Training Day: Metrorail’s Winter Classic Plans

For the smart set commuting to and from Nats Park for the Winter Classic, good news from our pals at WMATA.

WMATA Navy Yard_Carousel

While trains will be operating on Sunday hours, 7:00am to midnight, we’re told they will heavy up the service to the Green line’s Navy Yard – Ballpark station. A WMATA spokesperson says to expect an increased number of trains as well as big ones, eight cars long, before and after the game. And don’t forget to use their cool Next Train app!

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Winter Classic Visitors Guide: H Street is for Hipsters

H Street CCToday’s Washington tour guide for out-of-town Winter Classic attendees takes us to the newest up-and-coming neighborhood to up and come. H Street NE spans about 13 blocks, from just north of Union Station to around 15th Street and the old Hechinger Mall.

Once dreary and down on it’s heels, H Street NE these days is home to thriving night life, great food and drink, and tons of younger scene-sters with funny mustaches and ridiculous skinny jeans. It’s also one of the few places left in town where rents are affordable enough for bars and restaurants to take some chances.

Today’s tour guide is Dave Eskola, a DC transplant by way of Duluth and hockey fan extraordinaire. Dave was smart enough to buy a house just off H Street several years ago before it exploded, banking that it was going to be DC’s hot-hot-hot spot.

H Street in warmer months

H Street in warmer months

The H Street Corridor,a.k.a. Atlas District, is a symbol of DC’s renewal as a place to live and live life, not just to work. A center of African-American commerce and nightlife through the 1950s (Charlie Parker recorded the famed live LP “One Night in Washington” at the long-gone Kavakos Nightclub at 727 H NE in 1953) – much of the strip burned during riots in 1968. It was largely derelict until the high housing prices and the prospect of shorter commutes started luring Yuppies into the neighborhood in the mid-00s. This displaced some long-time residents – and made other long-time residents wealthy.

Bars and restaurants followed. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty tried to goose development and tourism and improve transportation with the addition of streetcar tracks during road reconstruction five years ago. Haphazardly planned and long delayed, the trolley may start taking passengers this month. Rides reportedly will be free for awhile.

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Winter Classic 2015: View from Capitol Hill

Rep. Mike Quigley and former Hawk Jimmy Hayes teaching hockey in Chicago

Rep. Mike Quigley and former Hawk Jimmy Hayes teaching hockey in Chicago

As part of our previews of the New Year’s Day Winter Classic, today we hear from a guy who knows more about Chicago, Washington, DC and hockey combined: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois D-Blackhawks).

Chicago may be Quigley’s home, and Washington his work place, but hockey’s in his blood. As chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus – yes, that exists – Quigley can often be found either out on the ice – as when he plays against the USA Wounded Warriors – or working to bring hockey to the children of Chicago. He’s a Hawks fan through and through, but keeps a close eye on the Capitals, and shares his thoughts about this game, and The Game.

What’s the Winter Classic mean for you?

You’re actually talking to someone who’s played outdoor hockey. I moved to Chicago, a village called Carol Stream – back then just a subdivision with ambitions. There was a corn field and lagoons, and the lagoons would freeze over. One year when I was eight my parents bought me a pair of skates and a Northland wooden hockey stick.

It was an incredibly cold winter, and I had no idea what I was doing. I put my skates on in the house with no blade guards, walked all the way to the lagoon on the skates and stepped onto the ice for the first time in an outdoor setting. I could hardly skate, but to the extent you could glide around the ice with a puck and a stick, I was hooked. It was freezing, incredibly bad conditions, the ice was rutted…but all of my early hockey was outdoors.

Rep. Quigley hits the ice

Rep. Quigley hits the ice

I’m just now reminded there were certain rules. Like, if you shoot and miss, because it was two Folgers cans and a net, you had to go chase the puck which is sometimes a quarter-mile skate, and then you had to dig the puck out of a snowbank. Then after a while there were no lifters; which means that if you lifted it, it would be very hard for a goalie with no pads to stop it, and it kept giong on ice – there were no boards obviously so you had to go chase it and bring it back.

