The long hot summer of our sporting discontent is over and we have a few games under our belt. I'm guessing that the success of our little hockey club over the past three years has turned a bunch of people on to the sport that probably had never given it a first thought before. And that's fine. Hockey is an exciting game and one of the most accessible. The more the merrier.
If you are going to attend a game (which you should ... hockey is best witnessed live), there are some things you need to know.
The General Must-Follows
These rules are universal. They are the most basic of the basics and are followed in every hockey rink all over the world. If you walk away with learning only five things from this post, learn these five!
- You don't have to know the rules to have a good time.
It's true. There will be enough hard-core fans sitting immediately around you. Don't be afraid to ask what's going on. Trust me, we love to talk about the game and help new fans get acclimated.
- Practice the "Puck In Play" rule.
The "Puck In Play" rule is simple ... when the game is on, you stay put. It doesn't matter where you are or what you need to do. You can wait until a break in the action. See, hockey is a fast-paced game and, very literally, you can blink and miss an important play (like a goal). So every second that the puck is in play is important to hockey fans. We do not take kindly to the asshole who made us miss our favorite player score on our most hated team. You don't want to be that asshole so don't be.
- Sit back in your seat!
This goes in hand with the "Puck In Play" rule. When you lean forward in your seat, you take away a large amount of visual real estate. Sit back in your seat so the people behind you can see the whole ice as well.
But, Diarist, the people in front of me are leaning forward.
The tap them politely on the shoulder and ask them to sit back. If they hit you with the same lame excuse, tell them to tell the people in front of them to sit back. And so on. We all want to see the game so please let us.
- Keep the chatter to a minimum.
You are permitted to cheer as much and as enthusiastically as you wish. You are permitted to discuss the rules of the game or the strategies being used. But blathering on and on about work or personal life is irritating and prevents those around you from enjoying the game. If you wish to catch up with your buddies and discuss how that chick (or guy) the other week gave you crabs, please don't come to the game. No one wants to hear that.
- Know your limit.
Alcohol is served at the game during the first two periods. You are more than welcome to have some beers or cocktails. But know when to say when.
The Capitals Optionals
The next set of rules are specific to the Washington Capitals experience at Verizon Center.
- Properly enjoy The National Anthem.
It happens at the start of every game. Sometimes the Canadian National Anthem is performed as well. When the anthem(s) start, stand up. You are encouraged to sing, though it's not mandatory. Many people in the crowd will shout RED at "And the rockets RED glare ...". It is okay to do that. Some people will shout O at "Oh say does that ...". It is not okay to do that. The O is a Baltimore tradition that was begun at (and for) Oriole games. We are not Baltimore. We are not the Orioles.
- DO NOT encourage this guy!
I have my reasons.
- Participate in the group stuff.
Several videos are played during the commercial breaks. Know them and be prepared.
* Unleash The Fury!
* "The Hockey Song"
Several chants are done during the course of the game.
* "Ref, you suck!"
When the refs make a highly questionable call against our team.
* "1 ... (2) ... (etc.) ... It's all your fault!"
After the Capitals score, immediately following the second announcement of the goal.
* "Who cares?!"
After the Capitals are scored against, immediately following the second announcement of the goal.
* "Let's go, Caps!"
Throughout the game, but especially after Horn Guy or Goat leads the cheer. (See my rant against the Capstronaut.)
Of course there will be a great many other rules and traditions that will come and go. But these will get you started (and keep you from pissing off the fans who have been going for ever). Follow these rules. And enjoy the game.
Let's go, Caps!