Game 7. Tampa, Florida. Trip to the Stanley Cup on the line. All the Caps did was dominate the Lightning and all their “restrictions” placed on the fans from the Nations Capital. So, on this beautiful Thursday morning, the town as this distinct “morning after” glow of victory. It’s something the Washington DC area hasn’t seen in a long time. Yes… I said “a long time” not “never”.
You see, the Caps have been to a Stanley Cup. They just haven’t been to the Stanley Cup in the “Rock the Red”/Alex Ovechkin era.
That’s the funny thing about hockey in this town. We scream and yell about the bad history of the Caps but, at times, it’s oversold. Fans forget or never knew, that guys like Olie the Goalie, a 4th line led by vet Esa Tikkanen, and coach Ron Wilson had brought this organization to the brink of a parade down Constitution Avenue. That was erased by three one goal losses to the powerful Detroit Red Wings.
This time around, there isn’t an Original Six dynasty in the way of the Caps. Instead, it’s an expansion team, Vegas Golden Knights, put together by a GM (George McPhee) who had assembled the roster of the Caps previous Stanley Cup appearance. Even then, the Caps are underdogs (+135) to win the series.
Until Monday, the city will be euphoric at the possibility of the Caps and, almost as important “Ovi”, hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. As a fan or former season ticket holder, I’m rooting for it. My 11 year old son is rooting for it even though he knows nothing about the ghosts of Pat LaFontaine and Petr Nedved.
Most of all, it will erase a lot of bad history… some overblown, some not. And maybe it will open up Caps fans to get to know more about the organization. Fans should celebrate guys like Mike Gartner, Bengt Gustaffson, and Kevin Hatcher much more than they do. Guys who came after them like Dale Hunter, Michael Pivonka and Peter Bondra (who should have his jersey in the rafters by now). Fun teams like the Ciccerelli-Courtnall-Stevens teams tried but never could get over the hump before being broken up. It was one of the biggest mistakes Abe Pollin made (along with breaking up the Chris Webber team).
This is a celebration of more than just the current team. More than just Ovechkin and Holtby. More than just rocking-the-red. That’s what makes this so important. It’s about history. It’s about disappointed. It’s about the guys who became before them… the ones that gave fans the audacity to dream.