We played because it was just amazing to play; 4, 5, 6 hours, all day. And we had a guy from the park district who did us a favor occasionally. He put his park district jeep headlights onto the ice so we could play a little bit longer.

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Winter Classic Visitors Guide: U Want To Be Here!

Let’s Start The Winter Classic Proper, Shall We? 

Soon, the hockey world will descend on our quaint little hometown of Washington, DC: America’s least favorite theme park. Or as JFK once described it, “a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” As 25 year residents of the city, we’re here to provide that charm. Consider us your 2015 Winter Classic Welcome Wagon.


Visit DCAlthough visitors come in for the big game, they may find themselves with some extra time to explore some of the city’s sites, dining, entertainment and cultural venues. We’re doing this in part because the official DC visitors’ organization, Destination DC, doesn’t appear up to the task. Their Winter Classic page is meager; the only event site they offer is a link to Stubhub (SRO from $129), which is basically saying, “Good luck, suckers.” Their bigger sin however, was not returning our emails.

We’ve made a career out of writing how 29 other NHL cities smell or have ugly people, or in many cases, smelly, ugly people. DC certainly deserves every disparaging barb that can be hurled at it and we’re more than happy to pile on. Like many fossils in this town, we look back wistfully to a time when this city functioned, had ample street parking, nabes had vibes instead of BIDs and true giants roamed the marbled corridors at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – not these punk-ass bitches who look like they came out of a central casting call for punk-ass bitches.

The side of DC the tourists never see

The side of DC the tourists never see

It’s a cliché, but Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. It’s cliché for a reason; it’s true. Stick around after the Winter Classic and take a stroll around Capitol Hill or the soul crushing canyons of K Street on a busy workday, and you’ll know what we suffer through. Those shambling cadavers you see are not extras from the Walking Dead; we call them lobbyists. How bad is DC? Even Wyshynski fled.

But when planned wisely, a weekend in DC can be a pretty fulfilling and rewarding way to…visit your squandered tax dollars. Given the spread and diversity of this sleepy southern town, we’re going to publish these visitor guides by geography. First up, our ‘hood, 14th an U Streets, then later this week, H Street, Barracks Row, and Northern Virginia (if you insist on doing this trip on the cheap and want a horrible experience).

First things first, you can’t get there from here: Navigating DC

If you’re driving to DC for the game, park your car at the hotel and leave it. DO NOT DRIVE IN OUR CITY, TOURIST!

DC MapDC was laid out by a guy named Pierre L’Enfant in the 18th Century and the street grid makes no sense to anyone who isn’t a 250 year old French civil engineer. So unless you’re driving a four-in-hand or being squired around in a Hansom, STAY OFF THE STREETS. Number streets run north-south, letter streets run east-west, and Avenues named after states spiral out from un-navigable traffic circles. You will get hopelessly lost, ticketed, booted, or towed. Paid parking is pretty steep, too, but you have alternatives, and many of them safe.

MetroRail: Nats Park is conveniently located on Metro’s Green line, and the station is mere steps from the stadium entrance. Metro also serves just about any neighborhood you’d want to get to during Classic weekend and probably your crappy hotel, too.

Metro floodDepending on the day, service begins at 5:00am and runs until the wee hours. It’s quiet, a clean system and very safe. That’s the good news. The bad news is that our 40 year old subway system is a bit creaky. Two major lines were shut down just last week due to a water main rupture that flooded several downtown stations. Delays happen often and expect very crowded cars getting to the Stadium on New Year’s Day. Metro may throttle back to a holiday schedule that day and wait times could be long. Be smart, get SmarTrip card and load it up with shekels to cover you for the weekend, so you don’t have to dick around with paper farecards that charge a $1 premium per ride.

