The Ducks are getting a new scoreboard

I’m surprised a team in California still has a scoreboard like this. Not a bad one but out of date considering the leap to all-HD scoreboards. The Ducks’ soon-to-be old board looks exactly like the old screen at Verizon Center in DC.

ProHockeyTalk

It won’t be quite as big as the behemoths in Tampa or Denver, but the Anaheim Ducks are still pretty excited about the new scoreboard that will be hanging in the Honda Center next season.

From the club:

The new scoreboard screens will measure nearly 20-feet-tall and over 30-feet-wide, and feature a display area more than four times the square footage of what the arena currently operates. The six millimeter diode equipped hardware will feature 912 by 1440 lines of resolution, the clearest and highest definition picture available in any North American venue.

Here’s what the current scoreboard looks like:

source: Getty Images
Getty

Hence, the upgrade.

“We could not be more pleased to make this announcement knowing this upgrade will take the Anaheim Ducks live game experience to a new level,” said arena and club executive Tim Ryan.

“With a much larger video display area and superior HD quality video and…

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Revisiting Martin Brodeur

Farewell, Brodeur.

It only took seven appearances, a 3-3 record with a shutout to boot for one of the greatest goalies of all time to call it a career. 

Yes, Martin Brodeur is retiring. As a St. Louis Blue. As a goalie past his prime, but as one who showed that it didn’t matter how you stop the puck.

I’m going to point you to this post in December I wrote when Brodeur was set to make a comeback with the Blues. In it I share how much I hated him as a fan but how I didn’t appreciate him as a goaltender until well into my own playing days because I was trained with the same set of save selections as Brodeur by my French-Canadian goalie coach in high school.

It didn’t click, nor was it mentioned to me, that this was what I was learning. It was more about the hybrid style and that meant something a little different in the late ’90s/early 2000s but I definitely wasn’t looking like Patrick Roy.

For all the young tendies out there, if you want to feel like you’re playing a game and have athletic tendencies—never giving up on a play, always finding a way to make a save—watch plenty of YouTube highlights of Brodeur’s saves. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to be in net being a bit more inventive than trying to create the perfect butterfly sealed against the ice and repeated time and time again the same move.

Not every save is made the same way with Marty. And so if you show up to practice or pick-up and a player says “I hate shooting on you” that’s a hell of a compliment. Players can predict patterns and technical play, but they can’t predict a goalie’s instinct.

Some clarity in NHL’s Sportvision use for goal, video review

A day after I posed some questions I had about how the new Sportvision technology would be used in video review of goals, the Washington Post gained some clarity.

WaPo wrote an overarching view on how the technology would impact the NHL and its players on and off the ice, but we are treated just to a small nugget of what it means for goal review:

“There may be times when we’ll see it and it hits off a goalie’s skate and crosses the line, and for whatever reason the camera angles didn’t get in,” Adams said. “I think it’ll aid in making that decision.”

In other words, the officials will just do their job like they normally do, then defer to the tracking system – like they currently do video replay – if the situation calls for it. For instance, did the puck get deflected into the goal from above the crossbar?

That’s Sportvision CEO Hank Adams speaking to the post in the quote above with a paragraph by Post beat writer Alex Prewitt, but the brief item doesn’t fully give a rundown of scenarios that are presented.

The NHL’s War Room has been known to call a rink and get the timekeeper to blow the horn in the middle of play to get the refs on the phone because they saw on their feed there was a good goal. The St. Louis Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford noted this procedural change as much in November:

Beginning with the Blues’ game in Boston, when a goal goes undetected by on-ice officials but is confirmed by the NHL’s situation room in Toronto, a horn will sound to stop play and award the score.

That situation unfolded in the Blues’ 4-3 win over Nashville last Thursday. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson scored with 7 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the first period. The goal was not seen by referees, or the players for that matter, and play continued until 5:28 remained in the period.

