The Washington Capitals’ Development Camp Fan Fest took place last Saturday and those in attendance said Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston was the fullest they’d ever seen it.
“The event has multiplied by probably 50 from eight years ago,” said Oksana Zolotar, an employee of the Capitals who attended Fan Fest as a spectator. “You can barely find room to stand anymore.”
A Capitals official said more than 3,500 people came through the doors Saturday morning, and while that number is thought to be a record, no official records have previously been kept for Fan Fest attendance.
Saturday’s fan fest was held in Ballston for the seventh straight year and featured 21 Capitals prospects, including their 2013 first-round draft pick, Andre Burakovsky, competing for the attention of Capitals’ coaches and the chance to make next year’s squad. According to the Washington Post, only one player participating has a legitimate chance to make the Capitals’ 2012-2013 roster: 2012 first-rounder Tom Wilson.
For fans in attendance, most of whom were wearing red, it was a chance to see the future of their beloved Caps, and an opportunity to see some hockey on a sweltering July morning.
“I’ve always liked the prospect side of this event,” Zolotar said.
One Caps fan, a mom from Falls Church, comes to Kettler multiple times a year with her daughter, who enjoyed her time on the other rink during the children’s free skate.
“It’s nice to have something like this so close to us,” the mother said. “It’s really accessible.”
Coming all the way from Manassas, a mother and her college-age son used Fan Fest as a learning experience. He said he’s been trying to get his mother into hockey, and this was as good a chance as any to do it.
“He’s been trying to introduce me to hockey, so we thought we’d step by today to check this out,” she said. “Hockey is easy to get into because it’s never slow.”
From a hockey perspective, those in and around the organization considered Development Camp a success.
Capitals Outsider wrote: “On the whole, comments from both [General Manager George] McPhee and [head coach Adam] Oates were consistently positive regarding the prospects. Oates even went so far as to say that this year’s crop of attendees looked better than last year’s, though the change in camp format may have been a contributing factor. This year saw fewer scrimmages, and all of them held in the latter half of the week.”
–Audrey Batcheller contributed to this report.