Saturday afternoon the Washington Capitals went a little Hollywood for their opening game as they rolled out the red carpet to welcome the players with style. The Caps began arriving around 320 in their chauffeured Lexus’s on F Street. Wes Johnson announced each player’s arrival and then a pre-selected fan was given the treat of escorting them down the carpet where they stopped and took pictures with the throng of waiting fans.
There were large contingencies of police up and down E and F streets as DC hosted not only the Caps opener but also the “Justice or Else—Million Man March” and the “Taste of DC.” Passersby were a bit overwhelmed as they walked by the thousands of fans Rocking the Red.
Devoted followers started lining up outside of Verizon around 1:30 pm and it wasn’t long before a few thousand crowded the blocked of F Street to welcome the Caps and play some street hockey. A DJ kept the excitement and anticipation going as fans celebrated the start of hockey.
Even SlapShot was decked out in a tux for the night.While we stood and waited fans debated the summer trades of Ward and Brower, what Oshie brings, and whether Ovechkin will score another 50 goals this year. And of course there were the standard comments ranging from “This is our year” to “This better be our year.”
There was a party atmosphere all around as the first limo pulled up with Jason Chimera. It must have been a sign of good things to come because Jason would also win the Star of the Night with his short-hand goal and assist.
The cars initially were a little slow arriving with a break of nearly 15 minutes between each player which gave them plenty of time to stop for selfies and to sign shirts and hats. In one of the funnier exchanges my daughter, Brittney, asked Jay Beagle to stop for a selfie. He said, “Sure, but I don’t know what that is.” Behind him came Taylor Chorney and when she told him what Beagle had said he laughed and said, “Beags phone probably doesn’t even have a camera!”
The crowd went crazy cheering for each player as they arrived but clearly the favorites were T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Evengy Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby and just like we saw at the Caps Member Party—the crowd went wild for Tom Wilson and his roommate Michael Latta.
Elliot, from DC 101 was on-hand to interview players as they neared the door to Verizon. Some of the players, like newcomer Justin Williams, were escorted by younger smiling fans. The players, especially Nate Schmidt, were excited to be there and it seemed as if they signed everything they were handed and posed for pictures with anyone who asked. A lady and her daughter from Sweden had an upper hand as she yelled out to Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Nicklas Backstrom in Swedish for photos.—which they of course stopped to take!
By far, the cutest couple of carpet was Alex Ovechkin and his special girlfriend, Ann Schaab. He was protective of her as they walked the carpet and she clung to him during his interview with Elliott. As he finished the interview, Ovi whisked around, holding her hand and running to the door to keep her from the crowds yelling his and her name.
By the time the game started the crowd was pumped and cheering about as loud as they would at the playoffs. Horn Guy and Loud Goat were back keeping the fans and team energized.
During the warmup fans were literally jumping up and down when the players took to the ice. And they did not disappoint with a great first win. It was hard to tell who was more excited—the fans or the players! Everyone we talked to thought it was a great evening including the escorts who said it was an “unreal experience” and the mother-daughter team who came out to celebrate the opener.
And ever gracious, Chimera gave a nod out to the fans after the 5-3 win saying, “There’s no cooler place than here, besides being at home. And this is the best place on earth, for sure. These fans are unreal and unleash the fury is the coolest thing in the world.” We agree Chimer, we agree.
By Maggie Marcum. Photos by Brittney Marcum