WASHINGTON, D.C. — Afterwards one final lap to end their aboriginal summer as champions, Alex Ovechkin was skating aback to his Capitals teammates aback he began jiggling his arm. “I anticipate it was abundant for him,” Nicklas Backstrom would say later. Indeed, maybe the Capitals captain had collapsed out of convenance hoisting the Stanley Cup aerial already his Moscow affair captivated in July. Or conceivably he had already shoulder-pressed the bays so abounding abuse times that he was still fatigued. “I aloof afraid he was activity to toepick,” Backstrom said. “Thank god he didn’t do that.”
Either way, it was a absolute moment on a night abounding with them. Forty-four years in the authoritative for Caps fans—and a quarter-century for any District-area diehard—Wednesday’s commemoration slapped an appropriately blithe coda on what aggregation annual articulation John Walton appear as “the greatest sports summer our burghal has anytime known.” A video montage arbitrary all of the team’s bashed escapades, from the visiting locker allowance in Las Vegas to the streets of Georgetown. A assumption bandage covered “We Are The Champions.” A backtalk was chucked assimilate the ice and landed a the Stanley Cup, as admitting it capital one aftermost sip of celebratory champagne.
“And now, the moment we’ve all been cat-and-mouse for,” buyer Ted Leonsis told the sellout crowd. “Let’s accession this banderole into the rafters.”
Up it climbed, ascent slowly, a spotlight accomplished on the Cup below. Standing forth the dejected line, afore anybody was herded for a accumulation picture, Backstrom acquainted “chills” and “goosebumps.” Aside from Ovechkin, he was the longest-tenured Capitals amateur aback they assuredly bankrupt through—past Pittsburgh in the additional round, Tampa Bay in the arrangement final, and Vegas for the franchise’s aboriginal championship. Turns out acceptable absolutely changes the tenor of an offseason. “It’s the greatest activity ever,” Backstrom said recently. “You aloof went about animated all the time instead of accepting the anticipation of, why didn’t we go further, why can’t we go all the way?
Only one being on the ice at Capital One Amphitheatre already knew how that felt. Nine years ago, defenseman Brooks Orpik watched a banderole go up in Pittsburgh and came abroad with an abstraction about how appellation defenses should be treated. “I anticipate the one affair that is a agreement is you’re activity to get everyone’s best game, because everyone’s activity to use you as the barometer stick,” he said. “If you’re not at 100% mentally and physically, you’re activity to get embarrassed.”
Those are problems for altered days. For now there was Ovechkin, avaricious the Stanley Cup aback the abode lights angry on, burglary one aftermost goodbye kiss afore blurred the bays into its accurate trunk. There were the chants that afresh rang through the building, as the carpets were refurled and the bogie bead approached afore the Capitals’ closing 7-0 bludgeoning of Boston:
“I heard article today. How abounding beers will the Stanley Cup hold?”
Leonsis is aptitude advanced in his chair, agilely apprehension a response. It’s aboriginal Wednesday at the Capitals’ convenance ability and the aggregation buyer is nibbling a croissant in an admiral arrangement room, agitation a white OVECHKIN jersey and a diamond-bedecked championship ring. Aback his 8:30 a.m. arrangement shrugs, Leonsis air-conditioned and provides the actual answer.
Small admiration that he waited this continued to acquisition out. Added than four months ago Leonsis was ensconced in a visiting suite, cat-and-mouse out the crumbling moments of Bold 5 adjoin the Golden Knights. As the Capitals were adhering to a 4-3 advance with almost four account remaining, a baby phalanx of amphitheatre advisers came address austere orders to escort Leonsis—and aggregation admiral Dick Patrick—downstairs for the looming celebration.
Loathe to absence any action, Leonsis cautiously obliged. “They were actual slow,” he says. “Then some admirers in the elevator got off at a altered floor.” Afterwards what acquainted like several hours, Leonsis assuredly accomplished the amphitheater belly and anchored in advanced of a television aural afterimage of the Washington bank … at which point NBC cut to a attempt of Leonsis and Patrick still watching from the affluence box. “Then we went out on the ice,” Leonsis says. “There’s no etiquette. You feel like, What am I accomplishing here? What am I declared to do?” He takes a chaw of croissant. “And afresh you improvise.”
That is one chat to call what happened next. Dancing aloft restaurant roofs, flopping into accessible fountains, assuming Stanley Cup keg stands, accepting late-night tattoos, belting out Queen alongside the absolute Beltway … all cautiously chalked up to some libation-fueled ad-libbing. The parties raged through the summer, spanning six countries and six Canadian provinces, affecting hometowns and hospitals, afore abiding for one final gettogether Monday night.
The amphitheatre commemoration was captivated at The Palms steakhouse in Tysons, featuring a surf-and-turf capital advance and ambrosia adorned with Stanley Cup-imprinted candy. Best of the agenda had remained with the alignment over the summer, but invitations were continued to those who left; aback goalie Philipp Grubauer entered the restaurant, beginning off a alike from his new home in Denver, chants of “GRU-BEE, GRU-BEE” rang out amid his above teammates. A acknowledgment was offered by Ovechkin, as able-bodied as abettor captains Orpik and Nicklas Backstrom. A video was apparent absolute behind-the-scenes anniversary footage, which abounding players were watching for the aboriginal time aback absolute adjoin Vegas on June 7.
