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In Focus: CD's Night As A Guinea Pig

[The following was written by frequent Rink reader and commenter CD. His views do not necessarily express those held by The Rink or any of its contributors, with the exception of the Halliburton link. We're cool with that. It should also be noted that CD and JP are most definitely not what you would call "friends." - JP]

A couple of Mondays ago, I received the good news that I had been selected to participate in one of the Caps’ "immersion groups," essentially a marketing effort wherein ticket purchasing fans were invited to attend a game in small groups to comment on the game and the fan experience. As I also received the news that I had won the first five Rolling Stones albums that same morning, I was feeling pretty good about things when I walked into
Suite 342
last night.

If I understood correctly, my group of 15 was made up of a cross-section of season ticket holders, smaller package holders and individual gamers. The process itself was very informal. Essentially, following some brief small talk, smaller groups naturally formed and one of the marketing folks simply listened in and picked our brains on our thoughts regarding all things Capitals.

I ended up spending most of the game with a nice chap I later found out was an accountant with Halliburton. I’ve decided not to hold that against him, however, as he knew his hockey stuff and that’s good enough for me.

As I can’t imagine anyone really wants or needs to hear my re-cap of sitting in a box to watch a game, I’ll highlight some specifics.

Here follows the list of things I either brought up or heard from my fellow Caps fans.

  • My personal cause was suggesting more fanfare be added to the game, specifically to engage younger fans. For example, at Anaheim’s Arrowhead Pond, before the anthems even are sung, fireworks go off when the players hit the ice, the mascot descends from the ceiling via rip chord and music is blared from the speakers. Sure, it’s a bit hokey, but here’s my point. Particularly on weekend afternoon games, at least one third of the audience seems to be comprised of ankle biters, many of whom cannot fully appreciate the complexities of the game. However, if the Caps can create an exciting experience for the next generation of fans, the larger that fan base will grow.
  • Agreeing with the fine proprietor of The Rink, I pushed the "JP Initiative." As JP put it, "The only people I know that don’t like hockey are people who haven’t seen the game live. Start giving away more tickets. Filled up your tank of gas three times? Free tickets. Started a new bank account? Free tickets." You get the point.
  • Apparently, Kristen, the between-action host, is universally reviled by fans. (If you happen to be reading this, though, Kristen, I dig your style. We should go out and get a drink sometime to discuss this. Trust me, bald, lumpy guys are your demographic and you should exploit me, uh, us, for all we’re worth.)
  • It was agreed upon by the few folks I spoke with that fantasy hockey is responsible for creating a new level of rabidity among fans. How this information will be exploited is beyond me.
  • More than a couple people mentioned the high price of parking.
  • As my sister requested of me, I furthered the notion that Stompin’ Tom Connors’, "The Good, Ol’ Hockey Game," needs to remain a part of every Caps game.
  • Capitals' majority owner Ted Leonsis made a brief appearance between the first and second periods. What struck me most about the man, besides the fact that his shoes cost more than my entire wardrobe, was his accessibility. He personally introduced himself to everyone in the room and shook hands. I realize this is part of his "job," but I thought the guy was friendly.
  • I hate to gripe about anything free, but marketing guys, c’mon, you couldn’t hook us up with better grub than warm soda and hot dogs on stale buns? I’m not saying, I’m just saying. You know what I’m saying?

All in all, I had a rather enjoyable evening. What hockey fan wouldn’t? I mean, think about it—a free suite ticket and someone who’s been paid to listen to me ramble on about hockey? That’s a good time every time.