photo right there!

And of course, Slapshot was hanging around.

We took a quick spin around the convention floor. There were sponsor tables, a merchandise shop, a silent auction, historical displays, some of the individual player trophies that are awarded each season, and a bunch of skills areas where you could try your hand at passing and shooting. The lines for those were pretty long and neither of us have ever really played hockey, so we skipped them. Benny was pretty disappointed at the prices of the items at the silent auction. I think the lowest starting bid was about $250 for a signed puck. He's learning early about the cost of sports memorabilia.

After a quick lunch, we headed back to the main stage area again where the emcee was handing out free stuff with the Red Rockers. Benny is enamored with the Red Rockers, and he actually got on stage with them to dance to the Cha Cha Slide. Those of you who actually know Benny will know how out of character this is for him - he hates to be the center of attention in a big crowd. I actually took a video of it, but I don't want to embarrass him for posterity, so I'll just post a few still photos.

It was pretty loud and crowded near the stage, so we headed off to the floor hockey area. This was probably Benny's favorite part of the convention (other than meeting the players), and we returned here several times throughout the day.

Next, we headed over to our scheduled photo with Joel Ward. It was totally worth the extra price that we paid! Many of you know this already, but my husband is named Joel Ward also. It was so great to meet the "other" Joel Ward. Benny shook his hand and told him that he had the same name as his dad. He couldn't believe there was a Caps fan with the same name as him! We had a good laugh when I told him that my husband got a whole bunch of congratulatory tweets after he scored the GWG in overtime against the Bruins in the playoffs a couple years ago. :)

After our photo, we went back to the main stage area to watch some of the players in a ping pong tournament. Hosted by Elliott from DC101 (who could never figure out how to keep score), the teams were Team Swede (Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johannson), Team Defense (Karl Alzner and John Carlson), and Team Sexy Legs (Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer, who wore these crazy red short-shorts and knee socks). We didn't stay for the whole tournament - it was hard to see the action - but evidently Team Swede took the win.

We headed to one of the conference rooms for the Kids Press Conference with Steve Oleksy and Braden Holtby. On the way, Benny met Ovi the Bulldog, who is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever seen.

The press conference was great. Benny was too shy to ask any questions, even though we were sitting in the front row. Lots of other kids asked great questions, including their favorite food/book/movie/TV show, their favorite hockey memories, what they thought at about the new division, funny stories, etc.

Braden Holtby told a great story about his first time playing in an NHL game, when he was serving as a back-up and didn't expect to go in. I took a video so you can hear the story for yourself.

After the press conference, it was time for our first autograph session. Each convention attendee was entitled to a ticket for one autograph session of up to 3 players. I'd like to thank the Caps employee who suggested I choose 2 different sessions and let Benny get all the autographs. I was able to escort him through the line since he is so young, so I still got to see all the players. I don't really care about getting autographs for myself, I prefer to get photos of the players instead, so this worked out perfectly.

All of the Caps players (including some Hershey Bears players who are still on the Caps pre-season roster) were there - divided into 4 sessions, each of which had 4 stages. So we got to meet 6 players total, 3 who are full-time Caps players and 3 who will probably spend most of their time in Hershey this season.

In the first session, the players were defenseman John Carlson, Michal Cajkovsky (pronounced Chi-kov-ski, I asked him) - a defenseman from Slovakia who will most likely be with the Bears, and forward Mathieu Perreault.

In the second session, we were lucky enough to see Alex Ovechkin, as well as probable Bears players defenseman Tyson Strachan and forward Dane Byers.

I have to say that all the players we met were just so great, especially to Benny. I'm sure they must have been exhausted, but they were really friendly and happy to chat. Benny's Ward jersey is always a conversation topic, and Ovi was tickled when Benny smiled and showed him his toothless grin, the same grin that Ovi is know for.

All in all, a great day. Hats off to the Caps organization once again for treating their fans so well!

See all of my CapsCon photos in my Google album. All photos are copyrighted by me and may not be used without permission. Thanks for reading!

For more about CapsCon: