Home to the Washington Capitals
I've lived in the Northern Virginia and D.C. area for over a decade, and there's still so much I haven't seen. It's home to several major monuments and museums, most of which are in relative walking distance of each other. Of course, the metro system is also available for when your feet start to ache or if you're trying to reach the opposite side of town. With two major hockey venues to visit, here's my guide to help you get started in planning your trip to America's Hockey Capital!
VENUES OF HOCKEY INTEREST
Verizon Center | 601 F Street NW Washington, DC
Home arena to the Washington Capitals, Verizon Center has an electric atmosphere for hockey. You can go down to the lower bowl for warmups to see your team, though you can't stay down there all game--unless your ticket says so.
Buying Tickets: Before the 2015-16 season, I was raving about StubHub as the best ticket outlet. But in the fall of 2015 they started adding fees to each ticket, making them appear affordable until you're in check out. Now, I highly recommend SeatGeek. They have multiple outlets that provide tickets, most of them without fees. Just find the ones without fees and you can ususally get a fair deal! I still compare both sometimes, but SeatGeek has been winning the race lately. I will give StubHub credit where it's due. In my experience, they have great customer service that will work with you to find alternative tickets if for some reason yours go through. I once had tickets to a Sabres/Caps Preseason game and the tickets were never delivered because of the Capitals new "ticket release 48-hours before game" rule. I called StubHub and they worked their resources to get me seats right next to the Sabres bench. So in that regard, they do have great service, it's just too bad they've added the unnecessary fees.
Depending on the team visiting and what day of the week the game falls on, determines when you should buy tickets. Most week night games are cheap and weekends are much more expensive. If prices look painful, wait a day or so before the game and monitor the drop in prices—STH's will want to get something out of the seats they aren't using that night.
Seating: You really can't go wrong with choosing a seat, but there are some things to note.
Lower Bowl: Most of the time you'll be looking up at the jumbotron to see what's happening. You won't be able to see the other end of the ice as well. Be prepared to get up an number of times to let other "fans" out, even during game play. They
just have to get that beer refill right when your team is about to get a top shelf goal. Be courteous to others and just wait
for a stoppage of play. You'll notice the higher you up in seat level, the more fans want to actually stay and watch
the game they've paid for.
200 level: Excellent seating, probably the best in the arena. It's close enough to see the game as you would in the lower bowl, but high enough to see everything that happens on the ice. Concessions are much less crowded and considered more "high-end" quality on this level as well. Pricier too.
Nose-bleed: Really, not that bad of a spot. Great view in just about any section and row. The players won't be microscopic,
I promise, they'll look maybe just a tad smaller, if not the same as they do on TV. I personally like sitting in the end
sections of the upper bowl because it's much easier to follow the puck and action from those angles. Plus, these are the
cheapest seats available. The regular price for these seats usually go from about $50 to $55, but StubHub can have
them at half the cost or lower.
Acela Club Seats: Probably the best and coolest way to see a game. With excellent service and food, the Acela Club has bar seating facing the rink, restaurant seating behind it, and a buffet style collection of food to enjoy all game long. It's probably the hardest commitment of money for season ticket holders, but for one night, it's worth the cost.
Food: Concessions are all over and you can get almost anything you could want at a hockey game, but for a price. Popular vendors include, Dunkin' Donuts, Chick-fil-a (a great option for less expense), Hard Rock Cafe, The Green Turtle, and more. If you get downtown to F Street early enough, turn on to 7th street and you can find much more affordable options in places like Chipotle and McDonald's.
Team Store: For the main store at Verizon Center, you'll need your ticket for re-admittance if you go during games. It has the most to offer for Caps gear at the arena, but there are smaller stores all over the concourse.
Exiting the arena: TAKE THE STAIRS. Don't wait on the escalator, you'll get out a heck of a lot faster.
Metro Tips: Verizon Center is located at the Gallery Place/Chinatown station where the Red, Yellow, and Green lines meet. Of course, it depends on which direction you're coming from, but as I've said before, everything is in walking distance. To avoid the long lines and crowded pack of fans that fill up Gallery Place, walking to Metro Center, Archives, or Judiciary Square can make the evening go a little easier.
For traveling on the metro, once you know your stop, look up the line(s) that go through that station and pick the one closest to your current location. From there, look at the stops at each end of the line which show the direction and which train you should be getting on. For example, if you're going from Gallery Place to Metro Center, you will take the Red Line headed to Shady Grove.