During the 1:47 of elapsed time, Blues goal judge Jim Kehm contacted Toronto to point out the goal, and once it was confirmed and a stoppage occurred, the horn sounded and Gunnarsson was awarded the goal. With the change, the game will be halted immediately after the goal is detected.

“I think if they know for certainty that the puck went into the net, they want to stop play and award the goal because what happens if there’s a penalty or something else happens, that stays on the clock?” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “So once they know the goal is in, I think it’s smart: stop the play, award the goal, and continue play again rather than going like we did the other day with Gunny for over two minutes.”

You would think whomever is tasked with watching a certain game in the War Room that the Sportvision feed of the game showing the puck’s track will be automatically turned on. I’d imagine the guys in Toronto are watching standard replay anyway before they call the arena to stop play. This actually might speed things up.

Moving on to the other issue about high-stick calls on a puck deflected into a goal, it’s still not clear if the data can transmit height of the puck. The War Room is still stuck with the same camera angles unless everybody gets a GoPro, so while the Sportvision tracking should help in added information illustrating a deflection point, there is still some human judgment calls involved.

Man, could you imagine if this was around when we had to worry about crease violations?

What’s the role of NHL tracking chips in video review?

It’s a great day for analytics and general “wow” data in the NHL.

The league’s first game, albeit the All-Star Game, completed Sunday night with the Sportsvision chips in players jerseys and pucks. Think of this as a tactical version of FoxTrax from the ’90s—used only in replays on air that can show the route of the puck with a line drawing its path, speed of players and more. It’s not a glowing puck that’s on TV forever that sends off a comet tail when Shea Weber rips it for a one-timer.

A tremendous amount of information can be gleamed from the chips and cameras used in the arena, Sportsvision CEO Hank Adams told the Washington Post:

“We know where the puck is, if it’s over the blue line we know it’s over the blue line and for how long, very precisely,” Adams said. “When it gets into who’s in possession of the puck, that again has to be a human involved in it, because we don’t have electronics on the stick. There’s only so much you can use this stuff to replace. A human being’s going to have to get involved and sometimes make those judgment calls, but it can certainly aid and automate the collection of that data.”

So, it knows if the puck is over the goal line then. Can refs and the NHL War Room use Sportsvision technology to rule a good goal or determine a no-goal call?

The technology shows deflections, too. What comes to mind is a goal knocked in above the crossbar. If the chips reveal this much information, can it reveal the height? The opening of an NHL goal post is 48 inches tall. Factor in the thickness of the crossbar, which is 2 3/8 inches around on the outside. Can it tell where on the puck did a stick that could be above the crossbar? In other words, if part of the puck was above the crossbar  but the player’s stick deflected the bottom part of the puck that was at the height of the crossbar, can Sportsvision pick all that information up and be relayed in enough time for a decision in the NHL War Room?

As you read from Adams above, sticks are not tracked but you could have enough information to deduce if a puck was knocked in with a high stick.

If a chip can be placed in a player’s jersey, I would think there could be a chip or some sort of material taped onto a player’s stick that wouldn’t interfere with grip, shooting or balance that the infrared cameras can pick up and determine deflections. I really think if the NHL and Sportsvision has all the rest of this down, they’re not too far off in creating other solutions.

Heck, we’re really at the point where if the technology can advance far enough, you wouldn’t need a linesman to call offside or icing. Though that would never happen because one, what would whistle or sound off when a computer-detected offside or icing happens? An icing horn? Stop. it. now. And you do have a union for officials that certainly would fight for job protection.

Anyway, back to the task at hand: Should the NHL use its new Sportvision technology in determining good goals?

Yes. If you’re willing to go to TV replay to get the truth and run into issues of available camera angles, why not use new puck tracking technology to determine a good goal?

Second new ice rink to be built in Bolts Nation

Sometimes Tampa Bay Lighting fans forget that Orlando is very much part of the team’s market where fellow fans will make the trek.

Hockey families in Central Florida will soon have their own new rink and while the Tampa Bay Lightning helped cultivate a hockey market there, it’s the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears owners to thank for building the newest rink.

