WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — A labor deal battle might have cancelled a good chunk of the NHL season, but hockey fans in the D.C. area are ready for the season to begin.

Nearly 10,000 fans rocking the red and white welcomed backed their hometown team with open arms Thursday night as the Capitals took the ice at the Verizon Center for the first time since the lockout ended.

The “Thank You” event, which was open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m., was highlighted by an hour-long Capitals practice. The event also featured photo opportunities, games, a player question and answer session and, most importantly, complimentary snacks and drinks from the concession stands.

The Capitals start their shortened, 48-game season this weekend in Tampa Bay when they take on the Lightning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

WNEW’s Kevin Rincon contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter.

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