I’m grateful to WashingtonPost.com for having me back as a contributor to Box Seats this season. In the interest of getting back to what it means to be a “fan blogger,” I want to celebrate the beginning of Caps season by remembering why I’m a fan of this team.
When I was a kid my father exposed me to all the D.C. teams, and I loved them all. I grew up during the primes of Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra, with the likes of Calle Johansson on the blue line and Joe Reekie doing that funky pre-game ritual in front of the goal. I was nine years old and joking about how I was going to write to Chris Simon about what hair products he used.
The first game I ever went to, I told my dad that the first player to score would be my favorite forever. I doubt Steve Konowalchuk scored more than a dozen goals that season, but that was one of them, and it started a life-long preference for players who work hard and bring more to a team than raw talent. I had to special order his jersey because the store didn’t sell it. I still wear that jersey to games today.
You know where else I wore Kono’s jersey? To high school. My team was terrible. No one liked hockey. I was full of player names no one could pronounce and facts about a sport no one watched. I loved it. I bonded over hockey with anyone I could find, casting knowing glances at the few people at school who’d sport an NHL team’s hat or shirt. The Caps had little more than a cult following, and I was a part of it.
Of course now it’s not like that. For my thoughts on the growing fan base, you can actually look at the very first piece I wrote for Box Seats. (How apropos.) Suffice it to say, being a part of a small community of fans can no longer be my reason for loving this team.
Now, close to 20 years after first becoming a Caps fan, I’m an adult. I don’t choose favorite players by who scores first, and I don’t support a team just because they’re here and so am I. Yet I still choose to make being a Caps fan a huge part of my identity, and here’s why: I value the ownership, the front office, the players, and the fans. I’m proud to be a fan of a team that shares a strong, mutually supportive relationship with the D.C. area. I’m lucky that what I first loved for its quirks, enthusiasm and small community of fans has grown to retain those quirks and that energy even as a larger group. That’s why I love the Caps, and that’s why I’m excited hockey season is back.