The team confirmed with the Orlando Sentinel that it will break ground in February on a 125,000-square-foot, two-sheet rink on East Crown Point Road in Winter Garden, near State Road 429.

(Pardon my skepticism, but even if this project is given a rapid response designation by the city of Winter Garden, I don’t see how it will be administratively approved in under 60 days from the point of plan submission in the last week of December to shovels digging dirt sometime in February. A February groundbreaking would make the rink ready in time for fall leagues in 2016 but I would say March or even April would have a greater chance of seeing dirt move.)

The City Beautiful has long had history with minor league hockey and the ECHL reincarnation of the Solar Bears brought that momentum back to Central Florida. In its absence, the Lightning continued to grow the market and now Orlando suburb Winter Garden will benefit.

On a good day, fans around a bulk of Orlando can make it to Amalie Arena in 80 minutes. The team probably gets more Central Florida residents at games during the weekends though for an easier trip. During a Rangers-Lightning game in November, I sat beside a family who regularly make it down to Lightning games from Daytona Beach—a two-hour drive when Interstate 4 cooperates.

That drive for a game is very much doable if you have the right schedule during the week despite what it looks like on a map. From Hagerstown, Md., to the Verizon Center in Washington, that was a 90-minute drive for me…if rush hour disappeared on the Capital Beltway and you could find parking. Instead, the majority of trips were a two-hour affair with the last hour being a 50-minute Metro ride from Shady Grove to Gallery Place.

Still, a solid base of fans are deciding to stay home in Orlando and support the Solar Bears to avoid the traffic. Both the Lightning and Solar Bears—or whatever minor league team exists given the fickleness of the ECHL—will not only give more options to get people introduced to the sport, but the rinks will provide better ice time to help form more competitive youth and junior clubs.

It’s a bit of a hassle to get to RDV if you’re coming from the south, having to pray that you don’t get stuck in the bottleneck that starts from the exit for Universal Studios. At least for this new Winter Garden rink, players from Lakeland and Tampa Bay can bypass Disney and Universal by hopping on Florida 429, a toll road, and get to the rink with more assurance that you’re not going to run into a standstill of cars. (Honestly, you’d probably would have better luck taking the toll road to get to RDV because of the bottleneck issues on I-4.)

Looking at the bigger picture, think how great this is for youth and adult hockey in the Lightning’s market. Not only are two sheets of ice being added in Orlando, but Wesley Chapel is starting on a four-sheet (really 3 1/2) rink at the same time. Remember the Wesley Chapel facility, at 150,000 square feet, would be Florida’s largest ice rink complex.

What this rink doesn’t do, however, is truly fill the void of the University of Florida ACHA team. As I touched on earlier this month, the team drives two hours to get to the RDV Sportsplex for home games or at times 90 minutes or more to Jacksonville. This rink shaves about 15 minutes off the time to RDV but still longer than what it takes to get to Jacksonville, a drive I can’t envision being all that convenient either.  I don’t have a dog in a fight for a ice rink for the Gators, but the team is obviously dedicated to playing the game they love despite the long road trip just for a home game or practice. Someone do the boys a solid and get Gainesville a rink.

Lightning, Panthers could meet in playoffs for first time if cats keep pace

Aaron Ekblad skates with the Florida Panthers during a preseason game Oct. 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

Aaron Ekblad skates with the Florida Panthers during a preseason game Oct. 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

Are we looking at a possible Sunshine Series in the first round?

At the halfway point of the NHL season, both of Florida’s NHL teams are doing better than expected and could end up with a rendezvous in the playoffs for the first time against each other.

The Florida Panthers sit just out of the eighth spot, three points behind the Boston Bruins who is on a three-game win streak after a recent tumble. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning keeps trading off in the top three spots in the conference.

That Governors Cup to create a cross-state rivalry might mean something next season if the Bolts and Panthers are able to meet in the playoffs this year.

The Panthers are finding themselves in a lot of what’s called 50-50 games. The Capitals’ short tenure under Dale Hunter was known for this but the Panthers are having more spurts of offense.

