Nothing like a day at the ballpark, as the Caps came to Nats Park to show off the Stanley Cup. At top, Alex Ovechkin throws the first pitch just a bit high, but when you win a Cup, you get a mulligan. Below, Ovechkin notices that every time he raises the Cup over his head, people strangely seem to cheer wildly....
It’s after 1:30 AM, and I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want what just happened tonight to end.
Tonight was more than hockey, more than winning a Stanley Cup. It’s the finish to a journey that has ended in disappointment at every bend in the road for such a long freaking time. Lucy has been forever pulling the football up as the Charlie Brown Capitals tried to kick it for over 40 years. Every year the season has ended with the Caps lying flat on their backs looking up at the sky.
Not tonight. ‘Ol’ Lucy was a little too slow pulling the football away this time, and Charlie Brown nailed it. Right through the uprights.
They did it. They absolutely freaking did it.
I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have gone to bed in utter disbelief that the Washington Capitals blew another game or another series, making me stay up for multiple overtimes deep into the night only to crush my sportsfan soul (anyone who saw Pat LaFontaine score that goal in the 4th overtime for the Islanders in 1987 knows what I'm talking about). So when there was less than a second to go and it was apparent the Caps would win, it got a little dusty in here.
Some of it was the realization that two-thirds of my life has gone by waiting for this (I started following them in my 20s. I’m now in my 60s). Some was for others who suffered as much or more than me with this team and didn’t get to see it. Guys like Glenn Brenner, George Michael or Jim Vance. Those guys howled at all the unexpected misses and losses every year and still came back the next season proclaiming this would be the year. They’re all gone now.
Some of it was the respect and happiness for Alex Ovechkin, who has done just about everything in his 13 years in Washington EXCEPT win a title. As much as I wanted to see this happen for Washington sports fans, I wanted to see this more for Ovechkin. When the game was over, players from Las Vegas embraced him as an elder statesman of their sport, much the same way teams lined up to shake the hand of Dale Earnhardt when he finally won the Daytona 500 after so many misses. They knew Ovi deserved it. And were happy for him.
Some of it was watching an interview with T.J. Oshie, talking about his father and his battle with Alzheimers. I lost my father-in-law to that terrible disease 12 years ago, and I can tell you from experience that you wonder every day if the day will be a good day or a bad day when it comes to remembering things. T.J. was in tears explaining how special it was to have his Dad there at the game, hoping the memory would be powerful enough to last the rest of his days.
“He doesn't remember a lot of stuff these days,” Oshie said, wiping away tears. “He remembers enough. But I tell you what. He's here tonight - I don't know where he's at - but this one will stick with him forever, you can guarantee that.”
The room got even dustier after that.
But the moment I’ve really been waiting to see is the Commissioner of the NHL – Gary Bettman – handing Lord Stanley’s trophy to Ovechkin, imagining he would hold it high, bursting with pride as he showcased it around the ice. He didn’t disappoint, adding a few primal screams and kissing the Cup before handing it off to the guy who has waited just about as long as he has, Nick Backstrom. It was Ovi’s time to shine, but also the time to face all of his critics and say “I finally got this. Now bite me.”
The chase has been so long I have many times said I just wanted to see them win a Cup before I died. Mike Harris, who is an editor at The Athletic, is the same age as I and he has also said the same expression many times. When the Cup was finally hoisted, I tweeted at him “does this mean starting tomorrow that we might, um, oh never mind.” Mike, ever the expert wordsmith, replied with the perfect answer.
“I hope not,” he typed back. “But if I do, I do with a smile.”
Of all the videos produced by the NHL and the Washington Capitals, this one by the Caps may easily be the best. Watch it now....and 6 months from now when you're having a bad day, come back and watch it again. It won't disappoint...
Waking up this morning, my first thought was “that must have been a dream.”
But it’s not. The Caps won the Stanley Cup. And Alex Ovechkin took the Cup on a wild night in Vegas after the game, if the pictures I’m seeing on Twitter are accurate. In fact, this is one of the rare days that social media is almost overrun with pictures of celebration and happiness. It's like a Christmas morning.
The Washington Post certainly made sure I knew it was no dream. World Wars have ended with headlines smaller than what the Post has today about the Caps winning.
Then there is this serenade that I just had to post, because it's my favorite of everything I've seen. I’d have liked to have been in Las Vegas to see the win. But now seeing this, I’d have settled for being with this group of fellow red-clad long-suffering fans and belted out at least one verse of Queen's “We Are The Champions.”
Particularly when it gets to the part about “of the WORLD.”
If the Washington Capitals somehow end up winning a Stanley Cup this year, they will look back on one play that occurred on Wednesday night, May 30, 2018, and say "that's the one that did it."
