(USA Today Sports)
Here it is, at this writing, three days from the end of calendar year 2015. The Washington Capitals have played 34 games or 41.5% of their regular season. They are either tied with or have between one and four games in hand on every other team in the NHL. They have amassed an amazing 54 points which is at least a 10-point lead over every other opponent in the East. So why am I not just riding the wave and loving every minute of this magnificent season?
Well, in all honesty, I am. I feel there is a potential two points to be earned every time the boys take the ice. But my Irish Catholic upbringing has done a job on my psyche over my 70 years of life. Everything that can go right has gone right so far. With the exception of Brooks Orpik, injuries have been basically nonexistent. But we’re just one hard check or trip away from losing any number of vital cogs in the wheel. With a goalie who is playing otherworldly, we’re only one mental glitch away from his losing the supreme discipline and confidence he has exhibited all season. Why do these potential negatives keep creeping into my head like monsters under the bed?
I guess it’s due to the fact that since I went all in on this Washington hockey team at its birth in 1974, I have held the hope that “this is the year.” The Stanley Cup will reside in DC and respect, at long last, will be ours. And then comes the crash…an inexplicable scoring drought, a series of devastating Game 7s, an ear-splitting coughing sound some describe as choking. You name it; it’s happened. And still the Stanley Cup cupboard is bare, and my hopes and dreams are dashed once again.
But still I persist, and this season seems somehow different. There’s a real team out there, a group of young athletes who truly like each other and revel in bringing out the best in each other. There’s a coaching staff who gets it, who knows its players’ talents and knows its players as people.
And so, once again, my heart is all in, my head is all in, and my screams of encouragement are louder than ever. It’s like love—you have to make yourself truly vulnerable to totally reap the benefits it can bestow. I’m willing to take the chance yet again. They say it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. I’m convinced it’s both—and I’m with them all the way.
By Carole O’Brien Cook
You’ve followed the team even longer than I have. Didn’t start following team until 1975, after my college graduation. Given that I was away at college, I wasn’t even aware that they had a hockey team in DC (okay, Landover, MD). In Nov 1975, my then boyfriend suggested going to the hockey game one Friday night. (They lost that one 2-0 and Bernie Wolfe was in goal for Caps.) My BF had been a Flyers fan – until switching to Caps. (And I married the BF less than a year later!
Looks great, Jon. Thanks so much.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone
It would appear we share a kinship. Framed on my wall since the mid-’70s is the certificate the Caps gave to fans on their way out of the Capital Centre on Oct. 15, 1974 (with our two game tickets placed inside the frame), that showed my father and I had just ‘attended the first regular season National Hockey League game ever played in the Washington area’. Were you there that night? Do you still have yours? I was a 13 year old sports nut, and with my first love, the Senators, having skipped town 3 years prior, hockey, and specifically the Caps, became an obsession. From the ’76-’77 season through ’92-’93 I can still name every home game I missed because I can count them on one hand. From playing in local adult street hockey leagues into my mid-30s, being bar-hopping buddies with various Caps over the years, including 3 now in the Hockey HOF, as well as dating a Caps front office ticket rep or two, my emotional investment, like yours, was steep, and way too often heartbreaking. Funny that I now have a baseball team again and they’ve taken this season ticket holder through the same cycle from worst in the sport to high expectations to shocking playoff heartbreak. Fingers crossed that we’ll have rings in two sports here soon…