Capitals set for 30th Super Bowl Sunday matinee


The first time the Capitals played on Super Bowl Sunday was Jan. 12, 1975. An expansion team on its way to an 8-67-5 record, Washington allowed a touchdown’s worth of goals in a 7-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, who extended their unbeaten streak to 20 games before 9,081 fans at Capital Centre. Earlier that day, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings for their first Super Bowl title.

Years later, after the NFL moved the kickoff of its biggest game to the evening, the Capitals and Canadiens established traditions of hosting matinees on Super Bowl Sunday. Montreal has hosted back-to-back matinees on Super Bowl weekend since 1991. Washington will host an afternoon game on the day of the Super Bowl for the 15th consecutive year when it welcomes the San Jose Sharks to Capital One Arena on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., marking the team’s 30th Super Bowl Sunday matinee at home since 1988. It’s no accident the Canadiens (20 wins, 14 losses, two ties) and Capitals (17-13-2) rank first and second in wins on Super Bowl Sunday, or that both teams will host games before the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs square off this year.

Before the NHL creates its schedule for the upcoming season, the league sends a memo to every team asking for preferred home dates and game times throughout the year, and then does its best to accommodate those requests. For as long as Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman can remember, Washington has designated the Wednesday and Friday of Thanksgiving week and Super Bowl Sunday as its preferred dates.

With young son in tow, Alex Ovechkin relishes a memorable All-Star Game

“Those are the three dates we’re religious about, and all three are really well received by our fans,” Fishman, who joined the Capitals in 2005, said in a phone interview. “We’ve never been afraid of the matinee games, and we tend to get a lot of kids for them. This Sunday is our [youth hockey] day.”

The Capitals’ Super Bowl Sunday tradition began in earnest in 1988, when the team hosted the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 31 at 12:05 p.m. The earliest start time in the franchise’s 14-year history was fortunate, as the Redskins were playing in the Super Bowl later that day. A sellout crowd of 18,130 watched Capitals goalie Pete Peeters make 28 saves and Kelly Miller score the game-winner in overtime of a 1-0 win. Fans had plenty of time to get home to watch Doug Williams shred the Denver Broncos’ defense in a record-setting second quarter en route to Washington’s second Super Bowl title.

Four years later, the Capitals’ 6-4 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of a near-sellout crowd at Capital Centre served as an appetizer to the Redskins’ 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. “Meanwhile, in other news … ” Washington Post reporter Dave Sell began his game story, which detailed Dino Ciccarrelli’s two goals and was bumped to the inside of the Sports section.

The Capitals played Super Bowl matinees at home every year from 1988 through 1998, and went 7-3-1 in those games. The tradition waned from 1999 through 2008, during which time Washington played only four home games on Super Bowl Sunday. It became an annual event again early in the “Rock the Red” era, beginning with a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 1, 2009. The following year’s Super Bowl Sunday matinee, which came in the wake of the “Snowmageddon” storm that dumped 17.8 inches of snow in the D.C. area, was one of the greatest regular season games in Capitals history.

“The most memorable [Super Bowl Sunday] game for me was the ‘Snovechkin’ game against the Penguins,” Fishman said. “That was such a memorable game because it was really the only thing going in town that day. People took the Metro to the game and I remember it being not completely full — maybe 13 to 15,000 fans — but the crowd was so into the game.”

With the Capitals trailing 4-2 in the third period, Alex Ovechkin scored twice to complete a hat trick and force overtime. Ovechkin assisted on Mike Knuble’s game-winner, which extended Washington’s winning streak to 14 games. The Capitals captain’s 19 points in 15 career games on Super Bowl Sunday rank second only to Phil Esposito, who recorded 32 points in 12 games.

The Capitals weren’t scheduled to play on Super Bowl Sunday last year because the game fell during what was originally supposed to be the NHL’s Olympic break, but after the NHL withdrew from the Beijing Games because of a spike in coronavirus cases among players and reconfigured its February slate, Fishman said Washington requested its traditional matinee.

“It’s fun to keep traditions going,” Fishman said of Capitals’ decision to request the same three home dates year after year. “I think the fans expect those three games on their calendar. Our players, I think, like it too. They’re sports fans and they get together with their teammates and watch the game. It’s a fun tradition for them as well. I think they expect it also.”

“I think it’s really important from a team bonding aspect,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie told the team site in 2018. “I would guess every team has their own Super Bowl party. It’s just another chance for us to get together away from the rink and grow as a team. For football fans its also nice to have that afternoon off and be able to watch the game. It’s fun because we get to go out there and battle and play, then we get to let loose a little bit, so it works out perfectly.”

Leave it to an opponent to complain about the early start time.

“It would have been nice to play tonight,” Penguins left wing Kevin Stevens said after a 2-2 tie with the Capitals on Super Bowl Sunday in 1993. “Coming in here at noon, we didn’t want to open it up. We wanted to play a tight-checking game.”

The Super Bowl is a spectacle again after two years of covid restrictions

This year’s NHL schedule for Super Bowl Sunday, which is traditionally light, features four games, with the latest among them starting at 3 p.m. Eastern. If the Flyers defeat the visiting Seattle Kraken at 1 p.m. and the Eagles beat the Chiefs on Sunday night, it will mark the 10th time that an NHL team won its game on the same day as the NFL team in the same city or metropolitan area won the Super Bowl. The last time it happened was 2019, when the Boston Bruins shut out the Capitals and the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams.

The Capitals have lost five straight games on Super Bowl Sunday and the Commanders haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 31 years, but Fishman, a native Washingtonian and lifelong D.C. sports fan, hasn’t given up hope of celebrating another NHL-NFL double in the District.

“That’s the dream, is one day for the Commanders to win it again on the same day as the Capitals,” Fishman said. “That would be awesome. I’ll keep scheduling the game until it happens.”

The Capitals on Super Bowl Sunday

vs. Islanders, W, 5-4 (OT)

Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21

vs. Islanders, W, 2-1 (SO)

Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

vs. Penguins, W, 5-4 (OT)

vs. Red Wings, W, 6-5 (OT)

Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT)

vs. Golden Knights, L, 4-3

Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Basket