Photo credit – Justin Aller, Getty Images
29 years of emotions – I will come right out and say it—I’m going to cry at the end of the playoffs, however long they may go. I’m not afraid who knows it either, clearly, since you are reading this right now. Whether we get ousted in the first round or happen to make a run and sit atop the mountain, I will cry.
I’ve been a Caps fan for as long as I can remember, which seems cliché to say, but it’s not in the slightest bit. I went to my first game when I was a year old, sat on the glass, was given a puck by Dale Hunter, and I was hooked for life. It has been a love affair that I can honestly say has only grown stronger with age. I’m a season ticket holder and rarely miss games. I have a seat right next to my mom, who took me to that very first hockey game 29 years ago, so you could say that this is very much a family thing for me, too.
For 29 years, I have watched and cheered, jumped and slouched, smiled and frowned. This has been the team that has had my heart since I was literally a baby. And now, we are on the verge of another playoff season. Another opportunity to win something that I won’t refer to out of fear of jinxing the team. Other than the run to the finals a crazy 19 years ago, the playoffs have been filled with heartbreak. Game 7 losses, first round losses, 2nd round losses, OT losses sweeps, you name it, they’ve don’t it.
I’ve seen this team be the best team in the league before. I’ve seen them win Presidents’ Trophies before. I’ve seen them be the favorite going into the playoffs. I’ve seen them come so close, but so far away—so many times.
This is the best team that I have seen in DC in my 29 years of existence and this really feels like it. It feels like that moment you meet someone and think “this is the one,” but we’ve had that feeling before; this time is different, right? I know the last time I had this feeling it felt like the relationship ended about as abruptly as a Nick Bonino goal in overtime.
Whether we want to admit it or not, this is the last year that this core will be together and even they know that this is their last shot with each other. They are by far the most skilled team from top to bottom and carry the depth that any team making a run at the end of the year would need. This is it.
I feel it, you feel it, we all feel it. I know you share the same feelings I share because we all have a certain connection to the team. Yours may be different than mine, but it’s there. We are all cautiously optimistic because we’ve been in similar situations before only to be let down, but like I said—this is different, right?
This is it. Which is why I will cry when it’s all over. If we don’t win, I will cry because this was their best of best shots, with this excellent group of guys who have dazzled us on this ice for so long. I will cry because this could be the last time we see Karl Alzner in a red Caps sweater. It could be the last time we see such a stacked top line with Ovie, Oshie, and Nicky. I don’t want to have to see Holtby lay face down on the ice after an overtime goal. I will cry because I have been so emotionally invested for so long that I just want them to succeed.
But, I will cry if they win. I will cry because this could be the last time we see Karl Alzner play every game at a position that beats you up every night and he deserves to win a cup for unsung things he does. Because hearing that Ovie hasn’t “won a cup” by opposing fans doesn’t measure his greatness. I will cry because we might actually see Nicky excited.
As for me, I will cry because this is a team I fell in love with years ago. A team that I watched in person and on TV with my late dad. A team that I continue to watch in person with my mom. A team of players that I idolized and wanted to be when I was a kid. A team that has given me so many great memories that far outweigh the bad ones. And a team that has given me some of the best times of my life inside and outside Verizon. It has been such a long road that I can’t think of any other way to show my emotion, but I do know that the emotion has built up and is ready to explode.
Now it’s time to rock the red and these tears of joy.
By Chris McIntosh