Photos: Capitals Host Open Practice at Verizon Center

Capitals Verizon Center Practice (1 of 18)

The lower bowl of Verizon Center was packed as fans came to welcome back the Caps. (Photos by Chris Gordon)

Just four months late, the Capitals are finally ready to start the season. Many fans, though, are still bitter after having their sport taken away for so long. On the Thursday night, the Capitals tried to alleviate some of that animosity with free food, Troy Brouwer dancing to Gangdam Style, Ted Leonsis saying things, and a open practice at Verizon Center.

“It was amazing to see all the fans out there,” defenseman Karl Alzner said after the practice. “It was the least we could do. I’m not a marketing genius — as players all we can really do is go out there and play hard to give them something fun to watch. It should be the first of a few things they do for the fans because we all know they appreciate us and we appreciate them.”

Below, take a look at my photos from the event.

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Video: Troy Brouwer Dances to Gangnam Style

Troy Brouwer does Gangnam Style Dance

Photo credit: @WashCaps

Thursday night at Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals held an open practice and offered free concessions to fans to say sorry for the NHL lockout. The free stuff was cool and all and yay hockey is back, but here’s the real story: Troy Brouwer did the Gangnam Style dance.

We’ve got an epidemic on our hands, people.

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Ted Leonsis

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has been the target of criticism since he was named a “hardliner” during the NHL lockout. We’ve observed the decline in his prestige, documented some fan protests, and even proffered a scheme to repair relations with the fans. Addressing the media at Thursday’s Caps Fan Appreciation Night at Verizon Center, Leonsis finally had the chance to discuss his role in the lockout, and he amiably rejected the hardliner label ascribed to him.

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Olie Kolzig

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth recently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.

On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.

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Alzner

Alzner, left, seen here not tweeting. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

The NHL lockout caused many casualties. Games, fans — all lost to the sport for years to come. No loss, however, was bigger than Karl Alzner‘s Twitter account. After some tense exchanges with fans on the site in early December, Alzner deleted his profile. It had been a wild ride. Washington’s number 27 brought pictures of his dogs and the living room they destroyed. He tweeted pictures of his dogs. And sometimes even his dogs.

“I told him to grow up,” fellow Twitter user Joel Ward (@JRandalWard42) told RMNB’s Ian Oland when asked about the disappearance. “I hope I can get some of his followers on my team.”

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