Professional hockey was supposed to resume at Verizon Center on Oct. 12, but thanks to the protracted NHL lockout, downtown D.C. has been going through a stick-and-puck dry spell.
That ended Thursday night, albeit temporarily, when the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate took on the league's defending champion. While the work stoppage stretches into its third month, the Hershey Bears knocked off the Norfolk Admirals 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd.
The game had hockey fans throughout the D.C. foaming at the mouth for live action.
"They're bickering between both sides and they aren't talking to fans," fan Derrick Hardman said. "We're the ones paying the bill. We're buying season tickets. I'm desperate for it."
Businesses around Chinatown were also eager for the big crowds that pack the neighborhood on game nights. They've seen a marked decrease in activity due to the lockout.
"It should be a great night," Gary Stack, who owns an Irish pub near the Verizon Center, said. "It will be very festive seeing the fans come back and enjoying themselves."
Capitals diehards noticed some familiar faces on the ice for Hershey, the AHL squad that develops many of the team's prospects. Among the players making their return to Washington included forward Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby, who stole the show for the Capitals during last year's playoff run.
Holtby made 26 saves in the win for Hershey.
Thursday's game also marked the first time since 1979 that the Bears played a game in the Capitals' home arena. Hershey last played in the D.C. area on April 3 of that year, when they played a doubleheader at the Capital Centre in Landover.