BRING­ING IT HOME

Cap­i­tals, fans cel­e­brate long-awaited cham­pi­onship

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DARLA DUN­NING, JU­LIAN GRE­GO­RIO AND ADAM ZIELONKA

A sea of Washington Cap­i­tals fans, be­decked in red and white, washed over the District’s down­town streets Tues­day in cel­e­bra­tion of the team’s vic­tory in the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal and the end of a 26-year-long cham­pi­onship drought.

“It’s rare in this town where ev­ery­one agrees on some­thing and to have peo­ple of ev­ery race, gen­der com­ing to­gether,” Lori Reilly, 46, of Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, said dur­ing the Cap­i­tals vic­tory pa­rade along Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue.

Ms. Reilly had waited a long time for the Cap­i­tals to bring home the Cup, hav­ing wit­nessed their heart­break­ing loss dur­ing their only other Stan­ley Cup Fi­nals ap­pear­ance — a loss to the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.

There were no of­fi­cial es­ti­mates of the crowd size, but photos showed a pres­i­den­tial-in­au­gu­ra­tion-style turnout on the Na­tional Mall, with thou­sands of Cap­tials-jersey-wear­ing fans tak­ing off a bright late-spring af­ter­noon to cheer, one more time, the boys of win­ter.

Along the mile-long pa­rade route on Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue, the joy­ful play­ers jumped off the dou­ble-decker buses fre­quently to mix with fans lin­ing the streets.

Hours be­fore the fes­tiv­i­ties of­fi­cially started, the Cap­i­tals faith­ful swarmed Chi­na­town and the Mall, and bars such as the Greene Tur­tle at Cap­i­tal One Arena

be­gan sell­ing pro­mo­tions like buck­ets of beer just as early.

Of­fi­cial Stan­ley Cup gear was on sale on street cor­ners, but some fans also wore more off­beat shirts — one de­picted “The Save,” Braden Holtby’s win-pre­serv­ing pad­dle save from Game 2, and an­other said, “My Cup Size is Stan­ley.”

Many play­ers chugged beer when they were of­fi­cially in­tro­duced by John Wal­ton and Joe Ben­i­nati, the Cap­i­tals’ ra­dio and tele­vi­sion play-by-play an­nounc­ers, re­spec­tively. Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin picked up Aus­tralian rookie Nathan Walker and flipped him side­ways as he drank.

With an eye to­ward next sea­son, T.J. Oshie in­sti­gated a chant of “back-to-back,” and coach Barry Trotz, who is en­ter­ing the off­sea­son with­out a contract, said, “We’re go­ing to do it again.”

As much as a cham­pi­onship pa­rade is de­signed to honor the win­ning team, Tues­day was also fo­cused on thank­ing the fans.

“Since Day One that I’ve been here, you’ve made me feel noth­ing but fam­ily,” Wilson said. “This city is truly un­be­liev­able. Pas­sion­ate but re­spect­ful fans. And I just want to thank you guys for ev­ery­thing.

“Ev­ery time I drive on Con­sti­tu­tion for the rest of my life, I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber this day and how amaz­ing it was, and it’s all be­cause of you guys,” Holtby said.

Be­fore it was the team’s turn to speak, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ad­dressed the crowd, in­tro­duc­ing her­self as “the mayor of the world cham­pion Washington Cap­i­tals.”

“We’re here to­day be­cause we have the best hockey team in the world, we’re here to­day be­cause we have the world’s best fans and we’re here to­day be­cause we are sim­ply the best city in the world, too,” Miss Bowser said.

Cap­i­tals owner Ted Leon­sis, the CEO of Mon­u­men­tal Sports and Entertainment, de­liv­ered a mes­sage about the “love and re­spect” shared by the fans and Washington com­mu­nity.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was hold a mir­ror up to the peo­ple that we serve. And all I see re­flected back is love, and that’s what this is about,” Mr. Leon­sis said.

Ovechkin was saved for last in both the player in­tro­duc­tions, which were oth­er­wise nu­mer­i­cally or­dered, and the speeches. He ges­tured to the crowd to pipe down as they cheered him on his path to the mi­cro­phone. In his sig­na­ture choppy, ac­cented English, he said: “What’s up, babes?”

The cap­tain said he knew the pa­rade would be crazy, “but it’s ba­si­cally nuts.”

He in­vited the masses to sing along to a re­frain of the Queen song, “We Are the Cham­pi­ons,” which has be­come the Cap­i­tals’ un­of­fi­cial an­them and a cel­e­bra­tory fi­nale to a sea­son that be­gan with some doubts and ended with a ti­tle.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

THE PRIZE: Washington Cap­i­tals’ Alex Ovechkin held up the Stan­ley Cup for all to see dur­ing a mass cel­e­bra­tion Tues­day along the Na­tional Mall. He said he knew the pa­rade would be crazy, “but it’s ba­si­cally nuts.”

RED ROCKS: Fans were decked out in red Cap­i­tals jer­seys, and the play­ers jumped off the dou­ble-decker buses fre­quently to mix with the crowd in the streets.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Washington Cap­i­tals’ Alex Ovechkin ges­tured to the crowd to pipe down as they cheered him on his path to the mi­cro­phone. In his sig­na­ture choppy, ac­cented English, he said: “What’s up, babes?” He in­vited the masses to sing along to “We Are the...

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