I woke up Tuesday morning with a smile on face. Usually, when my phone begins to chirp at me that it’s time to get up, I groan, hit the snooze button a couple of times before giving into its demands. But not today. Today, I didn’t wake up in Bruins Country, but in my hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The sun shining in between the shades caught my interest as I stirred from my sleep, and with one eye open, I made my way to the window. I pulled the curtains aside and was instantly blinded by the sun shining out on the city before me. But as my eyes adjusted, reality set in.
When I looked out from the sixth floor window to the streets below, I was blinded once again. This time, by an almost overwhelming amount of people, all smiling and cheering, and wearing Washington Capitals jerseys, shirts, hats, and all sorts of other gear. I haven’t woken up in such a good mood in a very long time. I couldn’t get into the mix fast enough. After a quick shower, I threw on my T.J. Oshie jersey, my Eastern Conference Championship hat, and my red checkered shoes, got a bite from the provided continental breakfast, and had the longest check out process in the history of hotels. I was finally able to dive into the sea of the red, ready for a day surrounded by people who all love the same teams as I do. I left my car in the hotel parking lot and called for an Uber. Not being from the area, and under the impression that the Stanley Cup Parade would have a lot of major streets blocked off, I figured it would be best to leave the navigation to somebody else. When my Uber driver arrived at the hotel, I told him we were going to the parade, and he insisted he had a better idea. I trusted his judgement, and we were off.
About 15 minutes that felt like an eternity later, we arrived at the Arlington Memorial Bridge, where he let me off. “Go ahead across the bridge, and take a left. See those buses?”, he asked me, “The players are getting on them now, you’ll see the parade before it really gets going”. I don’t think I’d ever been so grateful for a stranger in my life. I made my way across the bridge, and as I did, I noticed the sea of red clothing starting to condense into a larger area. I made my way to the front of the pack, the D.C. PD had put a fence up to keep the public out and I was pinned up against that fence by the ravenous crowd behind me. Cheer of “C-A-P-S CAPS! CAPS! CAPS!” filled the air. Big red buses rested on the street, protected by a line of police motorcycles. I noticed one man standing in the street talking with one the officers on duty. “Oh, nice!” I said to myself, “That guy has a Philipp Grubauer jersey, just like the one I have at home!” And then I took a closer look and said back to myself, “Oh s**t, that guy is Philipp Grubauer”! The Capitals’ backup goaltender stood about 20 feet away from me. I yelled his name and the crowd cheered, now realizing what I had realized moments before. Grubi gave a big smile and waved to the masses, which erupted into more applause. This was one of the greatest moments of the whole day.
Then who should step off the bus to check on the commotion? None other than Tom Wilson and playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly. I cannot, in words, accurately describe to you all just how loud the area around the bridge was. For those of you like me, who aren’t from the D.C. area, the Arlington Memorial Bridge directly behind the Lincoln Memorial. I imagine the thunderous applause could be heard a mile or so away, closer to the Caps’ home, Capital One Arena. The cheering didn’t slow down for very long. It seemed almost like clockwork that as soon as one set of players got settled on their bus, another group of players would come into view to find theirs. Shortly after Wilson, Grubauer, and Smith-Pelly got settled on their bus, Brett Connolly and Jay Beagle walked into view! They greeted the fans running their hands along the rail for the hoards of high fives awaiting them and got settled pretty quickly. It was clear they were ready for the parade to start! Soon after, Connolly and Beagle were joined by Andre Burkaovsky, John Carlson, and Carlson’s son. Again, the place went nuts. But, then the parade started moving. Among the players who made themselves noticed in these early goings were T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Michal Kempny, Shane Gerisch, Pheonix Copley, Christian Djoos, Dmitry Orlov, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Orpik, coach Barry Trotz, and of course, Alex Ovechkin, who held the Stanley Cup high above his head for all to see.
