Pucks replace politics as Capitals fever grips Washington

Washington Capitals fans massed outside Capital One Arena for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals cheer a pre-game performance by the band Fall Out Boy
AFP

Washington (AFP) – Washington is known more for politics than pucks — but ice hockey fever is sweeping the US capital, with the hometown Capitals one win away from capturing their first-ever Stanley Cup.

The city is “Rocking the Red,” the team color, as the Capitals hold a 3-1 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights in the best-of-seven National Hockey League finals.

A title in any of the four major US professional sports — American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey — has eluded Washington for decades.

The last championship team was the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, winner of the January 1992 Super Bowl.

The only other time the Capitals made the Stanley Cup finals — in 1998 — they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in four games.

Washington has a notoriously fickle fan base, in part because many of its residents come from elsewhere to work for the government or are in the military.

They tend to root for their “home” teams rather than those based in Washington — the Capitals, the Redskins, the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball and the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association.

But the possibility of the first Stanley Cup title in the Capitals’ 43-year history has sent the capital city into a frenzy of “Caps” pride.

“A win would mean a lot,” said Rebecca Froling, 23, a Capitals season ticket holder. “I can’t even fathom.”

Destination displays on the city’s buses flashed “!!! GO CAPS !!!” and “We are ALL CAPS” banners waved outside restaurants and firehouses.

Local radio station WRNR declared itself an “Imagine Dragons”-free zone after the band, from Las Vegas, performed before Game 2 in “Sin City.”

Meanwhile, national chain Dunkin’ Donuts offered a “Caps Win, You Win” promotion handing out free iced coffees the day after a Capitals victory.

– ‘Wonder Woman’ in the house –

DC celebrities have shown their support including “Wonder Woman” actress and long-time Washington resident Lynda Carter, who attended Games 3 and 4 wearing a jersey sporting the name of Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom.

Washington Nationals ace pitcher Max Scherzer and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman were also on hand for Game 4, dressed in helmets and waving hockey sticks and leading the capacity crowd of 18,506 in a chant of “Let’s Go Caps!”

NBC sports anchor Sherree Burruss tweeted a picture of herself in her wedding dress in front of the Game 3 score with the caption: “When the Capitals win on your wedding night.”

Capitals fans have turned the blocks around Capital One Arena into a giant street party on game nights.

After Saturday’s first-ever home win in the Stanley Cup, thousands of fans wearing red jerseys gathered on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery chanting “We want the Cup!”

Sting, Shaggy and Fall Out Boy have performed on the museum’s steps ahead of the two home games, and the Capitals have provided outdoor viewing areas for fans unable to get into the sold-out arena.

“DC hasn’t had anything like this for as long as I can remember,” said Corky Logsdon, 76.

Game 5 is in Las Vegas on Thursday and Capitals fans are hoping their team comes home with the Stanley Cup.

If not, they’ll have another shot at the title in Washington in Game 6 on Sunday.

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