“It brought you aback absolute quick, already you see the champagne, the beers and aggregate aerial in the air,” accompaniment T.J. Oshie says.
“Stuff that makes a lot of developed men a little bit emotional,” Orpik says.
The absolute showstopper, of course, came as Leonsis, his wife Lynn, and Patrick handed two baby boxes to every player, who opened them en masse. One … two … three … An aural blow abounding the room. Upon acquirements that Patriots buyer Robert Kraft had commissioned added gaudier rings afterwards anniversary Super Bowl victory, Leonsis had told the rep at Jostens, “We appetite the bigger amphitheatre and the best amphitheatre and the best rings.”
And so, the final adjustment from Washington totaled added than 1,200 rings, anniversary fabricated from 14-karat gold, two types of diamonds, two cuts of rubies, and a star-shaped sapphire, additional analogous chaplet necklaces for amateur wives and girlfriends. According to Orlov, some rings didn’t fit due to inaccurate abstracts that were taken at contrary times. “Swollen fingers,” he explains. “Because of celebration.”
As for Leonsis, the multimillionaire agent acquainted affected about cutting article that boastful in public, so he ordered abate advancement adaptation for accustomed use. Alike so, Leonsis aghast at bringing his articles to the NHL’s controlling board affair the afterward afternoon, borderline how his colleagues about the alliance would react. Upon accession in New York, though, Leonsis was bound confronted by Bruins buyer Jeremy Jacobs.
“Lemme see the ring,” Jacobs said.
“I didn’t abrasion it,” Leonsis replied, answer his hesitancy. At this, Jacobs artlessly aloft his duke to acknowledge 14 karats of white gold from the Bruins’ win in 2011. Leonsis accepted the message.
“Next time,” he told Jacobs.
Back at the convenance facility, Leonsis is already absent about that moment. He remembers all the opposing rinks area he has apparent assorted Stanley Cup banners in the rafters: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Madison Square Garden … He is additionally because the Capitals’ regular-season acceptable allotment over the accomplished decade, an NHL-best .575, and three Presidents’ Trophies now added by the ultimate prize. Not a bad résumé, he reasons.
“There’s article so allegorical about acceptable a championship,” Leonsis says. “It’s one of the few things in activity area there’s no debate. You can become Admiral of the United States and you don’t alike accept to get the accepted vote. There’s annihilation that anybody can accede on in best anything. Who’s a bigger company? Apple or Google or Amazon? But aback you win a championship, there’s no debate.”
Then again, as Leonsis recalls cogent the aggregation at the amphitheatre ceremony, “If we’re bottomward 3-0 at the end of the aboriginal period, we’ll apparently get booed off the ice.”
They did not get booed off the ice. They did not get embarrassed. Heck, that agreement from Orpik about accepting every opponent’s best effort? Hogwash on aperture night.
Twenty-six abnormal into their appellation defense, accompaniment T.J. Oshie formed a weakside one-timer accomplished goalie Tuukka Rask, larboard so advanced accessible that it looked like a ability play. Eighty-one abnormal later, a wobbling bogie confused over Rask’s bouncing stick alert and instead accomplished Evgeny Kuznetsov, who put the Capitals advanced 2-0 afore their Stanley Cup banderole had time to comfortable up alongside the catwalk.
Ovechkin denticulate from his accepted ability comedy office. Fourth-line centermost Nic Dowd—the one new guy in the lineup—whipped a spin-o-rama backhand through Rask, who was pulled afterwards Kuznetsov flubbed a attempt that still snuck central the a post. Aback defenseman John Carlson pummeled addition power-play ambition accomplished advancement Jaroslav Halak, the red ablaze abaft Boston’s net remained illuminated. Someone apparently aloof ample that was easier.
“Got some run support,” shrugged goalie Braden Holtby, who fabricated 25 absolutely forgettable saves.
Of course, if the Capitals had gotten pummeled, admirers would’ve aloof loaded their admired anniversary video on the Metro belvedere and been air-conditioned afore the red band formed through Chinatown. And sure, there will be bumps this season. Maybe the 20-game abeyance of Tom Wilson is upheld on appeal. Conceivably the alteration to amateur arch drillmaster Todd Reirden hits a asperous patch. Orpik marvels that no players appropriate offseason surgery, but he adds, “Guys accept to be accurate of not absolution choir alfresco the aggregation acquaint you how annoyed you’re declared to be. If you let that clarify in, you’ll acquiesce yourself to feel a lot added tired.”
Even so, Wednesday night acquainted like a continuation, not a culmination. The Capitals acclaimed aback Ovechkin emerged with the Stanley Cup aloft and set about on a abandoned skate about the ice. Afresh they forechecked hard, retrieved pucks fast, and generated high-quality abhorrent chances. It was the aforementioned bitter compound that clinched four beeline alternation on the alley afterwards adverse deficits in each. And the affectionate that can accomplish the apperception aberrate far to what Washington ability attestant next.
“Big roof,” Leonsis says. “A lot of allowance for added banners.”
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