This area has seen some iconic plays over the years: John Riggins running 70-Chip for the winning touchdown and the Washington Redskins’ first Super Bowl win; Jayson Werth hitting a walkoff, game winning home run in Game 4 of the National League Division Series in 2012, maybe Darrell Green’s punt return for a touchdown in 1988 in the playoffs against the Chicago Bears.
But if you’re carving out the Mount Rushmore of DC iconic plays, it may be time to move a mountain and add Braden Holtby’s save of a point-blank, wide open net shot by Alex Tuch that was the difference in the Capitals’ 3-2 win Wednesday night. It was also the Caps first win in a Stanley Cup Finals series in the history of mankind.
As you can see in the video, there’s just no way Tuch could have missed scoring a goal. He hit it firmly and low, but Holtby stretched out with his stick as far as he could, and somehow fate saw to it that puck and wood collided.
The challenge now is if you’re going to have a play that is this iconic, it has to have a name. Announcers called it “The Save” for the rest of the game, but that’s kind of boring and predictable. I instead prefer the “Immaculate Extension” because (A) I’m still not sure how he was able to extend himself that far to his right and (B) His play provoked tens of thousands of people in the Virginia-DC-Maryland to call out the name of the Almighty after he stopped the puck. All at once.
Whatever you call it, it was the greatest save I’ve seen in the history of the franchise. And it may be the difference maker this year in deciding who takes home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Some sound bites need to be preserved. For example, the call by Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler of Jayson Werth's walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2012 playoffs for the Nationals is still on my cellphone. If I ever need a smile or a few goosebumps on my arms, I play it. It just never gets old.
John Walton's call last night of the final seconds of the Caps Game 7 win over Tampa to return to the NHL Finals for the first time in 20 years qualifies for that sort of preservation as well. True, it wasn't as dramatic since the score was 4-0, but Walton has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of this franchise and blended all of that in to his final call.
"The pain and anguish that so many of us have felt over the last 20 years and throughout the Ovechkin era," Walton shouted, "...the puck drops...and that is gonna do it. Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight Tampa Bay, The Washington Capitals are the 2017-2018 Eastern. Conference. Champions!"
I only listened to him say this about a dozen times this morning. So click on the video to hear it a few times yourself...
It's been about 45 days since I last posted anything, and a lot of it had to do with the Washington Capitals. They were taking us all on an emotional roller coaster ride, and quite frankly, I was at the superstitious point of thinking anything I said would jinx them one way or the other.
Well, the strategy worked, and you can thank me later.
The last few years I have had reasonable hope the Caps would get past the second round and finally win a Stanley Cup. Obviously that didn't happen, but this year I KNEW not to get emotionally involved, thinking this team just wasn't all that good and no chance at the Cup.
Now we will be playing hockey in June in Washington. And the story lines are springing forth like lies from a politician's mouth. My favorite is that after years of hearing George McPhee (former Caps GM) say he's working hard to put together a team that could win a Stanley Cup, he's actually going to be involved in doing so for the Caps, although it's because he's the GM of the opponent in the finals.
But that's for next week. For today, it's a great day to be alive and bask in the glory of finally not losing a crucial Game 7. I feel so good, I think Jack Kent Cooke has temporarily taken over my soul :)
The Washington Capitals open the National Hockey League playoffs at home in just a few hours against Columbus. The Washington Post has already filled me with tremendous optimism thanks to such headlines as “Caps Goal Is To Exceed Reduced Expectations” and “Trotz Isnt Secure and He Might Need A Deep Run To Stay”, although they almost got to the glass being half full instead of half empty with “Caps Changed Their Approach and They Might Have a Shot.” Nothing fires up a fanbase like knowing they "might" have a shot.
Even the Columbus newspapers know the torture the Caps have put us through, as the headline on their lead columnist’s story is “Capitals fans know all about playoff pain.”
Yes. We. Do. And no, the columnist is not dressed like Captain Obvious. But he could be.
My goal is to just not end up like the crying kid in the Caps jersey you see in the picture like I do every year. That might as well be my avatar the last 20 years as I start out so optimistic, then we lose games we shouldn’t, lose series we are favored in, and God forbid a game go into double or triple overtime. All that means is I’ll stay up until 2 AM, then go to bed cursing “why did I stay up this late to see this? You KNEW this would happen.”
But enough about the past. This is a new season. A clean slate. I’m putting on the Caps sweater at 7 and will start my delusions immediately afterward. In fact, I’ve already started them, interpreting Pittsburgh’s 7-0 shellacking of Philadelphia last night as a trend that will lead to the Pens being so overconfident when they sweep the Flyers, they will be ripe for the taking in the second round.
Drink with me, folks. It could happen. Stanley Cup or bust…