“If we can’t have the real game,” said Meghan Donohue, 26, of Centreville, “this is the next best thing.”
The central issue in the labor standoff is how to divide the league’s revenue. Both sides have submitted proposals that would reduce the players’ 57 percent share to a 50-50 split, but they differ on how to get there. The latest bargaining effort ended Sunday with union boss Donald Fehr telling reporters he didn’t “see a path to an agreement.”
It’s an odd time for Caps fans, many of whom developed an intense allegiance to the franchise in the eight years since the league’s last work stoppage. While the city’s other winter sports franchise have foundered, the Caps have been a beacon of hope, providing a sense of community, a justification for ticket splurges and a late-night TV destination for thousands of Washingtonians.
And with the NHL lockout dragging on and no end in sight, many of these fans have faced a void, searching for other outlets for their passion and other receptacles for their entertainment dollars.
“I have money now, but I don’t have anything to do anymore,” said Josie Goggin, a junior at the University of Maryland who has spent the lockout trying to watch basketball. “I’m not really that interested in it, but I thought I would try, because I need something to take up my time.”
It’s a refrain echoed by Caps fans across all ages and demographics. While the season-long 2004-05 lockout was telegraphed for months, the length of the current stalemate — and its Byzantine justifications — has disoriented many fans.
Some have turned to other sports, like NASCAR, mixed martial arts, the National Football League or Major League Soccer. Some have sought a hockey fix from the minor league AHL or the high-powered Russian KHL. Some have found solace in scripted television shows, while others have embraced participatory sports or books.
And some have resolved to take advantage of this rare respite from their favorite sport. Victoria Neal, a 43-year-old from Fairfax, maintains a separate checking account dedicated to hockey purchases. She regularly attends Caps practices in Ballston and games at Verizon Center, and she devotes much of her free time to the game.
Now her “hockey” account has been transformed into a “European Vacation” account. She and another Caps fan decided to sink their newfound money into a three-week European tour. Neal is spending one night a week in German language classes, and has pledged not to attend a single Caps game this season, even if the league comes back.