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  Old and New Fans Flock to MCI Center
By Benjamin Jennings
Washingtonpost.com Correspondent
Web Posted: Sunday, June 14, 1998; 1:16 a.m. EDT

Online Exclusive

Dave Dacko has been a Washington Capitals fan since 1982. Shannon Van Der Donck has followed the Caps for a few years while Larry Stanley and Shana Pedroncelli caught hockey fever this season. But all four found their way to MCI Center for Saturday's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I was at the three-overtime game against the Islanders and have been through all of it," said Dacko, referring to the Capitals' history of failing in the playoffs. "I rubbed all my rabbitt's feet and crossed all my hands and toes and I hope they win it tonight for [Washington Captain Dale] Hunter."

Washington tied the game in the third period, but Detroit's Sergei Fedorov scored with 4:51 remaining to give the Red Wings a 2-1 victory and a three games to none lead in the best-of-seven series.

Van Der Donck and Dacko, who went to the game together, said that it is difficult to get tickets because most of the tickets go to season ticket holders and there are so many people who jumped on the Capitals' bandwagon as Washington advanced in the playoffs.

"I put my feelers out and paid face value for them," said Van Der Donck, "but it's difficult to get tickets because of all the people on the bandwagon. But there are a lot of good fans."

Larry Stanley also attended Saturday's game in Washington.

"I'm a convert this year," said Stanley, who resides in Arlington. "I've always wanted to go, and now it's convenient and the play is fantastic. "It's going to be very difficult to win, but at this point, it doesn't really matter — it got people interested."

The District's Pedroncelli said she just moved to the area in April and has been a Capitals fan for just two months. But she is quick to add she was a Capitals fan before the playoffs.

"I was introduced to hockey and I could have either loved it or hated it," said Pedroncelli, "and I just loved it. I went to a regular season game and I instantly became a Caps fan. It's easier to understand and faster paced than football and it's more interesting."

But while the majority of the crowd rooted for the Capitals, there were also a lot of Red Wings fans at MCI Center on Saturday.

"This is the closest thing to a home game that we've had," said Detroit defenseman Bob Rouse. "There was a lot of electricity in the building and great support by their fans — they had that Godzilla thing going [for goalie Olaf Kolzig]. But I was surprised to see so many Wings jerseys in the crowd."

On Friday, Detroit Captain Steve Yzerman said that he had no opinion of Capitals fans because he had been in Washington for only 45 minutes. He had an opinion on Saturday after Game 3.

"The atmosphere here is great," said Yzerman. "The fans are close to the ice, it's a beautiful building and it was loud. Their fans were fine."

© Copyright 1998 washingtonpost.com

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