Jagr Arrives With a Message; Of Stanley Cup Win, New Capital Says, 'Hopefully We're Going to Do It'
By Jim Reedy
Trailed by a swirl of hustling media members, Jaromir Jagr made his unofficial debut as a Washington Capital yesterday, emerging from customs to greet 300 or so fans who gathered at Dulles International Airport to welcome him to his new city.
After a long day of travel from Prague in his native Czech Republic, Jagr grinned as fans whistled and cheered. While cameras flashed left and right, he shook fans' hands and kept moving to a podium set up for the occasion. When the fans finished bellowing "C-A-P-S" and calmed down enough to hear him, Jagr was brief, thanking them for the raucous welcome and expressing his excitement at the opportunity he feels the Capitals have to win the Stanley Cup.
A quick U-turn through the automatic doors and Jagr, acquired last week in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was out by the curb, pausing to make a comment about his hopes for a Cup while a black stretch limousine was readied for him.
"There are 30 teams who want to do the same thing," said Jagr, whose official news conference is scheduled for this morning, "but I think we have a very good team and hopefully we're going to do it."
And that was just what fans wanted to hear.
"It's an exciting time for the Caps and it's exciting to be here," said Tom Edwards, who was joined by his wife, Angie, and their three young children. "I didn't think this many people would show up, and I didn't know what would happen, but it's pretty cool."
The first chant of "Let's go, Caps!" went up at 3:15 p.m. although Jagr, whose flight from Prague was delayed on its connection in Frankfurt, Germany, arrived around 4:45 p.m. -- 1 hour 30 minutes behind schedule.
The enthusiastic turnout "is a testament to [Jagr], first of all," Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis said. "He is a dynamic, charismatic player. We've seen him for so many years whip us so I'm really pleased our fans understand the kind of person and player this guy is and they've turned out here to welcome him to the city."
"Slapshot," the Capitals' mascot, entertained the crowd during the wait, but he had competition for mascot of the day. Ira Gluck and his friends brandished a three-foot inflatable penguin Gluck had dressed in a Capitals jersey.
"I was hoping to get it signed here on the belly," Gluck said, lifting the penguin's jersey.
There were more Penguins jerseys than penguins with jerseys with a handful of fans wearing the yellow-and-black of Jagr's former team. Sterling native Chris Murgen, 22, got his Jagr jersey when he began following hockey this past season and said he is thrilled to have his favorite player in Washington.
The Edwardses were among those decked out in Capitals jerseys. Their 17-month-old twins, Cameron and Ashley, have not quite noticed hockey just yet, but Katie, 4 1/2, enjoyed the one game she attended last season.
"I liked it when we went there to see them on ice," Katie chimed in from atop her dad's shoulders.
Leonsis cannot resist imagining the celebration.
"If you think this is a nice turnout, wait 'til we win one [Cup]," Leonsis said with a smile.
Capitals Note: The only Capitals player eligible for arbitration, Andrei Nikolishin, did not file by the July 15 deadline. Nikolishin, Jeff Halpern and Trent Whitfield are the team's remaining unsigned restricted free agents.Jaromir Jagr, recently arrived from Prague, gets a good look at some of his new fans who greeted him at Dulles International Airport.Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis leads Jaromir Jagr to his limousine at Dulles.Jaromir Jagr's arrival from Europe was delayed 90 minutes but didn't dampen enthusiasm of Caps fans.
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