Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Significance of Weightlessness

When I heard about the new hashtag for the year, #ALLCAPS, I thought, "meh."

I didn't really get it. Since I'm one prone to use caps lock a lot on Twitter, particularly about hockey, I thought maybe it was an allusion to that? I didn't understand the "we are #ALLCAPS" messages because I thought, "well, I don't play for the team, so, not really?"

However, after the parade and rally on Tuesday, I finally understood it. Watching the Capitals party through the weekend, and seeing them continue to act like over-excited children at the parade was an unexpected joy. Seeing the players' celebration shenanigans of the weekend, hearing their heartfelt speeches at the rally, and their invitation for all of us (US) to sing along with them to "We Are the Champions," I finally understood what they really meant.

Every single moment of this celebration has been shared with the fans. Whether it was through the players' individual social media accounts (Instagram stories have never been more fun) or splashing around with fans in a Georgetown fountain, the Caps have truly wanted to celebrate this championship WITH their fans. To invite their fans to become involved and feel like a part of it all. Heck, at some point during the weekend, TJ Oshie handed the Cup off (like, all of it) to a group of fans to hold over their heads.

I've never seen a team do anything like it. They very well could have kept this celebration to themselves. The fact that the players had the presence of mind to realize that not only they wanted it, but WE wanted it is amazing. And they didn't hold back on letting their personalities shine. Thank God they didn't hold back.

I remember back in the Young Guns days that people used to blame Ovechkin for the Capitals' faults because he "partied too hard." Every weekend, there were new photos of him downing vodka shots at Russia House with Alexander Semin, not to mention the infamous photos from the boat in Turkey in the offseason. Some even suggested that Ovechkin's relationship with his own mother was to blame for the team's downfalls. Beginning several years ago, the light playfulness Ovechkin used to share with fans and the media died down a bit. His answers in media scrums became clipped, and his tone during interviews was usually stoic.

Sure, he'd still goof off at practice every now and then, but it was evident that the scrutiny, year after year, was getting to him.

Cut to Tuesday.

The Stanley Cup weighs 34.5 pounds, yet every time a Washington Capitals player hoisted it over his head at the rally, it was a reminder that the Cup represents a weight lifted.

I can't describe how happy it made me to see the old Ovechkin. The one who doesn't give a shit what words might fly out of his mouth in front of the media. The fun-loving one that enjoys being a goofball with his friends, dancing around in the club or even in the locker room at Capital One Arena before the parade. The one that dives into a public fountain and starts breaststroking.

It was everything seeing TJ Oshie drink a beer through his damn jersey and pouring it on his head upon his name being announced. It was everything seeing the unlikely hero, newly-shaven Brett Connolly just wordlessly head to the front of the stage and chug a beer.

It was everything seeing Nicklas Backstrom truly smiling for the first time since I've known him. He hasn't stopped smiling since. To see him share this with Alex Ovechkin, his long-time friend and teammate, has been so special.

It was everything seeing Philipp Grubauer, who I've been a fan of since he was 17, sprint off the bus during the parade and wave a DC flag over his shoulders and not let the dang thing go THE ENTIRE TIME. It was everything seeing Devante Smith-Pelly get all the recognition he deserves, particularly in the form of at least one, if not two "D-S-P" chants.

It was everything watching Nathan Walker, the first Australian to ever play in the NHL, score a goal in the NHL, get a point in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and win a Stanley Cup get overturned by Ovechkin and Wilson. It was everything seeing Jakub Vrana make his case for favorite new-ish player when we hadn't seen all his personality before.

This team of wonderful dorks had been so missed. They've been stifled for so long, and seeing them let loose has been the best thing about winning the Stanley Cup.

Despite the lack of sleep, the intense sunburn and subsequent sun poisoning, the days missed from work, I wouldn't have missed this parade for the world.

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