As someone who has been going to hockey games in person since 1976, since before many of you young 'uns were born, I figure I should share some of my personal experiences when visiting the fans of the teams that make up the Caps' new division. I can't speak of the new arena in Pittsburgh, having only been to the old Civic Arena for a couple of playoff games, but I can speak of what it's like to attend a game among a bunch of their fans.
Ok, here goes, from the top:
Arena: The old arena was awful. Bad sightlines, small corridors, not enough restrooms. Have not been to Consol yet, but it has to be an improvement.
Fans Knowledge: Penguins fans are actually quite knowledgeable about the game and the players on the opposing team, and while they will shout "so-and-so sucks" they are willing to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of players. In other words, there are players on other teams that are as good as the Penguins.
Fan Courtesy: Penguins fans are very vocal and will yell, scream, carry on, curse, swear, etc. during games, but I never had any problems where they get physical. Yes, they can get verbally rude, but the only physical confrontations I've seen between Caps and Pens fans were here in the DC area (at both arenas) and all of them were started by Caps fans. Really.
Arena: MSG has been renovated multiple times. It's still a dark forboding place that has many hidden corridors and such and it is easy to get lost. It is one of a very few arenas left where there is also a walkway from section to section inside the seating area. Most areas are well lit, but if you go down the wrong hallway you can end up in some place that's filthy, or worse, if the circus is in town, someplace where there are elephant droppings. Plus, when the circus is in town, the arena ends up with lovely ambient odor. Plus the ice, which is normally bad, becomes horrendous.
Fan Knowledge: The players on the Rangers are the best players ever and the only reason they ever lose is because they don't play up to their full potential. And, oh yeah, Potvin sucks.
Fan Courtesy: Depends on where you sit. Towards ice level, fans are quite courteous because they are sitting in corporate seats and they may be there with their employer, or representing their employers. Upstairs at the top level, be careful..
Arena: Nassau Colliseum is the oldest arena in the NHL that hasn't been renovated. It's ugly, awful, and filthy. It was built a couple of years before the Capital Centre was built. It's been 15 years (I know!) since the Caps left Landover.
Fan Knowledge: Islander fans are very much up on the game, and know a lot about good opposing players, mostly because they were traded from the Islanders around the league. Islander fans got a special sort of cringe when the Bruins met the Canucks in the Final in 2011, knowing that Chara and Luongo were once teammates on the Islanders.
Fan Courtesy: Unless your a Ranger fan, expect them to be polite and actually pleasant company. If you're a Ranger fan, they'll bring up their 4 Stanley Cups from 30 years ago, and how the Rangers have won exactly the same number with 50 or so year head start.
Arena: Have not been to the current arena, only to the old Spectrum, which was an uncomfortable place.
Fan Knowledge: Flyer fans are quite knowledgeable about the game, and will discuss which players are better or worse while...
Fan Courtesy: ...hitting you with their beer, crowbar, whatever they have at hand. Philly is the only place where I've been as a visiting fan and felt physically in danger. And I was with a group of 50 Caps fans....
Arena: A beautiful arena, nestled right next to the NC State campus. Easy to get to, easy to park, easy to leave after the game, very courteous staff, they smile at everyone, even visiting fans, and they say they hope you come back and visit again (and they mean it!)
Fan Knowledge: Ovechkin? Didn't he drive for Jack Roush in the late 1990s?
Fan Courtesy: Very courteous fans and arena staff. When you go as a visitor you'll feel welcome. A great place to watch a game.
New Jersey: Have not been to an away game there, so nothing to say. I did go to the old arena when it first opeend to see Bruce Springsteen...
Columbus: Have not been to an away game there either... but now with them in the division, it's on the to-do list.