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Get Your Skates On

Hockey fans celebrate at their favorite watering holes

Fans of the Washington Capitals hockey team are having a smashing time. With a star-studded roster and a feared offense, the Caps have dominated their National Hockey League division for months and all but clinched a spot in the playoffs, beginning in mid-April.
    Fans don’t need to brave the crowds at Verizon Center to watch their favorite team skate on to another victory. Area bars make it easy to cheer for the team.
    On Main Street in Annapolis, Acme Bar & Grill — home of Best of the Bay wings according to Bay Weekly readers — is abuzz with loud music and the raucous laughter of Friday night patrons as the game between the Caps and perennial division rivals the New York Rangers flickers on most of the bar’s dozen screens.

Bennett Schasiepen and his dad Craig watch the Capitals’ game at The Greene Turtle in Annapolis.

    Fan Kevin Harvey and friends drop by to check out the game. In a town with divided sports loyalties, the Caps are a unifying force. “There’s not much to agree on in sports in Annapolis — the Ravens versus the Redskins, the Orioles versus the Nats — but everyone can agree on getting behind the Caps,” he says. This night, Harvey laments the Caps’ slow start, as they trail the Rangers 1-0 at the end of the first period. “The Rangers always seem to have their number,” he says.
    Meanwhile, across town in Parole, eight-year-old Bennett Schasiepen takes in the game over dinner with his dad Craig at a high-top table in the The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille. Himself a hockey player with the Metro Maple Leafs, Bennett says The Greene Turtle is a great place to watch hockey. “They have booths with their own screens,” he says. “Or, if there’s a long wait for a booth, they have lots of big screens all around.”
    On a Tuesday night in Gambrills, a group of regulars appears at Grotto’s Pizza promptly at 7:30 for puck drop. Hockey is a big draw for the sports fans gathered around Grotto’s 30-foot, L-shaped granite bar. “It was really big last year during the playoffs, and I hope that will happen again this year,” says bartender Rob Banks.
    Banks, who grew up in South Jersey, is a Philadelphia Flyers fan. “But I worked at ESPN Zone in college, and I learned real fast to be a Caps fan,” he says. Banks is lobbying Grotto’s to get the full hockey satellite package allowing more hockey games with out-of-town teams that have local followings. “The more hockey we can get in here, the better,” he says.
    In this night’s match-up between the Caps and the Pittsburgh Penguins, a loud groan fills the bar as the visitors take the first goal of the game. As the first period ends with the Caps still down 0-1, the fans remain in good spirits.
    Early in the second period, the Caps score their first goal, and the bar erupts with cheers.
    Not everyone in the bar is a Caps fan. Tony Craney watches the game with his friends, but his team is the Ottawa Senators, adopted while he lived in Wisconsin. Sporting an Ottawa jersey, he keeps tabs on his team’s game showing on a small screen to the side.
    Craney and friends are joined periodically by waitress Amanda Coley, who enjoys hanging with the fans even though she herself is not one. “They’re trying to convert me,” she says, “but it hasn’t happened so far.”

Tony Craney and Amanda Coley enjoy the game at Grotto’s Pizza in Gambrills, even though Craney is an Ottawa Senators fan and Amanda isn’t a hockey fan.

    The place erupts again as the Caps score for a second time with three minutes left in the second period. By this time, the whole bar joins in the applause and cheering, not just the core group of fans who’ve been there since the game’s start.
    It’s safe to say that come April, area Caps fan will be out in force to hoist a cold one and cheer their team on in the playoffs.