For the most part, they’re playing tight, trapping defense and aren’t manufacturing a lot of goals. Their 96 goals for is tied for third lowest in the conference. The New Jersey Devils, who sit 14th, have scored the same amount. The Panthers’ 103 goals allowed is fourth best in the conference behind the Rangers, Canadiens and Penguins. Overall, sixth best in the league. Roberto Luongo finally has a defensively sound team in front of him.

If the Panthers are able to trade for a top-six scorer, I would bet on them making a second-half surge that can sneak them into that eighth spot.

Back in Tampa, the Lightning’s 140 goals scored leads the league but its goals against is middle of the pack at 111 tied for 12th in the league with Boston. That’s also seventh in the East.

That in itself would be a fascinating series if came to a head—hockey’s highest scoring team against a grinding team that allows some of the fewest.

Back to that Governors Cup—a regular season bragging rights trophy that helps support youth hockey. The two teams square off against each other three times in the final two months of the season. Their only meeting this year was a 3-2 OT win by the Bolts on opening night. Those remaining games—especially the April 4 match that would be one of the final for both teams of the season—could help determine whether this Sunshine Series becomes a reality.

If the Panthers make it in the playoffs and the two teams meet in the first round, the cats have a chance to give the Bolts some fits. Even if that means Lightning fans make BB&T Center feel like another home game for the Bolts.

Report: Wesley Chapel ice rink construction to start in 2015

Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex

The Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex is expected to open fall 2016 at S.R. 56 and Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel. Rendering provided

Tampa Bay’s newest ice rink—and the largest complex in Florida—is expected to break ground this month after a delay, according to the Tampa Tribune.

The Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex was supposed to have broken ground in October but plans had to be modified and resubmitted with Pasco County because of some minor traffic/parking lot issues.

Instead, the project is now four months behind schedule. Will the rink still hit its targeted Aug. 15, 2016, opening date? If it has the right contractor, sure. Really, based on the 150,000-square-foot size it should take 18 months of construction time, putting opening on pace for June 2016. With a two-floor design and multiple refrigeration systems for the rink to be installed along with extensive plumbing for showers and restaurant equipment, that adds a few months onto the timeline. I wouldn’t be surprised if at opening that only one or two sheets of ice will be ready.

The developer, Gordie Zimmermann, also told the Tribune that the name of the rink could likely change if naming rights come into play.

It would be a good idea to either get a corporate sponsor or a better regional name for marketing. Cypress Creek is uber local to Wesley Chapel and not a lot of folks in the Tampa Bay area would know that name or someone looking to book a tournament at the rink know it’s near Tampa.

Some people still call the Ellenton ice rink the Igloo from its original name, but it does still have an igloo dome, so there’s that. In South Florida, the Panthers Ice Den used to be the Saveology.com Iceplex until that business sank and before that was named for the area—Coral Springs.

If, and hopefully when, the rink opens it’ll be a great addition for the region. The owner said before he hopes to have the University of South Florida Ice Bulls play there, providing closer ice for the Tampa-based university compared to Ellenton.

USF doesn’t have it as bad as University of Florida in Gainesville. Gator players drive two hours for home games at RDV Sportsplex in Orlando or 90 minutes to JAX Ice in Jacksonville. That’s nuts—I don’t see how the university has a team with a commute like that. Or more so, how Gainesville doesn’t have its own ice rink, even if it’s just a sheet with four walls and a roof. Gainesville has 127,000 people living there—more than enough to support a rink when there’s a university club team that will use the ice.

When my hometown, Hagerstown, Md., opened its ice rink in 1997, the city had about 32,000 but the county had around 130,000 people. A population density within a 30-minute drive would have probably put the Tri-State area to around 350,000 people.

Alachua County, Fla., where Gainesville is located, has 253,000 people living there plus 57,000 people in nearby Ocala, it would be a good investment for a one-sheet rink.

