After the Capitals take on the Vegas Golden Knights Sunday afternoon, Caps fans will most likely turn their attention from the ice to the gridiron as the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
The Capitals have played 27 games in their history on Super Bowl Sunday, and starting in the 2008-09 season it became a tradition for the team to host a matinee game that day. This year marks the 10th season in a row that the Capitals will play an afternoon home game on Super Bowl Sunday.
After those first couple of years from 2008-10, the NHL embraced the Capitals hosting a game on Super Bowl Sunday. With the Super Bowl not starting until around 6:30 in the evening, there's a large time window that the League saw as an opportunity to fill with a game that would give sports fans something to watch while they wait for the Super Bowl.
"We've always been a team that likes the matinees on the weekend because we're more family oriented," said Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman. "On Super Bowl Sunday, if we can get an early start, it's always a natural fit. We don't want to compete with the Super Bowl, so we always want to get a 12:30 start. It's a little early for some people but it gives people plenty of time to get home. It was just a natural fit for our market and I think the fans like it."
The Capitals playing on Super Bowl Sunday certainly presents a fun sports-filled day for fans, but the players love it just as much. Some players say it's one of their favorite days of the year.
"I think it's really important from a team bonding aspect," said Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. "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."
Statistics show that Super Bowl Sunday has indeed been a fun day for the Capitals in their team history, as they hold a 17-7-1 all-time home record on that day.
Some of those wins have been memorable, like the Capitals' 5-4 overtime win over the Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010. A massive blizzard had crippled D.C. two days before the game, and much of the city was still shut down because of all the snow.
"It was just an awesome atmosphere at the arena for that Penguins game," Fishman said. "People had to metro to the game. The game itself was sold out, but there were probably 14,000 fans there, and everyone was psyched to be there because everyone had been cooped up for Friday and Saturday. I remember it being a great atmosphere and a great game. The Caps came back in the third period and we won in overtime. It was just a fun, raucous day when literally everything else downtown was closed."
Sunday has the potential to be another memorable game on Super Bowl Sunday as the Capitals host the Western-Conference-leading Golden Knights at Capital One Arena for the first time. There might not be any snow in the forecast, but a huge Caps win would be a nice precursor for the fans and players before the Super Bowl kicks off later in the evening.
"As long as I can remember, somebody on the team has hosted a get together," said Capitals forward Tom Wilson. "A lot of stuff happens for us on the ice, but we're a pretty close group off the ice, and those are the days where its fun and we get to hang out. We just get to kick back and watch some football, and there's nothing better if you ask some guys in this room."