Metro tips: Don’t stand around like an idiot looking at the FareCard machines, trying to figure out how they work.

metro-passesfarecard-machineThe instructions are in hieroglyphics so ask a friendly local like ourselves to interpret and walk you through the steps. We may steal your wallet so keep an eye on your belongings. When riding the escalators – that are sometimes known to work – do not stand at the top or bottom of them. You risk being trampled, sworn at, or run like Milan Lucic did to Ryan Miller. When you get on a train car, don’t crowd around the doors like a pylon hoping to be first off. That’s what fat ass, self-important lobbyists do when they’re late for a meeting on the Hill with some jerkwad senator to plead for a tax break for some greedy gazillionaire, who probably owns your favorite NHL team.

Taxis: Back in the day, under the zone system of fares, just about any cabbie would rip you off. Taxis are now on meters here, so unscrupulous hacks can’t pull fast ones anymore.

taxi_driver_12They even take credit cards now. The cabbies are pretty much OK, many even know where they’re going and it’s easy to hail them on the street. Expect the unmistakable aroma of carbon monoxide wafting up through the floorboards in many of DC’s cabs because motor vehicle inspections are merely suggestions to these guys. So is cleaning filth off the backseats. So is speaking English. If he asks you to get in the trunk, just do what he says.

Uber: Don’t use Uber. They’re evil. And it may end poorly.

Biking: If the weather permits, DC is a great bike town with plenty of bike share locations all across the city, including Nats Park. But since we’re expecting near-freezing temps, screw that; save the biking for your springtime visit to DC – WHEN THE CAPS ARE GOING DEEP IN THE PLAYOFFS!

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Winter Classic Rewind: A Capital Idea

Ice skating on the newly built Reflecting Pool, 1922 (Library of Congress)

Ice skating on the newly built Reflecting Pool, 1922 (Library of Congress)

Earlier this year, we met with DC architect Paul Spreiregen to talk about an idea that’s just as good today as when he first proposed it 50 years ago.

Back then in the mid-60’s, DC civic leaders were looking for ways to bring people back downtown all throughout the year. Spreiregen, who grew up in the cold winters of New England, had an idea: freezing the Reflecting Pool and turning it into hockey rinks and skating ponds.

Everyone in DC loved the idea – it rocketed all the way up through the Johnson Administration – until it hit the classic DC roadblock: bureaucracy. He tells the story better than I can, but when we first posted, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis shared this:

“Here is a well researched article in PuckBuddys on our federal government and fun and big idea to freeze the reflecting pond in winter to allow for ice skating on the Mall.

I had heard about this effort before but had never seen the details such as presented here. A great read.

TedsTake1It is very difficult to get things done in DC as this article details.”Delay is death”. And it is also very expensive, as there are many layers of government to negotiate with and get approvals from and budget as it relates to any new development in downtown DC. Coordinating Federal departments, and local auspices is a challenge.

Would this be a national effort, a local effort? Local tax dollars? Federal tax dollars? Who pays for maintenance? Insurance? Upkeep? And on and on.

As a small for instance on the unique character of DC, I have been trying to find a way to improve traffic flow out of Verizon Center for more than three years – and simply would like to see how we could coordinate lights and traffic patterns for more efficient egress for our fans.

Some of our wisest and most powerful political leaders locally have signed up to help. One simple request was asked as a test, could we time synch the lights on one avenue to allow for a quicker and less interrupted trek from our city to the suburbs? Could local police play a role in helping to get our fans out of the building and on their way home in a selected hour period of time – say from 930 pm to 1030 pm, sometimes a bit later for concerts. Many buildings around the NHL and NBA offer such services, and I thought it would be smart and safe to do likewise for our fans.

Sounds simple, right? I envisioned one master control panel where an individual could reprogram the lights, and one set of meetings with all the folks that touched this decision and this would be an easy request, as after all, our community has the most technically advanced infrastructure in the world!

