“Nerve-wracking.” “Surreal.” “Exciting.”
Those were some the words Washington Capitals fans used to describe their emotions as they watched their team will their way to a Stanley Cup victory Thursday night. The Caps defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4 to 3 to win the best-of-seven series, giving Washington its first major sports championship in 26 years, and the team its first in 44 years of existence.
Joyce Kammerman, of Chevy Chase, went further in describing her reaction, which came as she and her family watched the game on a screen outside of the National Portrait Gallery. They were among a sea of red-clad Washingtonians who filled the city streets.
“It was truly a religious experience to be part of that energy, with tens of thousands of people outside of the arena who never gave up on this amazing team, [and] to have everybody loving this one team and supporting them,” she said Friday.
Her husband, Larry Boles, was more subdued, but still savored the moment.
“I’m a little tired because we got [home] late, but it was awesome,” he said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. This is their first cup. There will never be another [first cup].”
Arlington resident Jenn Rubenstein, usually an optimist, said she didn’t think the Caps would finish the Knights off in Game 5, when her team trailed 3 to 2 at the second intermission. At that point, she said, it looked as if Washington might be on the verge of blowing their lead in the series — an all-too-familiar feeling for fans that are used to the team’s past disappointments. But with less pressure to succeed, she said, the team was in a better position this year.
“I feel like there have been so many years when the expectations have been so enormous for these superstars to deliver,” she said.
Rubenstein said she has been a Caps fan since birth and is “still in disbelief” that the team won. She watched every game except the first at home because she hadn’t been feeling well, but said it didn’t dampen her spirits.
“I wanted so badly to go downtown, but I haven’t been feeling well and I’m horribly superstitious and didn’t want to do anything differently,” she said.
At lunchtime on Friday, Matt Welik was wearing an early-2000s black Capitals jersey with a gold-starred eagle on the front as he waited in line at Ben Yehuda Café & Pizzeria in Kemp Mill. The eatery was offering free cheese pizzas to the first 44 customers who wore Capitals attire.
“This is my jersey from when I played high school hockey,” Welik said. “For me, this is our number-one sports moment. I had season tickets to the Caps as a child, so this is a dream come true.”
Nearby Silver Spring resident Allison Marcus was holding her infant son, Ephraim, on her lap. Ephraim was
dressed in a blue Capitals shirt with the current eagle on the front. Marcus, who wore the current red jersey with the team name and hockey stick on the front, said her family watched every game except for the first part of Game 3, which was during Shabbat.
One game took place on her older son’s 8th birthday, for which he invited 22 friends over for a watch party. Ephraim could use a break from the hubbub, she said.
“He’s very happy that no one is screaming in his house anymore.”
Reached at home, former Capitals goaltender Bernie Wolfe, who played on the team in the 1970s, said he and his wife got choked up watching the game on TV.
“It’s a long time coming,” he said. “To say that I wasn’t emotional would be a lie.”
Wolfe said he was more excited for the city than he was for the team.
“This is much, much bigger than the Capitals,” he said. “This is unbelievable for the city of Washington. We haven’t had a world championship… And the way the fans came out to support this… This was the entire city of Washington. Some people have probably never been to a hockey game.”
After the game, Wolfe called his 11-year-old grandson to share the moment.
“He said, ‘I’ve waited 10 years for this.’ Well, I said, ‘Grandpa’s waited 44.’”