For three fans, a cool reception
But Caps and Ovechkin show that they appreciate their supporters in Toronto
After T. J. Oshie scored to give the Washington Capitals a two-goal advantage in the third period Wednesday, CBC’s broadcast cut to a feed of the scene outside Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, where thousands of fans had gathered to watch Game 4 of the first-round playoff series on a large screen. Front and center, amid a sea of blue-clad, dejected Maple Leafs supporters, a trio in red celebrated — and captured the admiration of Alex Ovechkin and Capitals fans everywhere.
Carter Thornton, 18, was born and raised just outside of Toronto, but he has been a Capitals fan — with a room full of memorabilia to prove it — for as long as he can remember. He wore an Oshie jersey Wednesday and arrived shortly after 6 p.m. with his friend and fellow Capitals fan Connor Arbuckle, who wore an Ovechkin sweater. Thornton and Arbuckle met up with Suleimon Raji, one of the few non-Leafs fans they had encountered in Maple Leaf Square during Game 3 two days earlier. Raji, a 24-year-old student at York University, was easy to spot in his Ovechkin T-shirt.
Before Thornton set out for Maple Leaf Square in an Ovechkin jersey Monday, his father Joe, a die-hard Toronto fan, warned him not to say anything that might rile up the predominantly pro-Leafs crowd. On Wednesday, it was impossible for him to contain his excitement after Oshie’s second goal of the game.
The backlash must have been brutal. What were these guys thinking?
“Everyone was just booing me because I had the Oshie jersey on and Connor had the Ovechkin jersey on, and we were just going crazy,” Thornton said. That’s it? “Honestly, it was just all boos, that’s it,” said Raji, who shouted, ‘Woo, it’s over, boys!’ as he turned and raised his arms in triumph following Oshie’s tally. “Just boos. Nothing else. A couple of people were like, ‘Get out of here,’ but that’s about it.”
It’s unclear whether the kind Canadians in the crowd would have mustered so much as a curse word had they known Raji is a Flyers fan who happens to despise the Leafs despite living in Toronto all his life. He said he bought the Ovechkin T-shirt at the SportChek in Maple Leaf Square a couple of weeks ago, when it was clear Philadelphia wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs.
Raji also said he wouldn’t think of pulling a similar stunt in another city.
“I would never go to the States and do that,” Thornton agreed.
After Wednesday’s 5-4 win, Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks named Thornton, Arbuckle and Raji its “first star of the night,” and the Capitals saluted the trio on Twitter. Ovechkin posted a short clip of their celebration on his Instagram feed with the caption, “We love our fans, because they are the best!”
“He’s been my favorite player for years, so it’s pretty crazy that he posted about us,” Thornton said of Ovechkin’s post. Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/ dcsportsbog
A goal by winger T.J. Oshie, left, was cause for celebration from three Toronto-based fans rooting for the Capitals.