Gather round, kiddies - it's story time!
Once upon a time, in a land not really that far away, there lived a little girl (who would later grow up to be the queen of everything). She was a happy child, living in magical Suburbia with her family, and spent her childhood as so many others like her - with one exception. While other kids grew up among tales of the gridiron, she spent hours of her youth watching in awe as the mighty knights on skates did battle with some of the most fearsome creatures in all the land. Creatures like devils, sharks, panthers, and the most feared of all creatures - the penguin.
As she grew older she developed a deeper passion for the intricacies of these battles, learning the stories of the heroes who had come before and teaching herself what the heck 'offside' meant. She loved all the knights, but it was one group of knights in particular who held her heart. "The Capitals of Washington," she would say proudly when asked where her allegiance lay. Ignoring the mocking songs of those who supported enemy groups, she followed her men religiously. Her passion soon turned into desire to spread this love to others, and so she joined a net of communication and began writing tirelessly, sending her message of dedication to all four corners of the earth...or at least to all four people who sought it out.
One day a great proclamation went out across the land: Let all who speak of the Capitals of Washington, all the commoners whose heart is true and whose pen is mighty, come join the professional heralds of the sporting world. Gather up your quill and parchment, have your questions at the ready, and come stand next to those knights of DC.
And so she sent word of her intent and was invited in to that magical place...the Press Box.
That's right, it's true - I caved and went to join the real media up in the press box last night for the epic battle between the Caps and the San Jose Sharks. I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to expect, and as a blogger I wasn't completely sure that I should be there. I'm still not convinced either way, but I do have to say that the experience was a truly amazing one.
Before I go into details, I have to send out a special thank you to the Capitals organization for allowing me and so many others in the past to have this opportunity. If nothing else, it really gives you an idea of how difficult it would be to do this professionally - to get the quote you need, write the story, and get it all in by a strict deadline...well, let's just say that judging by the lateness of this recap I probably wouldn't do so well!
But on to last night. It was, to put it plainly, just an incredible night from start to finish. So many surreal things, moments where I had to stop and work to maintain my "professional" composure. Almost getting run over by Joe Reekie in the media room en route to the soda machine would be one of them; standing less than 2 feet away from Zubrus, Pettinger, Mike Grier, and Ron Wilson after the game would be another. (By the way, special thanks to some special blogger friends who were kind enough to let me trail after them like an annoying puppy dog all night long while pretending they weren't actually annoyed by me...)
Before the game all the media outlets gather under the arena for a meal, where they spend about an hour chatting away before being ushered up to the press box. This was one of my favorite parts of the evening. I got to listen in on so many conversations amongst people who are tops in their field, be it mainstream media or blogging, and 99% of the conversations were about hockey. Sightings of local celebrities like Reekie, Al Koken, Jill Sorenson, NBC4's Lindsay Czarniak along with the TSN guys from Canada made it hard to focus on eating, though, and I gave up halfway...which is fine, since true to rumors I'd heard, press room food is not exactly haute cuisine.
Once we were all settled in the press box I took some time to soak up the atmosphere. I've sat right below the press box before, but somehow it's a completely different perspective from up there. The whole arena spreads out below you like some otherworldly place, and you're completely separated from the murmurs of the crowd. Empty seats look bigger up there, and it's easy to spot the enemy jerseys from many different teams.
By now if you're reading this it's probable that you either watched the game or have read some fantastic recap of my more timely colleagues in the blogging world, but since I was given the opportunity to view this game as press, I figure the least I can do is give you my take on the game:
- Quite a few San Jose fans here tonight - they're very vocal as their team takes the ice, too. Even if they are with the enemy, it's nice to see that a team doesn't have to exist where it snows in order for it to have a rabid fan base.
- Goalie matchup - injury problems for both teams in this position, so it will be yet another battle of the backup vs. the semi-backup, Johnson vs. Nabokov.
- Clymer and Eminger continue to be scratched (and I crane my neck around looking for them up here but to no avail) and it looks like Beech will be taking Laich's place in the lineup. Not sure how I feel about that one...
Starting Lineup for the Caps: Bradley-Gordon-Pettinger up front, Jurcina-Morrisonn on the blue line, Johnson in net
Starting Lineup for the Sharks: Clowe-Thornton-Cheechoo up front, Ehrhoff-Vlasic on the blue line, Nabokov in net
Pre-game ceremony for Right to Play featuring Ovechkin, Pettinger, Thornton and Olympic medal winning speed skater Joey Cheek...anthem sung by Bob McDonald (YAY!)...
...and here we go!
- Slow start to the game for both teams, lots of hitting but very little in terms of offensive zone puck control
- An early power play for the Caps goes awry (shocker!) - they seemed to have better entrance into the zone than usual but were unable to maintain any sort of pressure
- Ovie has a few big hits already but no shots - it's okay, though, because no one does. We're 10 minutes in and no shots
- Scratch that, 1 for the Sharks. Caps respond at the other end with two shots of their own, and Morrisonn's booming slap shot from the point to put the Caps on the board, 1-0. Hmmm...2 shots, one goal. I like those percentages!
- Less than a minute later and the Caps are on the board again, as Sutherby taps in a rebound for his 5th of the year - 2-0 Caps. John (of OnFrozenBlog fame) and I marvel at the fact that Sutherby actually got one and discuss the lack of garbage goals for the Caps this season - these are the types of goals Sutsy needs to get more of. Hope it continues...
