I am not a hockey fan. I went to one game in high school at the Capital Centre in Largo where a street party would have been held on an exit ramp to 495 because nothing surrounded it but highway. I don’t dislike hockey, I just never understood it. I could never keep track of the puck or decipher why one raucous body check landed a player in the penalty box when the 10 before it did not.
But each year, I would invest time during the playoffs in hopes that victory would be ours. I shimmied my way onto the bandwagon only to be unceremoniously dumped weeks later. Wallowing in my disappointment each post season, I wondered how miserable real fans must feel.
I assumed that we just didn’t want it badly enough. That we lost because the other teams—well mostly the Penguins—were in it to win it. Yet, after our historic run to the Stanley Cup, I realized that we didn’t need it then.
All the years of losing made our Caps playoff underdogs and Ovechkin the poster child for unrealized American sports dreams. Flash forward to 2018 and we no longer just wanted to win, we needed it.
The team felt it and so did DC; it was our time.
Living in a city that pulses to the beat of the political scene can make one jaded. Recently, we’ve witnessed not only a great political divide, but natural disasters as well as tragedies brought at the hand of humans. It was a long, challenging year locally and nationally. Sports are a natural diversion, but Washington fans only had more stress and frustration in store as the Redskins and Wizards seasons fizzled out.
And where do you go when you’re feeling like your luck is changing and you’re a winner?
The DMV held its collective breath through two rounds of play and a narrow Conference title win over Tampa. Hoping the odds were in our favor, we headed west.
Although nothing could prepare us for the spectacle disguised as the Lightning’s pre-game show, we stayed focused on the prize. Although distracting us with shiny armor and pyrotechnics does account for the initial loss. I mean, who hasn’t been a little dizzied taking on Vegas for the first time?
Getting our wits about us and taking Game 2 restored the balance to the faithful. Coming home to an outdoor watch party and Sting concert propelled the boys to two more wins.
And then a funny thing happened in our serious city; the Caps trumped all the negative press and were the lead story on the news. Red-clad people fist bumped on the streets and the hashtag #ALLCAPS trended.
I knew no one who opted not to watch Game 5. The lottery for tickets was frantic and the overflow spread out over blocks surrounding the arena. The city was all in and our boys did not disappoint.
The days that followed were unlike anything I have experienced as a lifetime resident. Not when the Redskins won the Superbowl or through the Terps improbable NCAA title. I firmly believe the reaction is a statement to the world climate right now.
We all just needed a win.
Once again, sports are a metaphor for life and much can be taken away from the Stanley Cup (if they can pry it out of Ovechkin’s hands). Perseverance pays off, loyalty has its rewards and rooting for the underdog never gets old.
In DC and everywhere, people want to be happy and have something to cheer for. Thank you to the Washington Capitals for uniting us—fans and nonfans alike—and giving us something to celebrate and smile about at a time when we needed it most.