Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Day for Hockey in D.C.

An unusual confluence of the NHL and NCAA hockey takes place this weekend in the nation's capital, as while the Verizon Center hosts college hockey's championship this weekend, the local franchise also looks to wrap up a top seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs and its best player vies for a major award.

All this leads to an overload of hockey action for local fans, kicking off at 5PM ET when Bemidji State and Miami RedHawks face off to open the first semifinal of the NCAA hockey tournament in a battle of Cinderellas, with one destined to punch its ticket to Saturday's final.

Right about the time that regulation ends in that contest, the Capitals will open their game in Tampa Bay, with the team needing just a single point to clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Depending on the length of the first semifinal, the Capitals game will overlap into the second national semifinal between Boston University's Terriers and Vermont's Catamounts, with the winner of the late game being installed as a heavy favorite to win Saturday's title.

For fans at home, it'll involve a lot of clicking, but for fans inside Verizon Center, it may involve some passing in and out.

Fans attending the NCAA event should notice some significant alterations to the building this weekend.

The most obvious is that the building's banners have been removed, leaving just the flags as familiar hangings with the NCAA adding its own bunting to the rafters. The ice has been redone in an NCAA design, and the boards have been stripped of ads and replaced with a college motif.

Because the NCAA controls the building during the event, it also means the likelihood the usual NHL out-of-town scoreboard won't be up for Caps fans in the building wanting to keep track of the Lightning game, meaning pass-outs for fans heading to the Greene Turtle or other local watering holes to keep tabs on the game.

Still, it's quite a night for hockey fans in the area to have a smorgasboard of choices tonight as the NCAA's best and one of the NHL's best are both playing on the same night.

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