- The Caps seem to be having trouble going up the boards against this team. San Jose won't let anyone squeak by, taking the body and putting an end to the rush before it even gets going. They may have to try something else.
- Sharks get on the board with just under 3 minutes remaining. Well, there goes the shutout.
- A late penalty to end the first has carried over and the Caps start a man down. Johnny comes up big and the Caps are doing a good job of clearing out rebounds. The PK looks very aggressive this shift, with Clark in particular rushing the puck carrier on several occasions.
- It's 5 minutes in and the Caps are starting to run around a bit in their own zone. They need a goal or a power play soon, something to create a little momentum.
- Beech gets a good breakaway chance with a nice move around the SJ defense, but the puck seems to get rolling on him and his shot is easily stopped. *SIGH*.
- Lots of hitting and a bit of pushing and shoving as play stops. This game has a chance to get pretty chippy, as you would assume for any game between this Caps team and any team Ron Wilson coaches.
- I had to laugh to myself when Johnson was being shown on the jumbotron and the organist started to play the theme from the Tonight Show...get it? 'Heeeeeere's Johnny!'
- Caps get another power play and have a much better set up this time around, even occasionally completing some passes to one another.
- After two periods the Caps cling to a one goal lead. And I'm popping back the valium.
- Caps seem to be forechecking very well to start the third. Sutherby in particular is having a very strong game and is being rewarded with some time on a line with Ovechkin and Clark, then Semin and Fehr.
- Sharks get a power play goal, right as I was thinking that the Caps appeared to be shutting it down (you know, like good teams do when the have the lead?). The goal is awfully reminiscent of Sutherby's garbage goal. Johnson sits in his crease with his helmet off for about three minutes afterwards before getting back into position. Poor guy...he's played another great game from where I'm sitting - the Caps just can't seem to get him any run support.
- Ugh, the Bubble Cam...am I the only one who finds it more creepy than funny?
- Semin breaks in and is promptly tackled, but no call from the gruesome twosome (aka Kerry Fraser and Don "Donut Boy" Koharski). And that old favorite, "Refs You Suck!" chant starts up...it's always louder than "Let's Go Caps" for some reason...
- Caps are getting a lot of shots from the outside but again there's no traffic in front of the net and rebounds are quickly handled by the Sharks.
- Good pressure by Ovie, Zubrus and company draws a penalty - here we go, momentum shifter. If the Caps can get one, they have a good shot of winning. If not, I see a SJ victory in the cards...[yes, I really wrote that at the time - can I help if if I have psychic powers?] And SJ kills it off. *SIGH AGAIN*.
- Hannan is doing a great job in his assignment to shut down Ovie - another rough night for #8.
- Caps are flying right now, shooting from everywhere and putting a lot of pressure on the Sharks, but they can't seem to buy a goal. Beech rings it off the crossbar...he's had a decent night, but I'd love to see him actually score one.
- Nope. Looks like another repeat of my very favorite thing in the whole wide world...the SHOOTOUT.
- Pettinger scores but no one else does, and once again the Caps lose a point because of a skills competition. All together now...*SIGH*
- So here we are - the part of the night I was both eagerly awaiting and dreading at the same time. Down to the locker rooms we go!
- First stop, SJ locker room. Mike Grier is surrounded by media and I stick my little camera in there to get some video of our old friend. [Note: I have video and I'll do my best to post it sometime soon...however, the sound is horrible because my camera kind of stinks. C'est la vie - still fun to see them, though!]
- If you've never been in a locker room after a game, particularly a visiting team, try it some time. It's nuts - equipment bags being carted out all over the place, media and team personnel wandering around, players trying in vain to shower and change in peace...very stressful but exciting.
- Someone who I believe is Mark Smith walks by and I can't help but stare a little - his hair is awesome, multicolored and spiky. It's pretty funny to see that hair on someone wearing a suit!
- On to the Caps dressing room, which is already pretty empty at this point. I pass Jamie Heward on the bike in the hallway, then walk past Matt Pettinger into the locker room. Zubrus, Jurcina and Morrisonn are holding court with the press and I get some video of their interviews. Johnson is wandering around in the back of the room and Ovie is giving an interview in Russian.
- Ted Leonsis appears and I am standing right near him, but like the wimp I am I say...nothing.
- Matt Pettinger is leaning against the wall two feet away from me giving an interview and I get more video of him. Afterwards Bryan Muir walks by in a suit and carrying a stick, and Olie is also around.
- I make it back to the Sharks hallway for Ron Wilson's meeting with the press, which is cut short when he catches sight of George McPhee and makes some joke about having to go talk to the guy in the effete pink tie (sharp tie, George!) which makes everyone laugh. Sutherby is lurking further down the hall, evidently waiting for Mike Grier to come out. (Sutherby to a member of the Caps staff: "Get Griersy!" So cute.)
- On my way out I'm passed by Patrick Marleau, looking very quiet and stoic as usual - he's one of my favorites, though, and I admit I'm a little gawky as he passes. Hope he didn't notice :)
And there you have it - my night as a pretend member of the press! I hope to do it again someday, preferably for a Caps win, but all in all it was a good game and a great experience. Thanks again to the Caps organization and everyone else who was so nice to me all night, it was fun...
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Gather round, kiddies - it's story time!