Yesterday was amazing for Caps fans. Celebrating the Stanley Cupiversary allowed us to revel in the goosebump-inducing moments of June 7, 2018: Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller excelling in clutch moments. A weird scoreboard clock issue and Nick Backstrom missing an empty net reminding us that nothing will ever come easy for Washington. Alex Ovechkin roaring as he took the Cup from Gary Bettman. The cheers and tears that followed. Yesterday, we relived all the moments seared into our collective memory. I’m sure we’ll do the same in a few days on the Paradiversary. This morning is also thick with memories.
Waking up June 8, 2018 was a strange feeling. I rolled over realizing I was in bed with Lord Stanley’s Cup. Oh, wait…that was our captain. The morning after was weird, though. Surreal, even. Waking up wondering if it was all indeed real. Hoarse from screaming at the television, or on F street, or from the bleachers in Vegas. Fingers sore from sending and receiving a thousand texts. Confused by messages from Penguin and Flyer fans saying they were happy for Ovi and happy for us. Free from the euphoric fog of the night before, we were able to process exactly what happened the previous evening, gain some perspective, let the memories sink in. We were able to reflect on not just one night, not just an incredible two-month playoff run, but the entire length and breadth of our fandom whether it was forty years or forty days.
The victory galvanized bitter playoff memories into a healthy resolve, into a fun righteousness proving us correct for sticking with our Caps for all these years. Look at what those guys accomplished. During a season in which some thought they might not even make the playoffs, the boys in red, faced and exorcised all the demons of yesteryear. It is easy to say the law of averages finally worked out, but we know better. The hockey gods make you earn your breaks and earn them Washington did. On the ropes in Columbus, The Holtbeast returned in the nick of time as the Caps stormed back to win four straight. Evgeny Kuznetsov bookended goals in the first minute of Game One and the winning goal in overtime of Game Six to get by Pittsburgh. Just when it looked like another here-we-go-again demise after coughing up a 2-0 series lead in Tampa, Andre Burakovsky returned from injury and the doghouse to propel Washington to the Stanley Cup Final. Brandishing a team defense and depth of scoring that previous Caps’ teams have so often lacked, Washington swaggered into Vegas and cashed in on their first title. It was not without difficulty. Facing nemesis Marc-Andre Fleury, and one last demon in holding a 3-1 series lead, the Caps endured things in Game Five that would have sunk them in the past. A deflected goal against, hitting the post twice, untimely penalties. Yet, this time the Caps backed up their talk by actually being different. A new identity was formed as new memories were etched. Gone were the choking dogs, replaced by clutch champions. New memories and new heroes immediately legendary among the fan collective. THE SAVE. Bottom six heroes like DSP, Lars Eller, and Chandler Stephenson emerging. Orpik standing tall. Shot blocks by the grinders and the millionaires. Tom Wilson pulverizing anything in opposing colors. THAT power play saucer pass from Backstrom to Ovechkin symbolizing the excellence of an entire era.
It was easier to put things in perspective that next morning. Moving on to celebrate in our own individual ways. Perhaps a satisfied sigh of relief. A wry grin as we sat at our computers ordering our championship gear. For me, it was sharing the good news with my daughter who was asleep long before Lars Eller snuck behind Fleury to pot the Cup-winner. Later, when she should have been getting ready for school, I found her outside lost in her own little celebration, standing on our porch steps wearing my Caps hat and wrapped in her Caps blanket. I finally didn’t feel bad for indoctrinating her into Caps fandom.
Yes, we all enjoyed that next morning, didn’t we? We didn’t yet know of fountain swimming, pizza tattoos, or Cupstands across a city. We could only anticipate a crazy summer that turned into a magical year of celebration. Sure, the clock will soon turn and new names will be etched in silver. But for now, this morning reminds me of that morning, the morning we woke up to realize it was no dream. The morning we knew we were ALL CAPS and that big shiny trophy was ALL OURS.
By Bryan Hailey