Saturday was the last day of the Capitals Development Camp and, subsequently, the team’s annual fanfest. Fans began jamming the rink around 8 am, eager to get a prime position for the weekend scrimmage and the team’s year-end equipment sale.
The event featured an autograph signing with new addition TJ Oshie, attracting a packed group of admirers. Despite the damp weather outside, the Caps hosted street hockey and moon bounce for little kids on the top deck of the parking garage. Indoors, thousands completely packed Kettler Capitals Iceplex to watch the team’s draft picks and the camp’s free agent invitees battle it out in a scrimmage, won by Team Red 7-3. During general manager Brian MacLellan’s press conference, one reporter brought up the possibility the event could be moved to a bigger venue.
“We’ve never thought about,” MacLellan said. “It’d probably be a good idea.”
Part of the reason the event has gotten so big is due to the camaraderie of Caps fans. On Saturday, a group of Caps fans who met on Tumblr got together to watch some hockey and see some of their favorite prospects in the flesh. The Papa Squad (named after Tom Wilson’s and Michael Latta’s nickname for Nicklas Backstrom) of Sydney, Victoria, Alexi, Taylor, etc gathered together to get take some selfies and some signature. Victoria even got the prospects to sign her TJ Yoshie poster, created by a fellow fan.
“We just bonded over our love of the Caps,” Sydney told me.
Days like today are the reason this fanbase is so great. Below, take a look at Amanda’s gorgeous pictures from the day.
Fans began lining up early Saturday morning, packing the top mezzanine at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. After 400 people were in their places, no more spots were issued. Caps fans were eagerly awaiting their first interaction with TJ Oshie, acquired last week from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Phoenix Copley, and a third round pick in next year’s draft. Oshie had landed in Washington the day before and would be signing autographs after meeting with local reporters.
“It was really hard to talk yesterday,” Oshie, sporting his new number 77, said in conference room at Kettler. “My fiancée and me were walking around. I was just so excited after talking to the coaches that I just want to start playing right away.”
At this year’s Development Camp, the Capitals have shied away from the myriad of scrimmages they held under past regimes, teaching the invitees rather than pitting them against each other.
“We’re doing developing more than we are evaluating,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “This has been more education, more development stuff.”
Nevertheless, the team still hosted a big scrimmage at the end of camp, the anchor of the team’s annual summer fanfest. With one big chance to impress Washington’s brass, the players turned in a barnstorming, high-energy game.
One casualty of the chippiness was Chandler Stephenson‘s smile. The third-round pick lost parts of two false teeth when he was high-sticked by Marcus Basara during three-on-three play.
“I didn’t see the stick but just felt my head go back,” Stephenson said. “My front four are already fake. It’s going to be interesting to see what mom says.”
When the Washington Capitals selected Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004, they received a generational player, one that was supposed to lift them out of depths of the league and win them the Stanley Cup that has eluded them throughout their 40-year history. Eleven years later, the Caps have still not won a Stanley Cup. Despite his nearly point per game pace in the postseason, much of the blame has been shouldered on Ovechkin, the captain and face of the team. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who stood on the draft stage with Ovechkin back at RBC Center, however, defended his star player.
Saturday is the final day of development camp, which coincides with the team’s annual fanfest. The scrimmage will take place at Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 10:30AM. See how many RMNBers you can spot in attendance! Also I’m told Ranger Nathan is taking donations on any Troy Brouwer gear that you find at the equipment sale. Here’s the full schedule of Fanfest.
Last week, the Washington Capitals tore down the giant banner of Mike Green that hung over the parking deck adjacent to the Ballston Common Mall. On Friday, they unfurled a replacement banner: Braden Holtby.
That should be comforting to fans who are nervous about Holtby’s contract situation.