In 1995 the New Jersey Devils formalized the tradition that every major contributor toward an NHL championship would get one full day with the Stanley Cup. The moments with which these contributors fill those days are of their own choosing. But all of those moments were earned through the trial and toil of the past season, one that led to the first title in Washington Capitals franchise history.
Day 62 | Quebec City
Alex Chiasson’s year began with no contract offer when he came to the Washington Capitals’ training camp on a professional tryout. It ended with him becoming a Stanley Cup champion, skating around the ice at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with the Cup clenched between both hands.
The 27-year-old Canadian right winger was once again reunited with the Stanley Cup over the weekend. After Chiasson’s day with the Stanley Cup was originally scheduled for mid-July, it was rescheduled for Sept. 2 and took place in Quebec City. He returned to his high school, Seminaire Saint-Francois, wearing a jersey from his old stomping grounds as he took photos with the plethora of students and fans waiting in line.
Accompanying Chiasson, was Las Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, who also attended Seminaire Saint-Francois. The two NHL players are close friends and Chiasson described Marchessault as “part of his family” to local media in Quebec City. Prior to the public appearance, Chiasson visited the banks of the St. Lawrence River for a private gathering and also visited a local hospital.
While not a major contributor to the Capitals this season, Chiasson was one of the crucial new additions for the Capitals playoff push, alongside valuable players in Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Michal Kempny and Christian Djoos. Chiasson played in 61 games last season, scoring nine goals and had nine assists, and was a healthy scratch in the Stanley Cup Finals against Las Vegas.
He told the Capitals’ Mike Vogel after the season that he felt the games he did get to play in for the Capitals were some of the best games he’s played in his career. Chiasson’s lone goal of the playoffs came at a critical time for the Capitals -- scoring the first goal in Washington’s clinching 2-1 overtime win in Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Chiasson is now an unrestricted free agent with training camp two weeks away. With other free agent possibilities and prospects the Capitals will look to bring up, his hockey future in Washington is still up in the air. — Samantha PellRead more
Day 59 | Boston
Compared to the rest of his Capitals teammates, Brooks Orpik is a Stanley Cup-day veteran. The 38-year-old defenseman was the only Washington player who’d won the trophy before this past summer, and after a somewhat tumultuous offseason, Orpik had an intimate second stint with the Stanley Cup in his Massachusetts home.
The Cup visited a golf course, Orpik’s wine cellar and Cohasset Beach, where the Orpiks took family photos with the trophy – his two daughters each wore tutus. They used the silver bowl to build an ice cream sundae, and Orpik then brought the Cup to a local coffee shop where people could take pictures with the two of them. Just as when Orpik won a championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, he brought the trophy to the Boston College campus, his alma mater.
As the summer unfolded, it was unclear if Orpik would be a member of the Capitals by the time his day with the Stanley Cup arrived. To clear salary cap room, Washington traded him to the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL Draft as part of the deal that included goaltender Philipp Grubauer. But the Avalanche then bought-out the remainder of Orpik’s contract, making him a free agent. A month later, he was back with the Capitals on a one-year, $1 million deal.
Retaining him in that roundabout way meant Washington will return its same seven defensemen from its postseason run, and though Orpik has often been criticized for a style of play that doesn’t contribute to the offensive attack, he scored a game-winning goal in Game 2 of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup finals series against the Vegas Golden Knights. More significantly, he helped set the tone with physicality throughout the playoffs, and that became a defining trait in Washington’s championship.
Orpik’s day with the Stanley Cup ended with a boat ride, the Stanley Cup’s silver reflecting the sunset and then the evening Boston skyline. The Capitals have a goal to repeat as champions this season, which could mean Orpik and the trophy reuniting again a year from now. — Isabelle KhurshudyanRead more
Days 52 and 53 | Saskatoon and Humboldt, Saskatchewan
Even before the Washington Capitals hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time, forward Chandler Stephenson was considering how he’d spend his day with the trophy, and how he’d honor a community that he’d grieved for since April.
Stephenson grew up roughly an hour away from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, but the hockey community in that part of Canada is tightknit, so when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League collided with a truck, killing 16 people and injuring 13 others, Stephenson felt the loss in Washington. He’d trained with two of the players who were injured, and others were friends of friends. He knew all about riding the bus in the Canadian prairies and feeling as if it were the safest place in the world.
Stephenson had a personal day with the Stanley Cup in Saskatoon, and then he had a second one for Humboldt Hockey Day, hosted by the NHL and the players’ association to support the community. The trophy’s Hockey Hall of Fame minders brought the trophy to the crash site in the morning, and then Stephenson shared the Cup privately with the families involved in the accident. The public was later allowed to take pictures with Stephenson and the trophy. Eighteen other current and former NHLers participated in the event.
“All you can do is give your condolences,” Stephenson told NHL.com. “Nothing can replace a life, so you just try to help out as much as you can. That's what this day was all about.”
Stephenson started the season off the Capitals’ roster, cut from training camp after he was surprisingly beat out for a forward spot. But injuries created an opportunity for redemption, and his versatility — he played every forward position and on every line last season — made him an asset, especially during Washington’s playoff run. A rookie who was often out of the spotlight, Stephenson happily stepped into it to bring some joy to Humboldt.
“It hits close to home, just down the road in Saskatoon and just being a part of hockey,” Stephenson told reporters. “It’s a sport that’s so much bigger than you’d expect, with all of the friendships that you build and all the brotherhood that you form throughout the years. It’s something that hit the hockey community pretty hard.”Read more
Day 51 | Dauphin, Manitoba
Barry Trotz had long fantasized what his day with the Stanley Cup would be like, but even in the week after he and the Washington Capitals won a first championship, the longtime coach was conflicted.
He considered taking the trophy to Nashville, where his NHL head coaching career began and where many of his friends still live, but he worried that would be disrespectful to the Predators, because that organization has yet to claim the trophy itself. Trotz then considered bringing the Cup to British Columbia, where he makes his home in the offseason. But he ultimately decided on his hometown of Dauphin, Manitoba, and the small city of roughly 8,500 people honored Trotz in the most Dauphin way possible.
The region has a rich Ukrainian heritage, with roughly 40 percent of the population having Ukrainian roots, including Trotz. So as he and the Stanley Cup rode on a float through the downtown, they were accompanied by a Ukrainian band and Cossacks on horseback. The night before, a local street was renamed “Barry Trotz Way.”
“This is home,” Trotz told NHL.com. “This is where I learned to love the game. This is where I grew up in the first part of my life, in the young years. In some ways, it's progressed and it's going in the right direction, but it's got some of those very small-town qualities that have seemingly disappeared in society. It's got a good balance right now.”
Trotz was hired by the Capitals four years ago after coaching the Predators for 15 seasons. He and Washington’s veteran core had the same postseason blemish — an inability to reach the conference final. But after he and the organization finally won the Stanley Cup, the two parted ways. Trotz resigned when the Capitals didn’t want to renegotiate his contract to make him one of the top-paid coaches in the league, and three days later, he was hired by the New York Islanders, a division rival.
Celebrating with the Stanley Cup in his hometown perhaps marked the last piece of his transition from one organization to the other. As Trotz took the trophy to some senior living facilities, he wore an Islanders jersey. In the parade, he wore a plain gray polo with no team logos. But the town mayor, when proclaiming that it was Barry Trotz Day in Dauphin, was wearing a Capitals jersey. Linked by the silver hardware, the coach and organization will always have a history together.Read more
Day 50 | Calgary, Alberta
Jay Beagle picked up the Stanley Cup from the Calgary airport in his 1986 GMC Jimmy and then shunned the spotlight for the rest of his day with it. He didn’t want any media present as he took it to the Alberta Children’s Hospital where patients could get a photo beside the trophy.
