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What the Stanley Cup means: A fan's perspective

What the Stanley Cup means: A fan's perspective

It’s been 26 years since Washington last celebrated a championship.

Twenty-six long years.

Washington has four major sports teams yet none has won a championship since January 26, 1992 when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI. That’s an entire generation of fans that have never known a championship, that have never gotten to experience what we got to experience on Thursday.

I’m in that generation.

I fell in love with sports when I was three years old. My parents took me to a Capitals-Winnipeg Jets (the old Jets) game at the Capital Centre in Landover. I remember the chill in the air, the crack of the puck on the sticks and, most of all, the celebration whenever the Caps would score. It was incredible. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Back then, I didn’t know about playoffs and championships. The Caps played a game, they won or lost, you were happy or sad, and you moved on. When the Redskins won the Super Bowl, I knew there was a game being played, but I didn’t know what it meant. I spent most of the game playing with other kids while our parents watched. I didn’t know that was the football team I would grow up cheering for and I certainly didn’t know that would be the only experience I would have with a championship team.

Until now, that is.

Since that last Super Bowl, Washington fans have had to endure bad seasons, coaching changes, management changes, and heartbreak with the Caps, Redskins, Nationals and Wizards.

Through it all, you always heard the phrase “Same old Caps,” but it didn’t feel that way to me. Each year was different. Each year carried a new team with new hopes and potential. When each season seemed to end prematurely, it wasn’t just the same old Caps, it was a new heartbreak each and every time.

Have you ever tried to explain your fandom and emotions to someone who doesn’t like sports? It has to be one of the most infuriating feelings in the world.

“Why are you so upset? It’s just a game.”

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“There’s always next year.”

No, stop. You don’t get it.

It’s more than just a game. That’s why we see pictures of troops overseas with gear of their favorite sports team and watching games together. That’s why we see incredible stories of people like Amanda Wilson who continues to cheer on the Caps while getting treated for cancer.

For me, when I got married in 2013 and my wife wanted a June wedding, I made sure it was in the last weekend of June just in case the Caps made it to the Final. When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, she told me by laying out a Caps onesie for me to find. I made sure he had a jersey when he was born. I have a picture of him draped in it sitting on my desk at work.

It's more than just a game. And yes, sports can cause lots of heartache, but we accept those bad times because we knew that at some point, it would all be worth it.

On Thursday, it all became worth it.

All the years of heartbreak, forgotten. The struggles against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Forgotten. Jaroslav Halak? Forgotten.

None of that matters now because finally, finally the Capitals have brought a championship back to Washington.

This is a championship for all of Washington, but it is particularly special for Capitals fans. The Caps had to earn their place in Washington where the Redskins and Wizards are institutions. There were a lot of lean years for the Caps, years that made you wonder if this day would ever come.

But with Alex Ovechkin came interest, acceptance, validation and now a championship.

As someone who has been a diehard sports fan for all my life, to hear that this is not a real sports city, a "minor league" sports town as some have referred to it, I bristle.

You know what's not minor league? The devastation we all felt through the years after all the postseason heartbreak. You know what's not minor league? The absolute joy we all felt when Ovechkin finally hoisted the Cup.

You can't look at the streets of the city of Washington, filled with red, and say this is not a sports town. You can't look at Capital One Arena packed to the gills even when the Caps were on the road and say this is not a sports town.

My son has never known a Capitals team that has lost to the Penguins. He has never known a Stanley Cup champion other than the Caps. And that makes me smile. There's nothing minor league about that.

No, I personally didn't win anything. I wasn't on the ice, I didn't play.

But you know what? That jersey the Caps were wearing? It says "Washington" on it. This win was for all of us.

Washington is a city of champions once again. Enjoy it fans because you never know how long it will take to bring another championship home.

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Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

During the Caps big win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, Alex Ovechkin passed Finnish great Teemu Selanne on the all-time goal list, bringing him to 11th overall. He currently stands at 689 goals and his next target on the list is Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux at 690.

With Ovechkin closing in on yet another goal-scorer, Selanne took to Twitter to say that he believes Ovechkin will be the one to pass Wayne Gretzky's mark of 894 goals.

Selanne isn't the only one who believes the Great Eight can catch up to the Great One. Nicklas Backstrom thinks his captain can do it, Sidney Crosby agrees with that assessment,  and the Great One himself said that Ovi has elevated the way the game has been played with his goal-scoring pursuit.

Ovi's take on it all? That if he's able to complete the feat he'll retire immediately. Ovi needs 205 more goals to reach that mark.

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Capitals at Islanders Game 49: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals at Islanders Game 49: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

The Capitals travel to Long Island to take on former head coach Barry Trotz and the third place New York Islanders.

Washington is coming off a win against the New Jersey Devils, while the Isles dropped their most recent bout with the New York Rangers.

Can the Caps pull off the win, or will Trotz get revenge against his former team? Tune in to find out.

CAPITALS-ISLANDERS GAME 49: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at New York Islanders

Where: Nassau Coliseum, East Garden City, New York

When: Saturday, January 18, 1:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Islanders game will be broadcast on NBC Sports. (NBC Sports channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Islanders on NBC Sports live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-ISLANDERS TV SCHEDULE:

12:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

12:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

1:00 PM: Capitals @ Islanders (LIVE)

2:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

3:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS-ISLANDERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: None

Islanders: RW Cal Clutterbuck, wrist, out indefinitely

LW Michael Dal Colle, upper-body injury, day-to-day

D Adam Pelech, achilles, out indefinitely

CAPITALS AT ISLANDERS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (31-16-47)

Ovechkin notched his 25th career hat trick against the New Jersey Devils, and stands third in the NHL's goal scoring race behind David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews. 

Mat Barzal, F, Islanders (17-22-39)

The Islanders' All-Star forward is having another stellar season, and leads the team in points again.

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