We are a mere hours away from the Caps first game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The game that you grew up on is finally back. Where your dad plopped you down on the couch when you could barely walk, beer in his hand and a Hi-C for you. You liked the flashy plays, the gleaming ice, following the bright colors. Then you learned to get excited on break aways, and that it was o.k. to yell at inanimate objects like a t.v. when the game wasn’t going your way. You began to understand that it made your night a little bit better when the Caps won, and that some losses were tougher to get over than others. You had your favorite players, and the ones you secretly hoped got traded. You learned to hate the Penguins. The names of the players became as common in your house as your own. You know, like “hey Mom, Bondra’s gone," or “Oh no. Dad, Green just got hit in the head again.” Everyone knew who you were talking about.
You get to go to the Verizon Center again. You get to see the beautiful ice that seems to get brighter each time you see it. The crowd gets antsy with excitement as the players take the ice. The roar of the word “red” will certainly take place during the national anthem, and I’m willing to bet that you will also hear a bellow of “O’s” towards the end. You’ll hear the sounds of the puck hitting the sticks, the crashing of the boards, the occasional yell for a pass, and maybe a goal siren. You’ll hear the horn guy leading a chant, or the shockingly loud voice of our very own Loud Goat (LET’S GO CAPS). You might even get to Unleash the Fury, which seems to work every time we need it to.
But it’s fun to watch it at home too. You’ll hear the play by play of Joe Beninati ("A LASER shot") and Craig Laughlin ("Rewind the play, THERE! THERE! HOLD IT RIGHT THERE”). You get to see the terrible Hadeed Carpet commericals, or the Mercedes Benz of Alexandria commercial (I’m gonna need a BIG cup holder). Or maybe you’re watching a Sunday matinee. You’ll get to hear Doc Emrick’s shrill, excited voice when a shot goes ten feet wide, and Pierre McGuire’s inside the glass “insight.” Peggy will certainly give terrible customer service to a famous hockey player.
But what you’re really interested in seeing is the team this year. You’ll see Ovie’s bull in a china shop style, blaring down the side and ripping whatever shot he can. Backstrom is sure to weave through the defense, and to your disbelief, he will make that impossible pass. Hendricks is going to paralyze a goaltender in the shoot out, and I’m sure Erskine’s got another powerful fight in him. Mike Green will sneak back door on the power play for an easy goal. Mathieu Perreault is gonna grind in the boards, all 5 foot 10 of him. Not to be outdone by Marcus Johansson, though he might do it a bit more gracefully. Beagle is gonna lay down and block a shot, but so will Carlson and Alzner. We will surely see Chimera use his shocking speed to completely blow past a defender, and if he misses the shot, then I’m willing to bet Laich, Brouwer, or even Ward is there to clean it up. Orlov will hip check somebody so good, I just know it. Holtby is going to impress, but he should know that he has Neuvirth breathing down his neck.
You of course will have to get used fresh faces in D.C. this year, some old and some new. Ribeiro “looks like a rapper” , but I don’t know too many rappers who can dangle a puck like he can. Wolski is looking to revive his career, something that many Caps in the recent past have been able to do, so of course he will. Crabb looks to add grit to this team, and will be strong on the penalty kill. You of course have to welcome back Tom Poti, who is looking to bounce back from his recent injuries. Oh, and our Winter Classic hero is back too. But, you can’t forget about our new coaching staff, all familiar faces of the past in Washington with Oates, Calle Johansson, and Tim Hunter.
You again are filled with that hope that this will be the year we finally win the cup. Where we see Ovie’s toothless smile hoist the cup over his head with thousands of people Rocking the Red screaming in triumph, and you will forever be able to sit at the bar and swap your hockey stories about that time the Caps won the Cup (Remember Holtby’s save? Can you believe SCHULTZ of all people scored that game winner?)
You’ll create new memories with the sport you love, with the people you love. Whether it’s the time you jumped up in excitement and spilled your drink on yourself, or it’s the time you laughed at the little kids playing so hard between the periods, or maybe it’s the crushing game 7 loss when you thought we were so close to getting it this year.
Hockey is back. Our game is back. So, here’s to a great season.