What It’s Like to be a Washington Capitals Fan

It’s now been a few days since the NHL’s Washington Capitals’ season ended without raising the Stanley Cup.  This is the 36th season in a row that this has happened.  In fact, it’s happened every single year of the franchise’s existence.  As fans, we’ve come to expect that.

Unfortunately, for us fans, it’s not just that the Caps have failed to win the Stanley Cup.  It’s how they’ve done it.

Photo Courtesy Yahoo Sports

They’ve made the playoffs 22 of their 36 seasons.  But, in those 22 playoff opportunities, they’ve lost to a lower seeded team 13 times and lost after leading in the series 16 times, include four losses when they were up three games to one in a seven game series.  For more about the futility, you can read about it at Japers’ Rink.

Somehow, we fans keep coming back each year with eternal optimism and hope that “this season” is our year.  We somehow sign up to suffer again.

Yes, it’s just sports.  “At least you have your health,” my grandmother used to say.  We’ve not lost our job, been hit by a tornado or lost our home to a flood.  Being a Washington Capitals’ fan is frustrating and disappointing.

Want to understand?  Being a Caps’ fan feels like:

  • Drinking a delicious McDonald’s egg nog or mint shake on the last day of their short Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day availability, knowing you have to wait 11 months to get another.
  • Getting a front row ticket for the last show of a limited run musical or play, only to have the understudies perform and ruin it.
  • Driving from Miami to New York on I-95 at 10 mph over the speed limit and making the best time you’ve every made, but then getting a speeding ticket in New Jersey for going 56 in a 55 mph zone.
  • Attending a mid-season baseball game and being stuck in a beer line while your team comes back from 10 runs down, but then returning to your seat just in time to watch them let the other team win by committing three errors in a row.
  • Buying the latest DVR to record a show you’ve been dying to see and isn’t on again for a few months, then returning home to learn a sudden thunderstorm ruined the satellite signal.
  • Finally getting reservations at the best restaurant in town just before it closes for renovations, getting dressed up with your spouse, and then busting a fan belt on the way there.
  • Buying an upper-deck seat to a concert, slowly moving towards the stage occupying empty seats, but then getting kicked out by security after the seatholder arrives 90 minutes after the concert starts.
  • Waiting all summer with you group of best friends to visit your local amusement park on the last weekend of the season, then finding out that all of your favorite rides are closed for the season already.
  • Watching a fantastic, suspenseful movie on DVD, having the DVD crap out 10 minutes before the end, and not having another copy when it’s already too late to run back to the store.
  • Getting hours or days deep into World of Warcraft or Portal 2 or Halo, only to have the Internet die and realize that none of your progress had been saved.
  • Waiting four years of college to ask out the girl you first saw freshman year, having her say yes, planning out a spectacular date on the last night before you fly home, but then being forced to cancel because your mom needs you to take her to the doctor to get her boils lanced.

But, wait!!

Now imagine if any of those things happened to you, not once, but over again in 22 of the last 36 years.

That, my friends, is what it’s like to be Washington Capitals’ fan.


A Tweeting Ovechkin is a Happy Ovechkin is a Winning Ovechkin

On January 30, 2009, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals stopped tweeting.

Ovechkin's Last Tweet for 14 Months

Suddenly, on March 2, 2011, he returned.

Yes! A Tweeting Ovechkin!

In just under two weeks since this tweet, Ovechkin has tweeted another 65 times.  Since his return to Twitter on March 2, the Capitals have won 5 games in a row.  Scoring in each of these 5 games, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 5 assists, a game winning goal, and the only shoot out goal in a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Beating the Blues 3-2 on March 3

Going back a bit farther, the Capitals have won 9 of their last 10 games, and Ovechkin has 4 goals and 8 assists in those 9 victories.  If it wasn’t for a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the New York Rangers, Ovechkin might very well have a 10 game point streak on its hands.

After Beating the Lightning on March 7

Statistics show that the Caps have improved this season on defense, but statistics also show that Ovechkin is having a bad year (or at least one less productive than earlier years).  Pundits say that Ovie is weighed down by the Capitals’ playoff failures and Team Russia’s Olympic failures.  They say that he isn’t himself, and that he might be hurt.

Now, Ovechkin’s point streak and the Capitals’ success are leaving some of these critics with nothing to say.  When other teams see a happy Ovechkin, an Ovechkin slamming against the boards after scoring, an Ovechkin enjoying himself, an Ovechkin tweeting again, they are scared.  Nothing appears to be weighing him down now.  Whatever “himself” is, that’s what Ovechkin is now.  And that’s good for the Caps and their fans.

Thanks for Letting Us Know!

Hockey Heaven

Last night was all about Steven Strasburg.   Even ESPN had to set aside its normal NBA bias to showcase the Nats’ #37.  His performance was spectacular.   I defy anyone to hit his curve ball.  My only concern arises from memories of players like Mark Prior or Joe Charboneau.  One game doesn’t make a career.

Tonight is all about hockey.  I’m sitting in Chez Spidey writing this on my work laptop.  The home desktop has two windows up on the 22″ screen.  To the left, I have a streaming feed of AHL Calder Cup Final Game 4 between the Hershey Bears and the Texas Stars.  Texas is up in the series 2-1, but Hershey has momentum, having won game 3.  To the right, I have Slingbox up showing NHL Stanley  Cup Final Game 6 between the Blackhawks and the Flyers.  Blackhawks lead the series 3-2 and can close it out tonight.   (Even more, I’ve got my friends at Japers’ Rink up in another window, with dueling conversations about both games.)

For me, nothing is better than the tension of playoff hockey.  Both games might end up as blowouts, but it’s very unlikely. As I write, Bears-Stars is 1-1, and Flyers-Blackhawks are 2-2.
The next goal in either game could very well decide the game, even though there would be more than a period left to play.

Imagine if the Celtics and Lakers were tied early in the 3rd quarter and a basket by Kobe or by Garnett became the last points of the game.   Obviously, that will never ever happen.  For that reason, NBA games aren’t interesting until fourth quarter late.  NHL games can be decided in the first minutes of the first period.  It’s about the tension, the back and forth, the momentum, the mishaps and the superstars.

I’m rooting tonight for the Bears (the Caps’ farm team), but also for the Flyers, as I want the SCF extended to game 7.  I want one more night of hockey heaven before I see another Stanley Cup or Calder Cup raised.

USA Hockey Wins!

I wouldn’t be living up to my dedication to ice hockey, if I didn’t drop a quick post tonight celebrating the USA victory in the World Junior Hockey Championships. (Junior – by the way, means hockey players 20 years old or younger.) The boys won 6-5 over Canada in overtime. You can bet we were watching in HD on the NHL network.

When the game started, I was on my way to pick up my son from his high school hockey practice, and I was listening to the game on XM. They had a story about the parents of these hockey players and the dedication they showed in getting their boys to the rink early and often from a young age to now. That struck home with me. As one of those parents and a coach, I celebrate the boys’ parents tonight. The boys won the game, but I guarantee you that every one of their parents (and grandparents) had tears of joy reflecting on those 6:00am car rides in snow and ice on Saturday mornings. It is indeed a labor of love.

(By the way — I’m greedy. In one week, the USA has one the U17 and U20 tournaments. The only one left? The Olympics. Here we come Vancouver.)