Capitals fans Tyler Wooten and Zack Brown hit the road around 7 a.m. Wednesday to begin their nearly 600-mile drive to watch Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. The friends weren’t bound for Las Vegas, where the Capitals will look to even their series against the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena, but for D.C., where more than 10,000 screaming fans are expected to rock the red inside Capital One Arena while watching the game broadcast on the video board suspended above center ice.
“I just really wanted to be a part of that atmosphere,” Wooten said as he and Brown, who live just outside Savannah, Ga., neared the North Carolina-South Carolina border shortly before 10 a.m. “Our schedules just lined up perfectly with it, so we decided to make the trip.”
Wooten, 25, grew up in Prince George’s County. Brown, 26, is originally from Baltimore. They became friends after their families moved to Georgia, and they bonded over the Capitals, who are in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 20 years.
“I’ve been a fan my whole life,” Wooten said. “My parents are huge fans.”
Wooten, who hasn’t been to a playoff game since Washington’s first-round series against the Rangers in 2009, watched the Capitals’ Game 1 loss to the Golden Knights with his parents.
“It’s kind of been a dream to go to a finals game, but I realized with ticket prices what they are, that’s not realistic,” he said. “This is the next best thing.”
After Wooten announced his plans to drive to D.C. for Game 2, one fan tweeted at him to say the watch parties, which the Capitals have hosted for every road game since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and are free and open to the public, have been “more fun” than attending actual games.
Roughly 11,000 fans were watching inside Capital One Arena when the Capitals clinched a trip to the Stanley Cup finals with a 4-0 win at Tampa Bay last Wednesday. There were more than 12,000 fans in the seats for Monday’s Game 1.
“The atmosphere at Game 7 looked amazing,” Wooten said. “I’m really hoping for a win tonight so we can soak that in.”
Wooten said he’ll be sporting a red Dmitry Orlov Russian national team jersey Wednesday. If it weren’t white, he could’ve gone with his signed Cody Eakin jersey that the former Capitals prospect, who now plays for Vegas, was wearing when he scored his first NHL goal in 2011.
“I paid well over $1,000 for it,” said Wooten, who used to collect all sorts of hockey memorabilia and had high hopes for Eakin in Washington. “Two months after the season ended and I got sent the jersey, he then got traded to Dallas. It was kind of heartbreaking. I had bought a game-used autograph stick of his, and a picture. Now we’re playing him in the finals. It’s kind of crazy how that works.”
Wooten and Brown booked a one-night stay at a hotel and plan to head back to Georgia around noon Thursday, as they both have work Friday. Wooten said there’s at least one other perk to driving more than 16 hours round trip to watch a hockey game in an arena where no hockey is actually being played.
“Me and him are looking forward to stopping at a 7-Eleven, to be honest,” he said. “We don’t have them down here in Georgia. I want to get a Slurpee and some chili cheese nachos.”
Read more on the Capitals: