(Warning: Story contains coarse language)
WASHINGTON – For the last four days, the Washington Capitals have celebrated their Stanley Cup win by partying all over D.C. The festivities continued with one of the biggest events in the city in maybe 25 years (presidential inaugurations aside) - their championship parade.
Beginning just after 11 a.m. Tuesday, the parade wound its way down 23rd Street to Constitution Avenue, where people were packed 10 deep in spots, past a crowd packed 20 deep on the steps of the National Archives building, and eventually coming to the National Mall, where thousands of fans were waiting. Framed by the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, a sea of red almost stretched to both landmarks.
Braden Holtby won't forget it.
"I want to thank everyone for coming out here. Being on those buses, you guys are yelling 'thank you' to us," the goaltender said. "I want to say thank you to you guys because every time I drive on Constitution for the rest of my life, I'm gonna remember this day and how amazing it was, and it's all because of you guys."
Those people waited a long time for what they saw Tuesday - some since 1974, others since 1992, the last time a D.C.-based team won anything. The team waited a long time, too: 14 years for Alex Ovechkin; 11 for Nicklas Backstrom; 19 years for head coach Barry Trotz.
And though it might have come a bit later in their careers than they would have liked, they couldn’t have asked for a better day - not a cloud in the sky, 78 degrees, and a light breeze that seemed to kick up at just the right time.
After the buses unloaded their passengers at the end of the parade, the players, team staff, management, and owners took the stage.
The Prince of Wales Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Stanley Cup were placed at the forefront. A few players made speeches. Almost everyone who spoke commented on the fan support throughout the season and the playoffs and the turnout for the parade and rally. Some of them, of course, chugged beers.
"I'll tell you what, going through these streets, seeing how many people that are out here, how many people came out to support us, how many people supported us since the beginning when apparently we weren't supposed to be very good this year," forward T.J. Oshie said.
Ovechkin was impressed too.
"Look at the people that's here," he said. "We thought it was going to be crazy, but it's basically nuts. You guys are killing it."
After apologizing for the hoarseness of his voice, Backstrom joked that the Capitals finally started playing hockey the same way they can party. Later, he was asked if he'd had enough of celebrating.
"It just started," the veteran center said.
He's right. Every player still gets to have their day with the Cup, and training camp is nearly three months away. They’re just getting started.
And though the championship win is still fresh, Oshie hinted at what he and this teammates might be thinking next season.
"There's been a lot of chants. There's been 'Let's Go Caps,' there's been 'We Want the Cup,' we've heard in the streets 'We've Got the Cup.' We've got a new one for you today: 'Back to back,'" he said. He led that chant for a few moments before Ovechkin took over.
The superstar, obviously in his element, said his thank-yous and then led the ocean of people in singing his new favorite song, "We Are the Champions."
Then Ovechkin came back to the mic.
"I said - not me say it, it was just us saying, 'WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE FUCKING SUCK THIS YEAR!' WE'RE THE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS! YEAH!"
Party on, Capitals.