As many people know, I am the proud father of a 10 month old boy who loves random colors, lights and sounds Caps hockey. During last year's playoffs, he cried right along with his parents at the Caps early exit from the post season (it could have been the poop in his diaper, but I'm blaming the Habs). The little guy is a veteran of many NHL games already, his first game coming 6 weeks after his birth, against the New York Rangers (thanks to Uncle Reza for the upgrade to the 100 level!). He's been to enough games now that when he starts crying midway through the 2nd period, we know the Caps are going to blow the game in the 3rd (so far, he has a prediction rate of about 80%... it's kinda creepy).
But you can't simply grab a baby and head down to Chinatown. There is a lot of prep work that goes into bringing a youngster to a Caps game. Fortunately enough, I'm here to detail some ways to help make your experience a good one.
Find yourself a good diaper bag.
The standard 'mommy bag' is fine if you're going to the mall with friends and have a stroller to throw it on, but for a Caps game, you need something slim enough to fit under/beside your cramped-legroom seat. Oh, and make sure it's red and has room for a Caps patch.
Pack your diaper bag well.
Getting everything organized is the key to making sure you're not forgetting anything. Diapers? Check. Bottles? Check. Binkie? Check. INF sized Ovechkin jersey? Check.
Get a comfortable carrier.
If you're hopping on Metro to head to the game, you'll need something to strap the little one to yourself. If you doubt this, ask yourself this: "How many times has my nose contacted the seat in front of me after a Metro driver has slammed on the brakes?"
Find an eatery with highchairs.
Finding out that RFD has baby seating was a huge moment in my wife's life. It means both parents can eat food while it's warm, have a beer or two and laugh at the pile of finger food that forms under baby's feet.
Don't let baby hold your ticket until you're inside.
The only thing cuter than having your baby reach out your ticket to be scanned is having to explain to Guest Services how your baby dropped your ticket through the grates "somewhere on 7th Street". Aww.
Choose your entrance wisely.
Babies and their parents sometime get added benefits at Verizon Center. One of these perks is that often, bag screeners don't bother making you unpack your diaper bag to check for contraband. Some screeners, however, treat diaper bags like they're TSA screeners. Keep the bottles under 3oz and have them in a Zip-Loc container!
Make friends with your usher.
Having to adjust a baby to find your ticket is a pain, so make sure to say hi to your section's usher. After a few games, a wave and a smile is like showing your ticket. And after a full season, a glance is all it takes to get unrully Rangers fans scolded for doing nothing other than being Rangers fans. Babies like that.
Find the nearest restroom and the diaper changing station.
Also, be aware that for the most part, these stations are in very inconvenient areas of the restrooms. The best times for changes are pre-game and around the 10 minute mark of a period. For laughs, try a diaper change in a men's room just after a period has ended. For double laughs, make sure there is poop involved.
Scope out exit routes from your seats.
Inevitably, someone ranked 'overdrinking' over 'going to my seat' and there are empty seats around you. Find the best way to the concourse from your seats early, and reassess as time goes on. Someone who hasn't been in their seat for over a period is likely squatting in someone else's seat and isn't returning. Or, they're a Rangers fan (see above).
Get some good earmuffs.
Seriously, these things are the difference between people around you thinking you are a good parent or a horrible one. We've recommended these to everyone we know and they work great. That is, until baby is old enough to be able to pull them off and throw them. (Sorry to the guy down in front...)
Don't worry about your fellow Caps fans too much... they're looking out for you.
Dropped binkies have been run back to us, entrance and exit from various areas of the arena have been expedited and for the most part, Caps fans think it's cool that there are babies at the game. So don't worry too much about all the profanity... baby most likely doesn't know about the F-bomb yet.
Be willing to throw in the towel.
We have a rule: Caps games are only 2 periods long on week nights. The little dude needs sleep more than he needs to see a Semin shootout goal (trust me). Besides, being able to hear Steve Kolbe's game call while aready on 95 headng home is kinda sweet. (It still would have been nice to have seen that slap shot in person...)
Start in the Minors
Before venturing to the Verizon Center, babies (like Karl Alzner) need some time in Hershey. So take a trip up to Chocolatetown to catch a Bears game. The Giant Center is smaller, not quite as loud, and only has one main concourse to worry about. It's a fantastic place to see how your baby will do at a professional hockey game. Plus, there's Zoo America right down the street (kids are free!).