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Lockout in Hype Town

It should not be a surprise to anyone that a lockout is undesirable outcome from these CBA talks.  Players want to play; owners want to sell tickets; we fans want to see our team, or any team.  When lockouts happen, nobody wins.  And yet, not everybody loses the same.  Obviously, there are teams in small markets, Phoenix, Columbus being the obvious chooses, that struggle to succeed financially when there is a season, but lockouts can also take stable teams back years.

When the lockout happened in 2004, the Capitals were going through some rough times.  They had just had a massive fire sale, which resulted in them winning just 23 games in 2003-2004.  Their average attendance had dropped to under 15,000 per game.  While the lockout didn’t help them, it didn’t really hurt them much more.  They ended up coming back with Alexander Ovechkin already in fold, and enough draft picks to build a team that would be successful for years.  And it has been.  With the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green, the team made their return to successful times, both in the standings and in attendance.  They really did take over Washington, but they had some help.

When Ovechkin and co made their first postseason appearance in 2007-2008, they caught the eyes of the DMV area, but this was still an area that was driven by football and basketball.  The Redskins were coming off an inspirational run to the playoffs after the murder of Sean Taylor.  The Washington Wizards had just made the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season.  Even though the Capitals were having success, their biggest in-town competitors were thriving as well. 

Then it all changed.  The Redskins hired nobody Jim Zorn and they watched as their win totals plummeted.  They have not had a winning season since.  The Washington Wizards had their own fire sale and, like the Redskins, watched their wins fall.  They won just 19 games in 2008 and haven’t reached higher than 26 since.  That stretch also saw the Washington Nationals have back-to-back season with triple digit losses.  By default, all the local fans flocked to the Caps.  They were the only team that was remotely successful, and they were downright dominant at times.  They added an averaged about 3,000 more people per game.  In a city that is fueled by hype, the Caps had the most. 

Now, that isn’t the case as much.  The Capitals are coming off their worse season since they rose.  They watched as the Florida Panthers signed every mid-level free agent on the market and steal the division crown from them.  Fans have become disgruntled by the complacency of management.  Despite needing one since Fedorov left, they have just found a suitable second-line center.  Most would agree that they still have giant question marks on the blueline.  This past season was riddled with calls for Ovechkin to step down as Captain. They also watched as Alexander Semin, and his goals, left for a division rival while the Caps have put the burden on guys like Perreault and Wolski to supply secondary scoring.  The happiness level of the average Caps fan has dwindled, as have the number of out-and-about ones.

Those fans that jumped on the bandwagon in 2008 have seen some better ones to join.  The Washington Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball.  They look like a favorite to represent the National League in the World Series.  Even better, they look like they will for quite a few years to come.  The Washington Redskins have finally found a potential franchise QB in Robert Griffin III.  Even the Washington Wizards have put together some pieces that could make them winners again.  And that’s just this season.  All three of these teams should be even better next season.  By the time a potential lockout is over, the Caps could have to compete with a World Series winning baseball team, a playoff football team, and a rising basketball team.  Without some major moves, how can they possibly steal back the hype?

The answer really is that they can’t.  We all knew that once other local teams improved, the Caps would see a decline in popularity among the locals.  The hope was that enough of people would have learned to love the sport that they wouldn’t forget about the Caps when that time came.  In towns like Washington, it isn’t enough to be successful.  You have to be hyped at the right time and do enough to keep people when the hype is gone. 

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.