At 11:59pm tonight, barring a miracle involving many grown men giving up billions of dollars, the NFL will likely be facing a lock out. For football fans everywhere, the prospects of having no Sunday afternoon games next season is unimaginable. No tailgating!? No Fantasy Football!? No excuse to eat and drink too much on Sundays!? No Tom Brady!? The horror!!
But the NFL isn't the only professional sports league facing a potential lockout. The NBA owners and Player's Association are facing the same uphill labor battle later this summer that the NFL owners and players have found too steep to climb. Players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony could lose a season of their careers and the Washington Bullets Wizards rebuild could be extended yet another season.
Fear not sports fans! While professional football and basketball may be on hiatus next winter, your old friend hockey will be here to help. You see, for those in the Washington DC area, the Washington Capitals could be the only game in town. As Caps fans, we need to embrace our sportless friends and show them how to Rock the Red.
Imagine it: Instead of Maroon and Gold, the area will be clad in bright, glorious Capitals Red all winter long. Non hockey fans, dying for the thrill of competition, will seek out their 'hockey friends'. They'll try to make it seem conversational instead of desperate, like asking a friend if you can ask out his ex-girlfriend.
"Hey, you like hockey, right?"
"Oh, I just saw some highlights on SportsCenter and thought it looked interesting."
"I didn't think you liked hockey..."
"I don't. I just... well... it is kinda cool."
"You want to go to a game, right?"
"PLEASE!!! I'm dying here! I need sports!!!"
"Ok, fine. But I'm not explaining off-sides to you."
For an entire winter, the only team the Caps will have to share the ice with will be the Georgetown basketball team. The ice at Verizon Center will have the chance to be good and the arena can be kept nice and cold for hockey. While it probably won't reach Edmonton awesome ice levels, the bumps and ruts could be far, far fewer and the game faster and more fluid.
Local news stations looking for good sports stories could set up shop at Caps Training Camp the way they do every late summer in Ashburn for the Redskins. Shows like SportsCenter will play and re-play highlights all day long and will have to bring in extra analysts and talking heads to fill the void in airtime. College Hockey and the AHL could receive more air time. While hockey players will probably never reach 'household name' status, players like Ovechkin and Crosby and Stamkos could finally receive the recognition they deserve as incredible athletes. At the very least, the Caps won't be on CSN+ at all!
Of course, there will still be stories about those other sports during their lost seasons. But they'll look more like:
- Albert Haynesworth arrests. Never mind... that always happens.
- Dan Snyder re-signs Deion Sanders out of boredom.
- The Wizards are actually thinking about how ugly their jerseys are.
- Donovan McNabb is in a new Capital One commercial. He's started carrying Ovie's fridge for some extra cash.
Tickets will be a hot commodity for those who love to join the crowd and cheer in person. While 91,000 seats at FedEX Field will be empty, for 41 nights the seats at Verizon Center will be filled with cheering, fist-pumping fans. Sure, some of them will be novices to the game, but they'll be passionate novices. Once they see the game in person, it'll be hard for them to not be hooked for good.
In short, next winter could be an important time for hockey to transcend it's current '4th professional sport' status and jump into the mainstream. The Capitals and the NHL would be smart to exploit the professional sports void of next winter and lure in those teamless football and basketball fans.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
As America's Hockey Capital, it's our responsibility to take in those less fortunate. Take them in, and make them Caps Fans.