Last Monday I went to my first NHL game to see my favorite hockey team, the Washington Capitals, play the Las Vegas Golden Knights. It was everything, and not just because I was watching my favorite team play. To understand why, let me back up a bit. Living in Utah is a bit like living in a pro-sports desert, with the exception of basketball and MLS. This obviously means we don’t have an NHL team. I have always loved sports, yet, hockey was one that I didn’t get in on from the beginning, perhaps because we did not go to hockey games growing up. It wasn’t until I dragged my sister Laura and my best friend Michelle (yes, we know each other IRL, too) to a lower division hockey game that I discovered how amazing hockey could be. Anyone with a basic knowledge of hockey would have been aghast at our lack of hockey knowledge on display at that game; I had to figure out what a power play was (when the other team is down a player because of tripping, high sticking or something deemed worth time in the penalty box). I did not, however, share this knowledge with Laura and Michelle, although we all seemed to really enjoy cheering for the power plays. Hilariously enough, in the 3rd period I discovered my sister and Michelle actually had no idea what they were cheering for each time Power Play echoed across the arena. Our enthusiasm carried us through that first game, and I was hooked. Hockey was my jam. (Laura later bought season tickets, enjoying hockey despite having no apparently clue what was happening).
My heart and soul belong to the major sports teams of D.C., so naturally I am a Capitals fan, and I have been watching them for over a decade. But like all Washington sports teams, being a fan has been like riding a roller coaster. The Capitals would play great and then crash and burn in the playoffs. Or they would barely make the playoffs and win and then lose the next playoff series. So two years ago, the Capital’s playoff run was met with trepidation. I am a realistic DC fan, which means “hopeful with a side of logic.” As a result, our path to the championship was exhausting and exhilarating. A long shot by any account, the Capitals made it to the finals and, even with good friends and many in the sports world picking and cheering for the opponent, we won.
That brings us to the game last week. The D.C. vs Vegas game was a perfect situation. It was possibly a chance to see one of the current greatest players, Alexander Ovechkin, score his 700th goal, which is an incredible feat (many compare him to the great Wayne Gretzky as the second fastest player to reach that achievement). I knew Vegas would put on a great show, and they didn’t disappoint. Vegas fans are are very committed and also have a pretty strong dislike for the Capitals (the Capitals beat Vegas to win the championship), so they enjoyed the first two periods: It was a shut out for the Capitals and Vegas scored three times. Watching, I was disappointed but was luck enough to have a few Capitals fans sitting around us, so we were ready to rally in the 3rd. And rally we did, keeping Vegas scoreless in the 3rd. We fell short, through, only scoring two goals (Ovechkin didn’t score). However, as a fulfillment of one of my dreams, it was one of the best sport experiences I’d had in a long time. I was engaged in the game that there were moments when the puck would almost go in or get blocked that I thought for sure I had stopped breathing. The Vegas fans loved that Ovechkin didn’t score, and the Capitals fans loved that we still beat them in that championship game (yes, trash talk may have occurred on the way out of the stadium, my other favorite sport activity).
Now it’s time to plan a Capitals game in D.C.
Like I needed an excuse.