Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do You Remember Your First?

Pat and I took our friend Pete Johnson to his first hockey game ever last night. It actually started in the afternoon, as we opted to get tickets for the "Caps on Tap" bar tour, and so arrived at Verizon Center around 2:30 to check in. Section 406, row B, middle of the row seats -- not too far off from our regular partial season ticket seats, so that was nice.

The bar tour was pretty cool. Too often, Pat and I arrive at Verizon and then wait 45-60 minutes at the Green Turtle for a seat, then end up rushing to our seats. I like to see the pregame warmups -- just to see who is scratched, who is skating there, and then not in the game, that sort of thing. The bar tour gave us an opportunity to check out some of the surrounding bars that will likely prove to be better options than fighting the mass of people at the Turtle.

We hit the Irish Channel first, and judging from the clientele, we were the first of the bar tour people there. We actually opted for some Irish beers and appetizers instead of just the $2 Budweiser products -- how can you go into an Irish bar and not have Irish beer? Well, that and Pat wouldn't stand for not having Guinness on tap. Nice atmosphere, friendly barkeep and host, good service. This bar rated high on our "visit again" list.

Next up were the two bars in Gallery Place -- Lucky Strike and Bar Louie. Lucky Strike turned out to be a bowling alley. Very cool place with comfy sofa and easy chair seating. I remarked to Pat and Pete that it reminded me of one of the community lots in The Sims 2. Bar Louie was a bit more generic, and didn't seem to have much in the way of character.

RFD and the Rocket Bar came next, along 7th street. RFD reminded me of the old Donnelly's or Bushwackers in Frederick, as it was a smallish place with a bar along the left hand wall (as you walk in), and was moderately packed. Almost a stereotypical bar atmosphere there, while Rocket Bar was a basement level pool hall/bar. Pretty much just pool tables, with a bar in the back.

Last on the trip was the Penn Quarter. Again, this was a stereotypical bar, reminding me of the Olde Town Tavern in Frederick. A cramped space downstairs, along with a cramped space upstairs, bars in both areas. A lack of a bartender upstairs (or at least one that was paying attention to the customers) sent us back downstairs, where we sucked down our beers quickly before heading back to the Turtle to turn in our now fully stickered maps. Seven bars in just about two hours... yeah, we were feeling good.

The doors opened at 5:30, and I wanted to do the Pick-A-Stick, so we got in line there. What is "Pick-A-Stick"? You pay $65 for a random hockey stick, and if it wasn't signed, you get to meet Karl Alzner after the game so he can sign it for you. All of the money goes to Washington Capitals Charities, so it's for a good cause. I ended up with a stick signed by Alexander Semin, which was fitting, even if Pete was wearing my Semin jersey while I sported the Brooks Laich shirt. :)

The game itself was a good, hard-hitting, tightly played contest. The remarks in the media have deemed it "playoff like," but I prefer to think of it as the Caps playing smarter hockey than they had against the Oilers or the Blue Jackets. Mistakes were minimized (though still made), and Theodore was obviously seeing the puck well. The Caps did a much better job of capitalizing on mistakes the Bruins made, though they didn't make they "pay" all that much.

Partway through the first period, Pete got a text message from the bar tour coordinator, telling us we won one of the prizes for hitting all of the bars. We met him on the second level during the first intermission to pick up a puck signed by Donald Brashear -- again, very fitting, as Pat was wearing his Brashear jersey.

Overall, a winning night, and one that Pete enjoyed very much. Caps hockey has hopefully caught another one. :)

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