If you are like I was a few years ago and you don't know much about hockey players and hockey culture (I still don't, really), you might not know that just about every single team juggles around a soccer ball before the game. I guess it's a fun way to get your legs warmed up, but every team does it. I've never seen a visiting team NOT juggle around a ball at some point before puck drop. The Caps posted a video of the team partaking a few weeks ago in the Toronto bubble -
As you could have probably imagined, there isn't exactly an ample amount of room for groups of 8 to be kicking around a ball inside. Walls, ceilings and people passing by are always in play.
At Capital One Arena, there are two areas outside of the visiting team's locker room that are typically used by opposing teams. I snapped a picture of one of those areas below (cause why wouldn't I?) back when I was working for the Caps Media Relations department.
At that table, I would hand out stat packets to media members and also check them in for their pre-game media meal. I would also spend a fair amount of time watching opposing teams kick a ball around, which was pretty cool when some of the big-name guys would come around.
Sidenote - those two silver doors at the end of the hallway actually lead to the biggest VIP club in the arena: the Etihad Lounge. Sometimes, you can tell that a player or coach was planning on walking through, so either myself or my co-workers would try to help them out by telling them that unless they wanted to be mobbed (if they were a Caps player) or booed (if they weren't), then they should probably go the other way around. Although, if I could tell that they were on a team (meaning they had a beard, suit and beanie on - THE hockey look) but I didn’t know their name, I just let them take their chances.
Anyways, you can tell that the ceiling is extraordinarily low for a potential soccer game. It is also a drop ceiling, so the tiles were very often dislodged or broken during play. Prior to Game 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Caps and Hurricanes, something very hilarious happened. During their pre-game juggling, a ball was kicked into the drop ceiling by one of the Canes players, as it often was. Although this time, the fully intact tile fell to the floor. Not only did the tile fall, but an absolute HEAVYWEIGHT of a dead rat fell with it!
The players laughed hysterically and moved their game to an area that would’ve made a lot more sense to begin with, one with higher ceilings and significantly more room, back closer to their locker room.
Though I didn't see it happen, it was probably the funniest thing that had ever taken place at work. A beat writer for the Hurricanes happened to be in the area and snapped some pictures, which then led to some other news outlets (Russian Machine Never Breaks) picking it up and calling it a bad omen for the Canes. If only that had been true, as the Canes rallied around the dead animal and beat the Caps in 7 games.
Thanks for reading!