Once the parade started moving, so did I. I followed the buses and celebration down the length of the National Mall and just basked in the concept of being surrounded by my fellow Caps fans. I picked up a few posters and other freebies along the parade route and got to partake in more than my fair share of chants. At one point, on Ovechkin’s bus, the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Prince of Wales Trophy were all held up at once. It was a beautiful thing to see all our hardware in one place. I followed the parade route to under the largest American flag I have ever seen, hanging from two firetruck ladders across the street from one another. The flag waved our nation’s colors in front of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where I parted ways with the parade to get out of the sun for a moment. But I was not very far from my fellow Caps fans, a number of whom had the same idea. Once inside, I went to the gift shop to buy a bottle of water and get a backpack to hold all my goodies. I looked around the museum for a few minutes, but not at all to the extent that I would have liked to. Side note, if you’ve never checked out any of the Smithsonian Institution’s facilities, I highly recommend it. There’s so much cool stuff to see and do; more breathtaking artifacts and concepts than you possibly could conceive. While I was enjoying the sights the Institute had to offer, I caught word from some passers-by that the parade has concluded, and that the players were speaking at a rally by the Washington Monument. I rushed down several flights of stairs to the ground level and took off for the monument, breaking land speed records. When I saw the rally from a distance, I wondered what it would look like from a bird-eye view; the red was being rocked everywhere. You couldn’t turn away from the passion in the city. If someone in that crowd wasn’t wearing Capitals gear, they were dressed to support the Washington Nationals, Redskins, Wizards, or even the D.C. United Soccer Club. It was a thing of absolute beauty. And, coming from a New England-based fan, I love how all our teams in Washington D.C. have matching colors. Red across the board with different secondary colors for the each sport. In New England, every Boston team has an entirely different color scheme. The Bruins are black and gold, the Red Sox and red and white, the Celtics are green and white, the Patriots wear red, white, and blue, and the Boston United FC have this weird, mustard yellow color. I don’t even know what to call it. But I digress, the amount of red filling the National Mall was absolutely inspiring. The team sang We Are the Champions and the masses chimed in. I hope they heard us in Pittsburgh! The players took turns passing the mic around and thanked the fans for their unwaivering loyalty over the years. Some of them were shy about it, others swore at the top of their lungs with astronomical levels of pride. Each one brought a tear to my eye. After the last players had had their turn saluting the fans and the rally concluded, I made a fast exit to avoid getting caught in the foot traffic.
(photo via @smithpelly)
It occured to me that I hadn’t eaten anything since I left my hotel hours earlier, and I decided to get a bite to eat. I wanted to get a taste of the local flavor, so I asked someone for their thoughts on the best places to eat. The young woman I spoke to, dressed in a Backstrom 2015 Winter Classic jersey and a Nationals cap, pointed me in the direction of a place called the Boundary Stone. I, being from Rhode Island, got a kick out of the fact that this particular pub was on Rhode Island Ave. And with that novelty in mind, I started their on foot. It took me a fair bit longer than I had anticipated. DC is much bigger than I had previously given it credit for, but once I made it to the bar, I was able to kick back and relax for the first time all day. Ironically enough, the bartender at the Boundary Stone was also from Rhode Island! Small world, isn’t it? Small state too, for that matter. After a great lunch and sample of the local brews, my fellow Rhode Islander and I toasted with a complimentary shot before I continued my adventure into the greatest city in America. Day drinking and a Stanley Cup Parade, how could the day get any better?
I called a second Uber and had the driver take me to Capital One Arena to challenge my own question. When I arrived at the Arena, I realized that today could, in fact, get a lot better. I was once again surrounded by Capitals fans. Some folks had carts set up outside the arena selling knock-off merchandise and newspapers covering the Caps’ Stanley Cup victory. I had to pick up a copy! And then I made my way to the team store. In the store, it was shoulder-to-shoulder and people tried on jerseys and hats and looked at all the other amazing things the store had to offer; 100% of which, was plastered with the Capitals logo. I noticed out in the hall, where the concession stands are, there were hundreds of back stocked merchandise waiting to fill the shelves. This store was prepared for the onslaught that comes with winning a major sports championship. I didn’t know where to look. I wanted to buy one of everything, but my hands were already full! I did pick up a few pennants, a Stanley Cup Championship lapel pin, the most comfortable pair of socks I have ever owned, but I decided it would be best to travel light and had to resist the urge to buy much else. I was disheartened though, that they didn’t have a Kempny jersey in stock. Probably for the best though, as I probably would have bought it if they had had one.
By now it was six o’clock, and the sun was beginning to fall from the sky. The streets were still bustling with cars and people, but even at the heart of the Capitals community, the blinding red was slowly starting to fade. With a long ride back to the ocean state, I decided it would be best to call one last Uber and head back to the hotel, where my car was waiting for me. Once there, I loaded up my goodies into my trunk and started the long drive back home.
I love Rhode Island with all that I have, the ocean state is who I am. But deep down, I’m also a Washingtonian. I have never loved another team the way I love the teams in DC. To spend a day surrounded by my fellow fans and not be heckled by someone in a Brad Marchand jersey was pure paradise. I will never forget the day I spent celebrating my team. This will be a day that I tell my children about one day. And to the D.C. locals, who made me feel very much at home, and to the city itself, thank you for your hospitality. I love everything about the District of Columbia. And I will be back in October to watch in person as the Caps raise their first Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of Capital One Arena.
I love this sport. I love this city. I LOVE THIS TEAM!
By: Chris Laroche