Click the SmartTrip pass to visit the DC Metro website for trip planners.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex | 627 N Glebe Rd Suite 800 Arlington, Va
Kettler Capitals Iceplex, or KCI, is the practice facility of the Washington Capitals located on the top (8th) floor of the Ballston Mall in Arlington, Va. It's about 20-25 minutes from Verizon Center and the downtown DC area. If you're using a GPS while in town, it'll look like it's taking you to a parking garage, and it would be correct. Once you've turned into the parking garage, you'll have to take up to the roof to get to the Iceplex. Parking costs $1 for the first 3 hours, and $1 for every hour you're there in total after the 3 hours are up.
It can be hard to find parking on the roof level, so I would suggest parking on the 7th floor and taking the elevators up to the rink. Conveniently, if you're hungry or feel like shopping, the elevators can take you down directly to the Ballston Mall's food court as well as the other levels of the mall.
If you enter from the main entrance of KCI, the team store and Capitals rink will be on your right, and the Arlington rink and steps to the upper level to your left. If you're coming from the elevators, they let out in the Arlington rink, so just follow around the boards until you get to the door that leads to the lobby.
The team store at KCI is arguably the best place to get your Caps gear, even over Verizon Center. They have all the merchandise you could want to "Rock the Red." One feature I really appreciate is the fact that they have a collection of player shirts for each guy on the team. In my experience, a lot of teams don't have every player's shirt, which is unfortunate because there are a fair amount of people who want to support the players that are not stars of the team.
After stocking up on some gear, you can head into the Capitals rink and watch practices and events that the team holds open to the public. Practices are normally held at 10:00 or 10:30am and can be as early as 9:00am but usually not later than 11:30am. Players will start coming out about 15 minutes before the start time. The regular practice usually goes for 30-45 minutes with a following 15 minutes of players hanging out or leaving the ice. Sometimes the practice can be held in the Arlington rink, but you can see all the updates by following @CapitalsPR on Twitter and checking CapitalsToday.
For signatures and pictures in the building, players will often stop by the media gate located on the bench side of the rink. Most players can be met outside of the facility in front of the Capitals' side of the Iceplex after practice. The first guys to
leave don't usually come out until maybe an hour or so after practice. You'll start to get most of them within 2 to 3 hours
after practice ends, but the waves of players can go even later. Just depends on how long you want to stay and
who you want to see.
- Hang around the media gate as practice comes to a close, you may get a player to come over that won't come outside as they leave the rink.
- After all the players have left the rink, head outside to the Capitals side of the Iceplex and wait with the other fans.
- When players do come out, they know the drill so be patient and wait for them to get through to you. Also, be nice and polite to these guys, they're a great group and they love their fans.
- Two players that are difficult to get if they come outside: Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Ovi usually signs 10 or so things before leaving, or finds a way to sneak out. He's taught Kuzya similar tactics, but if you do see them and ask for a signing, they will probably agree. Players in general can sometimes use other players as distractions to sneak out. But they likely have somewhere they really need to be, otherwise they would take time to meet with fans.
- Common players that come outside: Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Mike Green, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Alex Ovechkin, Steve Oleksy, and Dmitry Orlov.
- Players that I've never seen come outside: Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, and Troy Brouwer. All the rest I've seen at least once in my time of waiting outside. This is not to say that they don't or have never come out to see fans, I have just never been around for when they have.
Q: What's the camera policy at Verizon Center?
A: You can bring virtually any camera as long as your lens isn't long enough to "obstruct" the view of others. So yes, you can bring in cameras with detachable lenses. Not all arenas allow this, so I'm very thankful my local one does. You can't record video, so camcorders are a no go. If you're concerned about Kettler, there are no restricitons there as far as I know. When it comes to tripods and monopods, you cannot have them at Verizon Center. But you should be safe with at least a monopod at Kettler.
Q: Do other teams practice at Kettler?
A: Yes! Other NHL teams do practice at Kettler, most following the Capitals practice, but I've seen it happen before as well. It is a total game of chance and strategy to catch other teams because they almost never release practice information.
What to consider:
- Teams on road trips. Most teams will travel to their next city right after a game, giving them a free day in between games. These days off between games are the perfect opportunity to catch the team at Kettler. Best way to judge timing is to check the Kettler and Capitals schedules for practices and other events at the Iceplex. If there is a free hour or two window before or after the Capitals practice, that could be another team's slot. TIP: Check your team's social media and see when they've been practicing while on the road, it will give you an idea for when they could be on the ice at Kettler. Social media is also useful to see if the team did in fact travel a day early to DC. Teams have also been known to stay the morning following a game at Verizon Center, practicing at Kettler before traveling to the next city. Same timing for practice goes for these days too. I've been able to catch the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, and Nashville Predators. I'd kept track of the Vancouver Canucks when they visited this past season, and it was confirmed they were going to practice after the Caps, but they decided to take the day off to explore downtown. So that is also something that should be considered as well.
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