It was all very typical for the Capitals’ beloved and blue-collar bottom-six center of the past decade. Beagle clawed his way onto Washington’s roster with a development camp tryout that led to an American Hockey League contract that eventually resulted in an NHL deal.
While fourth-line forwards are often journeymen in the NHL’s salary cap era, Beagle became a cornerstone with the Capitals in large part because of his tireless work ethic. Behind captain Alex Ovechkin and top center Nicklas Backstrom, Beagle was the third-longest tenured member of the Capitals when the team won a franchise-first championship in June.
But his day with the Stanley Cup marked his last act with Washington. As an unrestricted free agent this summer, Beagle signed a lucrative four-year, $12 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks. He’s never scored more than 13 goals in a season – Beagle had seven goals with 15 assists last year – but he’s considered one of the best right-handed draws in the league as well as a penalty-killing specialist.
The move to Vancouver means Beagle will be closer to his hometown of Calgary, where his grandfather once dug ditches for the city and his father still runs an auto mechanic shop. It’s where, as the sun was setting, Beagle lifted the Stanley Cup over his head at his farm.Read more
Day 49 | Prince George, British Columbia
Though Brett Connolly now spends his summers in Toronto, he spent his day with the Stanley Cup in British Columbia, where his junior hockey career with the Western Hockey League’s Prince George Cougars led to him being a top-10 draft pick eight years ago.
Connolly’s journey back to his hometown has been a winding one. He was considered a bust with Tampa Bay, never quite measuring up to the lofty expectations of a sixth-overall pick. He was traded to Boston in 2014, and by 2016, the Bruins cut him loose by not qualifying him as a restricted free agent. That’s when the Capitals signed him, and Connolly revived his career with back-to-back 15-goal seasons.
In the playoffs a year ago, Connolly was largely out of the lineup, but during Washington’s Stanley Cup run this summer, he showed what’s made him a valuable piece for the team. He scored five goals in a third-line role, providing some much-needed depth for a Capitals team that didn’t have a balanced scoring attack in past postseasons.
Connolly started his day with the trophy by visiting a retirement home. Meanwhile, the CN Centre opened its doors at 10 a.m. as fans lined up in anticipation a public photo session with Connolly and the Cup at noon. There was a silent auction featuring Capitals autographed merchandise in conjunction with the event, and proceeds went to the Brock Hirsche Memorial Scholarship fund at the University of Lethbridge in honor of Connolly’s friend and teammate who passed away in April.
An estimated 2,500 people came to CN Centre to see Connolly, including some evacuees who’ve been displaced by wildfires in western British Columbia.
“It’s a scary time for a lot of people, for sure,” Connolly told My Prince George Now. “So we just tried to include as many people as we can and then help out as much as we could. Those are people that are having a scary time right now, and hopefully, we can put a smile on their face.” — Isabelle KhurshudyanRead more
Day 46 | Novokuznetsk, Russia
In a Siberian city, Dmitry Orlov and the Stanley Cup made their entrance through a fire-lit path, flames bursting up as the Capitals defenseman walked with the trophy. It was fitting for a player who often brings flash to a position that’s considered subtle.
As Washington marched toward a franchise-first championship this past season, Orlov’s skill was evident as he skated and stick-handled his way to highlight-reel goals not expected from a blueliner. But he was also defensively steady, striking the same balance as his other Capitals teammates in what was perhaps the biggest reason for their success.
A year ago, Washington signed Orlov to a six-year, $30.6 million deal, a long-term commitment to a player whom the organization felt was just reaching his potential. He rewarded that with a career season as he scored 10 goals with 21 assists while averaging more than 23 minutes per game. He averaged the most even-strength ice time on the team as he and defense partner Matt Niskanen typically handled opposing team’s top forwards.
Orlov was born and raised in Novokuznetsk, the southwestern Siberian city that’s celebrating its 400th birthday and has a population just under 600,000 people. His day with the Stanley Cup started in Gagarin Park, where Orlov lifted the trophy overhead in front of the Ferris wheel that sits at the edge of a large square. A stage nearby was setup for Orlov, and he then signed autographs and posed for photos for the large crowd of fans who arrived.