Until then, I’ll be waiting to see if I will still be living in Florida by the time the Wesley Chapel rink opens.

Best practices for scheduling goalies for pick-up hockey

Tendies, I feel your pain when five of us decide to show up for open pick-up at once.

It’s part the responsibility of the ice rink and tendies to make sure there’s both enough goalies and not too much.

Every rink in North America does open pick-up differently with schedules all over the place. Heck, some rinks don’t have pick-up at all or just have invite only or in lieu of scheduling pick-up themselves, just allows one guy to buy up ice and run it his way.

A first-come, first-serve pick-up is a total crapshoot where shooters aren’t sure if there are going to be any goalies or six. A weekly schedule of people responding to an email quick enough once a week isn’t fair and can lead to the same goalies getting in.

Pick-up can last anywhere from 90 minutes to a good two hours depending on the rink and ideally there should be only two goalies showing up to get in a good workout. At a maximum four can be allowed to allow each guy to rotate on each side if there really is a glut but capping at two goalies each, each guy is guaranteed a full game. You may not get to play at each pick-up, but it spreads ice time around for a better experience and eliminates a lot of bullshit.

Why should you and your rink stop at two? Because staff and other goalies become lax in enforcing a good game and two becomes three becomes four and yes, one night even seven.

I can never fathom the reasoning a goalie has when he looks at a sheet and sees four tendies and still continues to sign up and play. Think about why you’re there and why you’re showing up and if driving for 30-60 minutes to a rink and then getting dressed for another 25 minutes is worth your and everyone else’s time to sit on a bench every 20 minutes..

Play during a pick-up typically doesn’t get started until about 10 minutes if to let guys shoot around and get warmed up. Then if you’re rotating you’re either sitting on the bench anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. You’re barely breaking a sweat, you’re not getting a feel or in a rhythm and generally, it’s poor for both the shooters and the goalies. Straight up, it’s a waste of time for everyone.

I’ve also seen at rinks that are first-come, first-serve allow goalies who have played in a beginner’s rec game sign up for a pick-up immediately following the game, causing a glut of tendies. Those tendies already got their ice time, they should be sweating and tired and good for the night. If you’re looking to face more challenging shooters, find another time. Or skip on the rec league that you shouldn’t be playing in.

TIPS FOR SCHEDULING GOALIES FOR PICK-UP

I reached out to fellow tendies on Goalie Gear Sluts United for thoughts and a couple guys shared a good system for pre-paid. I’m going to build on their suggestion based on other tools I’ve seen that work. Feel free to cut and paste these guidelines on your rink’s website and email them out. Too many rinks don’t post details about how pick-ups are managed on their websites and social media accounts.

  • 24 hours before a pick-up starts, send out a text message that pre-sign up for goalies are now available. [Details on how to set this up below]. You can adjust how soon before the message is sent out. Some rinks send the message out 6 hours before. Just send it out in enough time and not like an hour or two before—people have to pack their gear and drive.
  • Once registration is open, two goalies can sign up for pre-paid slots. Be clear if you will accept phone calls or not for pre-paid slots and how soon someone can call in. If you accept call-ins, be sure to update the list yourself and notify everyone if goalie registration is now full.
  • If nobody pre-pays, you can show up as early as 1 hour before pick-up to sign in and play for free.
  • Goalies who are on the ice for a game, stick-and-shoot or pick-up immediately prior to the scheduled pick-up are prohibited from signing up for pick-up.
  • If a goalie shows up that would put you over the maximum, kindly tell them you can’t let them on but offer some sort of discount or credit to be used at the rink.
  • Make sure to communicate with shooters that you have two goalies and post online and at the rink that you will be organizing pick-up differently.

HOW TO SET UP ONLIE PICK-UP RESERVATION FORMS

There are a few solutions to getting a sign-up in order for pick-up hockey that works for both goalies and skaters.

If your rink’s website is built on WordPress, a plug-in is available called RSVPmaker. You can send out a link to people and have it programmed to show attendees, how many slots are open and when pick-up is available.