But it is more difficult than you think, as the Park Department, Homeland  Security, Department of Transportation, Department of Interior, Secret Service, local DC Metropolitan Police, the City Council, and some differing tech infrastructure, with old software code seems to get in the way. In fact, in some cases, literally, no one can figure out who is actually in charge and can deliver on said request and test.

Whenever you touch the National Mall, or Constitution Avenue – in any way, add  lots of complexity on just finding the answer to, “who is in charge?”.

We keep at it – we continue to meet. Perhaps one day we will deliver. It wont be for a lack of trying. Everyone is helpful, everyone agrees that we can do better. I remain hopeful.

Also – at Georgetown University, there has been work underway regarding its boat house and a permit and land swap, I am being serious here, the work is active and enters its fourth decade of meetings, more than 40 years of work, without a final decision! I have attended several of the meetings to try to help, “Delay is death”.

I really enjoyed reading this article, 50 years seems like a long time, but in DC, on some matters, it is a blink of an eye. Click to read.”

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Hockey Skates: The Worst Christmas Gift EVER

This may be the start of a holiday tradition for us. We found this this piece by Jeffrey Luscombe, in which he tells the story of a gay kid [a good Ontario boy] getting hockey skates for Christmas – and hating it. Despite his dad wanting him to be a great hockey player, putting him on skates at two, it didn’t stick. Given the chance on ice, he was more drawn to Dorothy Hamill than an NHLr. Jeffrey graciously allowed us to repost. 

Continuing with my “Christmas in the 70s” series, I look back gifts. Not the gifts I wanted and received like my pogo stick, the soundtrack album to The Sound of Music or my Stretch Armstrong (or even the ones I really wanted but couldn’t mention like an Easy Bake Oven), but the one I received almost every Christmas and never ever wanted.

Hockey skates.

Jeffrey skates

Jeffrey not enjoying his Xmas gift. Winter, 1970.

With visions of NHL hockey contracts dancing in his head, each winter my father would stand out back of our house in the freezing cold and flood our lawn with a garden hose to make my older brothers and me a backyard skating rink.

My dear old dad wanted your humble blogger to be a great hockey player. He had me on ice-skates before I was two years old. The logic being, I suppose, that the earlier I was on the ice then the better skater I would become.

Sadly, for him, this was not to be the case.

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Winter Classic Weather: How Low Can It Go?

Don't expect this January 1st...but you never know!

Don’t expect this January 1st…but you never know!

It’s tempting to begin this piece with “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.” And I guess I just did.

Jason Samenow doesn’t so much do anything about the weather. But when he talks about it, people listen.

Samenow is the founder of what eventually became the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, probably the best-written and nerd-smartest commentary on all things meteorological in the DC area. Whether he’s writing about Derechos or La Niñas or just trying to tell everyone to chill the F out about an inch of snow, Samenow is the man in the know about weather.

A few days back he published his look ahead to a typical January 1st, and what we might expect next Thursday. We got him on the phone recently to see what else he might be forecasting:

Jason Samenow

Jason Samenow

“So a typical January 1st day is highs in the mid-40’s, lows in the upper 20’s, so for an afternoon game you’re probably looking at temperatures 40 to 45 degrees or so.  That’s an average year, but you have a lot of variability. It’s been as warm as almost 70 degrees on our hottest January 1st day, and as cold as, back in 1881, 14 below zero, but that was an anomaly. But you can certain have days with highs in the 20s to near 30 and lows in the single digits, so that gives a sense of the range.”

Is January 1st traditionally a wet or dry period?

“It all tends to average out. Precipitation, when you average it out over a long time, it tends to just all be the same day by day. What I can say is that if I look at January 1st in particular for snowfall, we’ve never had a block-buster snowfall on the first day of the new year. The biggest snowfall is 4 1/2 inches; compare that for some days later in the month or early February where we’ve got more than a foot. It’s not normally a time when we see crippling snow storms.”

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