Washington Capitals bring nation's capital the title city was yearning for

Jay Asser 18:41 08/06/2018
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Washington fans cheer during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital, but the shortcomings of the city’s teams over the years have kept it from being anything close to a sports capital.

While fellow east coast elites like Boston and New York vacuumed up championships, and other major markets like Los Angeles and Chicago won their fair share, the District of Columbia was unable to break away from a constant state of disappointment.

Until now. Washington is again a city of champions as the Capitals, fittingly the area’s most frustrating team, delivered D.C.’s first title since 1992 by lifting the Stanley Cup.

Between Washington’s four major sports teams – in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL – it had been 71 combined seasons since the last D.C. franchise even reached the championship game or series. The Capitals not only got there, they overcame the Vegas Golden Knights fairytale to break through.

‘Our year’ was this year. There was no collapse this time after going up 3-1 in a series. The other shoe never dropped. It may still feel surreal to Capitals fans, but yes, they actually did it.

The disappointment and apathy is gone. The only feeling Washington sports are inspiring today is pure, unadulterated happiness. And the city needed it.

There are only 13 cities in the U.S. that have teams represented in all four major sports leagues, and of those 13, only Washington and Minnesota hadn’t celebrated at least one title since the turn of the century before Thursday.

It’s not as if D.C.’s teams hadn’t come close, which is in a way even more painful because it’s the hope that kills you in the end. And none of Washington’s franchises have inspired more hope, only to subsequently crush it, than the Capitals.

Washington’s NFL side were actually the team to bring home that title in 1992, but since then they’ve made the playoffs just five times, failing to get out of the second round on each occasion.

In the NBA, the Wizards have similarly failed to clear the hurdle that is the second round, falling short of the conference finals in their last 16 postseason appearances.

The Nationals, meanwhile, somewhat mercifully have a shorter history in MLB after moving from Montreal in 2005, which means they’ve only been able to lose the Division Series the four times they’ve reached the playoffs.

The Capitals weren’t much different as they fell in the second round in their previous 12 trips, but the sheer volume of their playoff appearances – no team in any of the four major leagues had as many playoff visits before winning a title – left Washington fans feeling numb.

Throw on top of that how the Capitals have crashed out season after season, including five blown 3-1 series leads – more than any team across the four major leagues – and you begin to understand just how much disappointment the nation’s capital has had to cope with.

But all of that feels like ancient history now. The Capitals have exorcised their demons, and with it the city’s as a whole, in cathartic fashion, appropriately capped with a third-period comeback in Game 5 to squash any chance of another season ending in heartbreak.

Alex Ovechkin is no longer one of the greatest players who never reached the top of the mountain. It took him 13 seasons – the second-longest wait for an MVP in any sport before winning a title – but he got there. He’s no longer stranded with Barry Bonds in the exclusive, but undesirable club of players to win at least three MVPs but never a championship.

In a stroke of serendipity, the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas, allowing Ovechkin and his teammates to paint ‘Sin City’ red for the coming days or even weeks. Back in Washington, the party will rage on as the city savours an accomplishment that has eluded them for so long and so maddeningly.

It’s here now though. The District of Columbia is finally the District of Champions.

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