Saturday, September 26, 2009

Random Dispatches From the Caps Convention

(Yes, we travel to Oxon Hill so you don't have to...)

What does it take to get to hang a Eastern Conference championship banner in your building? A lot of hard work, some luck in the playoffs, not to mention some good breaks over a two-month marathon.

Or a fat wallet.

A unique part of the team's silent auction at the first Capitals Convention was the banners up for bids.

The Capitals' lone Eastern Conference title banner, five division title banners and the four retired numbers that had hung in the Verizon Center rafters were being sold, as the mystery why the Caps' side of the rafters were empty during the preseason has been solved, as the team will raise new banners in conjunction with the team's 2008-09 Southeast Division banner on Saturday (see below).

The banners, which had various degrees of wear and fading depending on when they were raised to the rafters - all have been hung during the team's Verizon Center tenure with the lone Patrick Division banner having been replaced during the early part of the decade to reflect the design of the Capitol Dome logo banners - were being sold because the team will introduce a new design for the fourth Southeast Division banner to commemorate last season's achievement.

Bidding for the the Southeastern Division banners started at $750, while the Eastern Conference one started at $1,000.

Several of the NHL's trophies were also on display at the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center, as the Art Ross, Maurice Richard, Norris, Jennings and Conn Smythe were on display in fancy glass cases for fans to check out.

Getting a little bit less love than its counterparts was the Kelly Cup.

The ECHL's championship trophy, which was won this spring by the South Carolina Stingrays, was on display on the team's table at the back of the hall, right next to a pile of Stingrays decals and near some of the team's merchandise.

With all 5,000 tickets sold at at least $40 a pop, the one thing that everyone did at the Convention was stand in line. While the early rush of season-ticket holders went mostly towards the team's annual equipment sale, where game-used sticks ($50) and practice jerseys ($35 to $75) were the hot sellers (although you could also pick up team laundry bags for $5 and even some used Capitals Crocs for $10), the team's store in the front of the hall won the award for being consistently the longest line in the building.

Of course, the big attraction for convention-goers was autograhps, with the entire team and several Capitals alumni giving them out at various spots in the hall. Included in the Caps' alumni was Hall-of-Famer Rod Langway, Peter Bondra, Kelly Miller, among several making the trip to Washington, while current players' location were held under wraps until just before the signings were to start to avoid long lines in one spot.

Still, the line for Peter Bondra was extensive, and fans who bought a "Golden Ticket" for $350 got a chance to go around to collect the entire team.

Fans could also pose with Alexander Ovechkin, Peter Bondra, Rod Langway and other past and present stars - for a fee of $20.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also was on hand (although sadly, no pictures available), addressing the crowd early in the morning along with Caps' owner Ted Leonsis.

After a day off and the festivities, the Capitals wrap up preseason tomorrow against the Rangers for a noon face-off, with the game televised on MSG in the New York area.

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