Capitals fan William Chance sounded like a historian of the city’s years of frustration at watching its teams get close, only to falter at the end.
“But we have luck on our side,” he predicted as he stood in the Gallery Place Metro station Thursday evening before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“The 1978 Bullets won the championship on this date,” he said. “We’re going to win.”
But on a raucous, suspenseful night that would finally bring a championship Chance and other Washington sports fans have been waiting 26 years for, he wouldn’t be joining the sea of red jerseys riding up the escalators to a viewing party outside. He’d spend the night mostly underground, in a bright neon green WMATA vest, pointing to the fare machines.
To carry what it said Friday was 35,644 people from Gallery Place between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., after the game, WMATA extended the 11:30 closing time at three stations around the viewing parties near Capital One Arena. It also augmented regular service by stationing “gap trains” for dispatchers to call in as platforms got crowded.
And as it does for major events like inaugurals, which come regularly, and championship games, which do not, WMATA brought in employees like Chance, who usually operates trains on the Green and Yellow lines.
As fans streamed past, no one seemed to notice Chance, or even Game 4 hero Greg Walker, who was also wearing a neon green vest.
Walker, who said he usually works at the Greenbelt station, was the Metro worker who opened the gates on Monday to let two Capitals through on their way to the game. One of them, T.J. Oshie, was short 35 cents on his fare card.
Walker hadn’t realized they were hockey players. “They were skinny,” he remembered on Friday. But when Capitals fans in the station started chanting, he figured the two were needed at the game.
Oshie scored that night, instead of being stuck in the station. But Walker chuckled when asked how D.C. sports history might have been different had he been working at his usual post. “I didn’t really do anything,” he said.
In the depths of a train station, anticipation was building as Chance kept track of the back and forth score through overheard conversations: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1.
“Born and raised in D.C. Northwest,” Chance said. “Uptown!”
The score was 4-3 when dispatchers asked Chance to check out how large the crowd was at the viewing party in the plaza outside the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station.
As the minutes ticked down to seconds and then to screams, he complained about a branch blocking his view, but punched the air. “Yes! Yes!”
A few minutes later, he was back at the end of a platform at Gallery Place, as it began filling up, making a sweeping signal with his hand to tell an approaching train to go slow.
“I haven’t gotten into civilian mode,” Chance said. “I’m still working.”