April 1st, 2009
On this day, I
Third-year star Alex Ovechkin had taken this team, this city, and the sport by storm by virtually single-handily forcing this team into that season’s Stanley Cup playoffs with a run of wins and great play that would give life to the “Rock The Red” era at the Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena). Back then, I wasn’t the rabid hockey fan that I am today, but I can say, unequivocally, that I reached that level of fandom that night.
Living in DC and becoming accustomed to seeing our sports teams suffer season after season, watching a team that languished in obscurity begin to win and continue to win while its next great hero does heroic shit on a game-by-game basis…it reeled me in – hook, line,
I, along with my good homie Silas, who accompanied me to the game, were sitting almost directly in front of Alex Ovechkin when he scored his 63rd goal of the season in one of the most amazing displays of athleticism you could ever envision in a hockey game.
If you read the game recap from this fateful night, you’d see certain quotes that you would help you understand why this would be the team that would grab DC fans hearts and inevitably
“Alexander Ovechkin kept using the word “unbelievable.” to describe the sellout crowd’s “M-V-P!” chants and those fans’ all-around enthusiasm.”
How about the fact that the once-awful Capitals are tied for first place in the Southeast Division? That might be the most unfathomable thing of all.
Being the casual fan that I am, I started to understand the gravity of what we were about to witness. Sheer greatness.
The Capitals would go on to win the division crown and make the playoffs after years of futility. Having a packed house in Chinatown with thousands of red-clad fans cheering on victory after victory seems commonplace this day but, I believe that was the moment that changed for a lot of fans who were just as casual as I was.
It’s crazy to fathom that this season will be the 10th anniversary of that legendary gauntlet to the playoffs. But ten years is long enough to forget how good victory feels when your team is constantly disappointing you. As the years passed, gone was the youthful enthusiasm of this fanbase, and in its place, apathy reigned.
Caps fans were starting to piss me off. Yes, losing every year when we had better teams sucked.
It really fuckin’ sucked.
We were beyond the point of being the new, cool, hip team on the horizon. that lasted about three seasons. We wanted to win and win big so heartbreaking playoff losses did not help our psyche at all.
Because I remember when the team really sucked. I’d rather have a team “underachieve” in the playoffs every season than to be the laughingstock of an entire league, which all four major DC sports teams have taken their recent turns for that title in each respective sport.
Looking back on those days, remembering all of the players and coaches of past seasons can kind of make you a tad emotional.
Even though I’m a Washingtonian through and through, I have no idea what to expect from our 2018-19 Capitals. We have watched city after city talk about this mythical “championship hangover” that a lot of teams endure and honestly, I don’t care if we do or not…..WE WON THE CUP!
I will be outside with all of my Capitals family watching on the big screen just as I did for the Cup clincher as the first championship banner was raised in our arena and I will cheer my heart out as that symbolic moment will, in fact, close this memorable chapter in DC Sports history. These have been the greatest three months of fandom of my adult life. I keep thinking about April Fools Day 2009 and I remember telling all of my homies, ” Hop on this bandwagon….it will be worth it.” And damn if it wasn’t.
All of the great moments, all of the heartbreak. We suffered together…we celebrated this title together. We ALL deserved this.
Thank you, Capitals, for that.
I may shed a gangsta tear or two.