Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports
I was thirty-one years old, twenty years ago in 1998. And it was a very exciting time to be a Washington Capitals fan. At a very young age, I was introduced to the Caps as I was the daughter of an avid hockey fan – who was originally from Boston – but living in Northern Virginia in ’74.
My Dad jumped at the opportunity to purchase season tickets to the new team in town when the Washington Capitals franchisee was announced. In 1974, I was eight years old. My three sisters and I spent a good amount of time as we were growing up at the Capital Centre. We quickly caught on to the game and we cheered for our home town team often when our opponent’s fans would outnumber ours, significantly.
Over the years, the Washington fans began to fill the arena – and with the move from Landover, MD to Washington, DC, the support of the Capitals was really coming to life and the DMV was beginning to embrace hockey and our team! The Caps were becoming more of a household name. And, as it still does today, support for the team grows exponentially when we advance into the playoffs.
I was lucky to be able to attend a game in each of the three rounds that led up to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. And twenty years later, I can still feel the sheer joy of having watched all the games that brought the Capitals to face off against the Detroit Red Wings for the ultimate prize. And while we all know the outcome of that series in our only Stanley Cup Finals to date, the journey to get us there was a period of my life that I will never forget – just thinking about that time fills me up with great emotion. And the vast majority of my memories are all positive.
Of course, then, I had no idea that it would be a long and heart-wrenching twenty years before another Stanley Cup opportunity would be within the Capitals’ grasp. And what I want to suggest to all of you is this: Enjoy this journey. Savor it. Celebrate each of the steps along the way. It seems that in today’s environment, the only focus is the ultimate – and believe me – I want our team to win the Stanley Cup for so many reasons – I share two of those reasons in an article you can read by clicking here. But I don’t want any of us to lose site on the journey of how we’ll get there. Please don’t overlook those magical moments in time and the joy that comes along with it as we continue down this road less traveled!
I also had no idea, then – just how often I would be asked about the playoffs of the 1997-1998 season. For a full 1997-1998 season summary, click here and read a re-cap of the season by Diane Doyle. We don’t know when this opportunity we are experience now will happen again – but I can tell you that it is likely that you’ll be asked about “that” season when the Capitals finally beat the Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs over and over and over again. And I know that you, like me – will enjoy sharing the stories of where we were and who we were with, when we realized that we were advancing into Round Three by beating the Penguins in their house with the series ending in thrilling game six!
This year, there were 31 team competing in the NHL. 16 of those entered the playoffs. And of those 16, four are currently playing. Soon, we’ll be down to two teams. And that one team who will be crowned as Stanley Cup Champions, that one team represents 3.2% of 31 teams. When you look at things from this prospective, it’s a bit easier to understand why these opportunities to reach the third and fourth rounds of the Stanley Cup finals don’t come along on a regular basis.
I’ll close by sharing one memory of the ride home after being swept by Detroit in the finals in 1998. My Dad and I went to the game together. My Dad was not a fan of the Metro – but we decided it was the best way for us to get to the game. On our orange-line Metro ride home, while underground, approaching Rosslyn, the power went out on the train – we were stopped, underground, in the dark, packed into the train – joy! We were just swept by Detroit and all anyone wanted to go was to get home! Oh – but have no fear entertainment is among us. There were some elated Red Wing fans in our train – and but of course, they traveled with their octopus. Apparently, they didn’t have the opportunity to throw all of their octopus on the ice – so, they began to throw it on the Metro. Needless to say, we couldn’t get off of that train fast enough!
I hope you thoroughly enjoy the remainder of this round against Tampa Bay and that you etch some of the game highlights into your memory banks. I hope our homecoming tonight is a win in similar fashion as games 1 and 2– less having to take on the referees in addition to the Bolts! Let’s get two more wins and secure our second appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Oh, the stories we’ll tell and the emotions we’ll feel as we share the journey of how we got there! Let’s Go Caps. #ALLCAPS #BELIEVE #ITSOURTIME
By Beckie Reilly