The Metro bustled with hockey sweaters once more. A few Ovechkin Jerseys peppered the Gallery Place/Chinatown platforms, a few more Hershey Jerseys than normal rounded the rest. Fans gathered to catch a glimpse of professional hockey played once again in the District. Unfortunately, it was not the venomous Penguins come to town to take on the beloved home town Caps. Nor any team in the collective 30 teams of the National Hockey League made their presence tonight at the phone booth.
"It's hockey," A fan said to me as he waited in line for his first beer of the 2012-13 "so called" season at Verizon Center. "I can't run up to Hershey with my family like some can, so we are pretty hard pressed for some action on the ice around here."
It was an announced sell out crowd at the arena where the Capitals once played. Although, there seemed to be a few missing patrons in the stands who failed to show for the AHL Showcase game presented by GEICO. A game featuring the AHL affiliates of the Washington Capitals (Hershey Bears) and the Anaheim Ducks (Norfolk Admirals). Even though it was an ice full of professionals, it was different and somewhat distant from what Capitals fans were used to.
"There is no Ovechkin, no Backstrom," A fan quip to his friend as they walked the concourse between periods. "It is like hockey lite."
Fans were also distracted, checking smart phones through out the game not just to smirk at the snide tweets about the action on the ice, but to get the latest coming out of New York on the future of the League's season. Even as the game continued, the talks between the players and NHL executives blew up in just an hour over a miscommunication. The owners thought they had a yes or no on a proposal, the union thought they were still negotiating. The optimism of a full season quickly faded before the Bears and Admirals took the ice for the second period.
A bittersweet occasion as the Bears overtook the Admirals in a 2-1 victory. Even before the final horn sounded, many in the building knew of the talks blowing up in a hotel north of here. The air of disdain towards players and owners seemed to take away from the night's festivities. Fans wondered if they were ever going to be back to see their hometown heroes take to the ice again. In a building that couldn't hide its purpose, the home for the Washington Capitals, seemed even more empty as fans dispersed.
"I don't know if we will be back," A season ticket holder told me as her family and the crowd migrated out of the building. "What ever their differences are seems minute when compared to what my kids want to see, they want to see their team. They can't, and they don't know why."