You can see an example of this at X-tra Ice in Tampa. The rink sends out a shortened link via text message to alert people. The rink does a good job of using Google Calendar for its scheduling and informs people if someone should be contacted to register for open pick-up (including players). Another pick-up slot on Friday doesn’t have any information, and they could use a small blurb about what to do but overall, this rink seems to be the best at organizing pick-ups in the Tampa area.

Alternatively, you can also use Eventbrite. This website also allows you to charge people for tickets and can bring them in so you can take payment online. An app is available for people wanting to get tickets on both iOS and Android devices.

At the rink, you would want to have a laptop, iPad or iPhone handy to check people in. You can scan the tickets using an app called Eventbrite Neon (used to be called Entry Manager) or just use a computer to check people off.

A hockey-centric app called Hockey Community is also a great alternative. More than just organizing pick-ups, the app can help organize leagues, has a request goalie function, sell your gear, check-in at rinks or just post what’s on your mind.

SCHEDULING PICK-UP

When deciding on scheduling pick-up, keep a few things in mind to maximize attendance. These tips are meant for the smaller to medium rink populations.

Am I scheduling to serve both the early risers and the night owls? Not everyone gets up at 4 a.m. to get in pick-up and not everyone feels like playing at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night, but make sure you get a feel for your rink’s population, preferred schedule and attendance. Keep communicating and reminding people when you have pick-up. I’ve seen rinks that have great success with a 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. start on a Friday night and with early morning times. And in Ellenton, Fla., pick-ups held during the week at 11:30 a.m./noon get full benches.

Which nights do the leagues play? Most rinks have Sunday leagues, so if you have free ice time on the weekends, it’s not the smartest to schedule pick-up on a Saturday night. A lot of guys aren’t going to play back-to-back nights, especially at a smaller rink. I’ve been to rinks that has two sheets of ice and active leagues and they decide to schedule a random pick-up at 5:30 or 6 p.m. on a Saturday. It’s dinner time on a weekend–nobody’s showing up to that (save for my stupid self just to find out). Remember that quite a few players have their own kids playing hockey or other sports, so they’re likely on the road Saturday traveling to rinks or gymnasiums for their own games.

If your rink is so small that leagues only play on Sunday, then look at a mid-week option as well. Other rinks have so many leagues that a Thursday night skills and drills with a pick-up isn’t affected.

Do pick-ups need to be scheduled for different skill sets/ages? Look at your leagues, ages of players and communicate with coaches at the youth level to see if needs are being met for open ice time. Do you need a 17 and under pick-up so keep the teens away from bigger guys who might take a run at them? Old-timers/35-and-up or senior pick-up? Beginner’s pick-up?

If you only have enough ice time for one more slot, go with beginner. It’s critical to get people playing the sport regardless of age. Beginner players help grow the rink’s population and bottom line and provide opportunities to form beginner’s leagues and have players improve to the level where they can join higher levels.

Reflecting on a classic in Washington

Troy Brouwer takes the winning shot against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2015 Winter Classic. Photo by Charles Schelle

Troy Brouwer takes the winning shot against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2015 Winter Classic. Photo by Charles Schelle

WASHINGTON—

I was admittedly cranky leading up to the Winter Classic last week at Nationals Park.

I might as well have shouted “how dare they” when it seemed like all the things that make a Winter Classic were being taken away. No open practice, no true alumni game, mediocre music acts and the game wasn’t being held at RFK Stadium.

Facing off a great team and a true winner like the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t counterbalance the others for the build-up. I like the Hawks. I don’t hate them because they were Washington’s twin there after the lockout and obviously made a few steps ahead winning two Stanley Cups since then.

Once my sister and I walked out of the Navy Yard Metro stop, we could feel it would be special despite all the worrisome news of nothing much than cold weather and a big crowd. We both ran into a friend, Artie, from Hagerstown that we each played hockey with (and she had worked with him, too) at the stop. With his wife and kids, they were ready to get in and see the game behind home plate. Us? In the outfield under the scoreboard.

