|The players shake hands after the final scrimmage of Development Camp. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
Early this week at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, there were some comments and debate in the media room about how much Washington Capitals fans were going to pay attention to the upcoming development camp. After all, the week-long series of practice and scrimmages featured -- for the most part -- unknown draft picks and free agents, with a few notable players sprinkled in.
For every Mattias Sjogren, Cody Eakin and Dmitry Orlov there were three players no one had heard of before last Monday. Players like 17-year old 2011 draft pick Travis Boyd, who probably made the biggest impression on the coaches and assembled media, defenseman Garrett Haas, another '11 pick that played with the vision and calmness of a veteran, and free agent forward T. J. Syner, who scored twice today in Group B's 5-2 win.
So who paid attention to these mostly star-less proceedings?
Try a capacity crowd at KCI Saturday for the final scrimmage and Caps Fan Fest. There was a full house -- estimated at 3,000 strong -- to witness the actual game, and several hundred more that were partaking in the annual equipment sale, youth street hockey in the parking lot, or young 'uns bouncing around in the moon bounce with the mascot, Slapshot.
Those that couldn't make it to KCI were following along on Twitter or other social media, trying to keep abreast of a game that won't count in any standings. And when the game wrapped up and the autograph lines ended, several dozen Caps fans spilled out into area bars and restaurants, still not ready to end a day catching up with their hockey friends and families. In the middle of July.
It was a day-long celebration of everything Washington Capitals, and the only player from the current squad in the house was forward Matt Hendricks. He didn't suit up, but he did sign an autograph for anyone that wanted one.
The attendance and response from the fans caught everyone's attention, from the players themselves to GM George McPhee and coach Bruce Boudreau.
"The first thing I thought of is this is totally incredible," Boudreau said talking about the crowd.
"Anybody that doesn't think that Washington is a hockey town has not been here to see this. I don't know how many people you can get in here, but they were three-deep standing. And they were very appreciative of the young guys' efforts. I thought it was great. It made me very proud to coach in Washington right now."
McPhee added, "It's pretty remarkable. You know, when you're six-to-eight people deep in every crevice in the building it's pretty neat. Nothing like hockey in July. Especially Caps hockey. It's pretty cool."
The other remarkable thing, at least from my biased vantage, was the sheer volume of media involved, from the mainstream newspapers and television stations, to the radio stations, to the dot-com branches of the team and their broadcasting rightsholders, to the independent media, who did some really terrific work this week delving into the background of some of the players assembled for this camp, even if 98 percent of them never wear a sweater in AHL Hershey, let alone for the Capitals.
It would be difficult to take a roll call of all the blogs and independent sites that covered the festivities at Kettler this week. But suffice to say, they numbered in the teens throughout the week. The blogroll to the right of this article lists the most recent published works from the electronic media, and you'll find links to all their hard work. Not to demean the "regular" media and the job they did this week covering camp, because they were very well represented and produced their customary excellent coverage.
Because the mainstream media has a larger audience to cater to though, they must concentrate for the most part on the big stories. But the independents can dig a little deeper or go off the beaten path. A blogger can talk to a prospect or undrafted free agent and give them the attention that the mainstreams usually have to reserve for the newsmakers. And the best part is that the Capitals understand this and open their doors to the independent media to give us access to the players, coaches and front office to be able to produce exceptional content for Caps fans that want that type of coverage.
If you're only getting your Caps information from the mainstream and message boards, you're really missing out.
Three years ago there were maybe a half-dozen media assembled at Development Camp -- total. Today, you couldn't count the microphones, notebooks, cameras and recorders. It might make for a cramped press room and rubbing shoulders while interviewing the coach and GM, but it results in a better-informed fan, adding to the passion and commitment they in turn show the organization. Truly, a symbiotic relationship.
Who paid attention to the Caps Development Camp this week? Anyone that cares about the Washington Capitals.
See photo gallery from scrimmage here.
See photo gallery from scrimmage here.
|(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|