The line stretched down the sidewalk outside the Verizon Center. Red clad fans in jersey's, t-shirts, caps and beanies anxiously braved the cold to get their first, maybe second or third glimpse of the 2013 edition of the Washington Capitals at Fan Appreciation Night.
Fans, while dining on free hotdogs, chicken tenders, popcorn, ice cream and soda, got what they wanted as the Capitals practiced for nearly an hour, displaying the forward lines and defensive pairings fans will see Saturday night when the puck drops in Tampa, Fl on the Capitals truncated 48-game season. .
Nicklas Backstrom treated on-lookers to several crisp passes to linemates Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johannson, as did new center Mike Riberio to linemates Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolski.
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Riberio also displayed their puck-handling skills during a shootout against goaltender Braden Holtby. Backstrom deeked Holtby so bad on one rush that last years rookie sensation ended up flat on his backside covering his face like "Wow, I need to look for my joke strap."
The highlight of the night, though, came during an on-ice conversation between forward Joel Ward and DC 101's Elliot Segal.
Segal pointed out to Ward that there was a fan in the stands wearing a Boston Bruins jersey. Segal then looked into the stands, and pointing at Ward said "Hey, this is the guy that knocked y'all out of the playoffs last year."
The comment brought on a load cheer from the Verizon Center faithful.
Alex Ovechkin was his usual jokester self during a question and answer session with Holtby, Brouwer, Alzner and Matt Hendricks that Segal conducted.
Ovechkin said he played hockey when asked what he did during the lockout, that Russia's gold medal win over Canada during the 2003 World Junior Championships and the Game 7 wins over the Rangers and Bruins are his favorite all-time games and that he's not getting married anytime soon despite recently becoming engaged to Russian tennis star Maria Kirilenko.
Ovechkin drew the biggest laugh from the crowd when he said former Capitals Captian and coach, Dale Hunter, is his favorite NHL player of all-time.
Fans yelled "C-A-P-S, CAPS! CAPS! CAPS!" all night long, and enthusiastically cheered every goal Ovechkin scored during the shootout.
The passion for hockey and the Capitals is apparent, and the anticipation for Saturday nights opener in Tampa obvious.
The lockout shouldn't have happened, but the organization took a step in regaining the fans faith by allowing them a free glimpse at this years group of Capitals.
The event would've been event better if the beer was free, but hockey's back.
What could be better than that?