The Spectator Plaza area seemed busier and more cramped than the others I attended in Pittsburgh and Boston, but still jubilant. In between the ska cover band (so very 1990s DC and I love it) and fans chugging beer, a maze of lines leading to things to do snaked their way and eventually met each other. We only got to do a couple of things in the shipping container adorned Spectator Plaza but meeting Peter Bondra and Charm City Cakes’ Duff Goldman canceled everything else out. So what if I couldn’t get a chance to shoot a puck in a dryer? I was going to play pick-up the following day.

Photo by Charles Schelle

Photo by Charles Schelle

Once inside the gates of Nationals Park, everything made sense. It’s about the game. It’s, as one fan said at another Winter Classic game, it’s about the motherfucking pageantry. Not being a fan of the Bruins of Flyers, attending a hockey game in Fenway was special enough to me along with having what amounted to a hockey vacation, sneaking in a game in the TD Garden and watching the Bruins alumni game, too. The Caps-Pens game was itself reason enough to attend.

The production of this Winter Classic with its special set and great gameplay made up for everything. If advances in ice making continue, Tampa fans would go nuts at a Winter Classic or even a Stadium Series game. Here’s an idea: once the Rays finally leave St. Pete, rip the roof off Tropicana Field and play outdoors before the stadium is demolished.

Back to Washington, there wasn’t any rain to deal with in Pittsburgh or snow from a previous storm around Fenway Park. The snowless, crisp, chilly weather with bright sun is your Mid-Atlantic winter. Yeah, Maryland, DC and Virginia get their share of snow but only in bunches. Today would be the start of such bunch.

Players looked faster at warmups on the ice, fans were pumped. Who cares if Billy Idol was retreading old hits? Just go along with it. The twin F-16 jets rumbled and rocked me more than Idol did. The players skating from out behind the replica Capitol building onto the mock frozen reflecting pond would hit me in the feels knowing this moment arrived and a battle was about to rage.

When Eric Fehr, the Caps’ own F-16, streaked down the ice to put the first goal, it felt like we already won. Destiny to have the Winter Classic whisperer in the house after potting two in the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Who would have known then that he would come back and score in another Winter Classic for the Caps? I didn’t think the guy would be in the NHL again after his sluggish time in Winnipeg.

Ovechkin’s tally followed by two Blackhawks score created more drama and tension than I felt in Pittsburgh. I’m convinced it was the speed because of the great ice conditions. With how chippy and sluggish the 2011 game played from the rain-soaked ice, it was difficult to get a read on who would come out of these scrambles with a puck.

Come 12 seconds left in the game, Ovechkin would have his stick broken on his way to the net. Somehow, the puck would come to a halt just in time for Troy Brouwer to spin, push it to his blade for a wrister, low gloveside against Corey Crawford.

This, folks, is the “oh my God, did he just do that? Are we really going to win this thing?” moment. I never got to attend the Caps 1998 run because at age 13, I didn’t have disposable income. The “holy shit” elation was limited to my living room as that team moved on round by round to the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in four straight.

When it comes to pro hockey in Washington, this felt like it was a Stanley Cup Final win. Especially against a two-time recent champ from the Western Conference. It certainly made up for my first home experience back in DC when I snuck in a game at the Verizon Center in December.

It seemed like the Caps would choke at every chance they’d get to seize a big moment, especially at home. Winning against Pittsburgh was great in 2011, but any feeling some sort of hex would be removed didn’t last. The Caps managed to not face the Pens in the playoffs that year and made it to the second round after beating the New York Rangers. The Tampa Bay Lightning, a lower seed, had their number and swept the Caps.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lighting faces the Caps in the playoffs this year, especially in the second round. Maybe this is the year that things would be different (sorry Bolts fans).

All fans and teams can do is try their hardest and wait for things to unfold. Sometimes you don’t even see the shots you make until the crowd screams.

I can say the same thing when I captured the photo above of Troy Brouwer’s winner.