His evening ended with a private party, which included Orlov finding himself in the pool with giant red and white balls floating around. His name and jersey number, as well as the Capitals logo, were printed on them. Bottles of champagne were emptied into the bowl of the trophy as Orlov and his family and friends took turns getting the 35-pound Cup tipped toward them for a sip, a toast to the past year.Read more
Day 44 | Chelyabinsk, Russia
Returning to Russia was at least a consideration for Evgeny Kuznetsov last summer. The talented center was in need of a new contract from the Capitals, and as he considered his options, playing in his homeland’s Kontinental Hockey League had some appeal. But Washington ultimately inked Kuznetsov to a massive eight-year, $62.4 million deal to make him the second-highest-paid player at the time, and both parties had their commitment to each other rewarded with a franchise-first Stanley Cup a year later.
Kuznetsov scored 27 goals with 56 assists last season for a career-high 83 points, but it was in the playoffs that he announced himself as one of the NHL’s most dynamic players. In 24 games, he scored 12 goals with 20 assists, the league’s leading postseason scorer. In Washington’s second-round series against Pittsburgh, Kuznetsov scored in overtime of Game 6 to life the Capitals to a conference final appearance for the first time in 20 years, and that goal is arguably the most significant in the organization’s history.
Bringing the past year full circle, Kuznetsov spent his day with the Cup on Wednesday in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia, and he brought the trophy to a preseason KHL game between Traktor, his old club, and Metallurg. Kuznetsov hosted several photo sessions for fans who wanted to take a picture with the Stanley Cup, and ticket sale proceeds were donated to the Traktor hockey school Kuznetsov once attended.
Pictures of Kuznetsov playing for the team as a kid adorn the arena walls, and he was even married in the arena seven years ago. Though Kuznetsov was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, he didn’t make the move to North America until 2014 as he continued to play for his local team.
His arrival was ultimately worth the wait, the piece that put the Capitals on the path to a championship. But while his future is bright in Washington, Kuznetsov has always stayed true to his roots. He ended his time with the Stanley Cup by filling its bowl with pelmeni, traditional Russian dumplings.Read more
Day 43 | Rosenheim, Germany
The Stanley Cup made its maiden voyage to Germany just two years ago, when Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl won the trophy in 2016 and brought it to his hometown of Landshut. A Penguins repeat meant the chalice returned the following summer, and it arrived in Deutschland for a third straight year on Monday morning courtesy of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Grubauer is no longer a member of the Washington Capitals after he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in June, but bringing the Stanley Cup to Rosenheim, Germany, capped what’s been a whirlwind year for him. He entered last season as Braden Holtby’s understudy in net, but strong play down the stretch of the season led to him eventually supplanting Holtby as the starter for the first two playoff games. When Washington lost those, Holtby replaced Grubauer en route to the franchise’s first championship.
Though Grubauer didn’t see much action in the playoffs, he played a vital role in the Capitals getting there at all. As Holtby struggled in February and early March, Grubauer kept the team afloat and in position to win the Metropolitan Division. He started 10 of the team’s last 17 games, a stretch in which he compiled a 7-3-0 record with a .925 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average. His impressive play made him the most coveted goaltender on the market when the Capitals opted to trade the 26-year-old so he could pursue more responsibility with a different organization.
The Stanley Cup flew from Stockholm to Munich on Tuesday morning, and Grubauer greeted it at the airport. Donning the traditional Bavarian lederhosen, Grubauer lifted the trophy over his head at the terminal before the hour-long trek to Rosenheim. With his jerseys from past teams displayed on a stage, the crowd chanted Grubauer’s name as he walked out with the Stanley Cup.
As most of Grubauer’s friends growing up played soccer, he wanted to be different, so he’d skate on the frozen pond in Rosenheim. The town is located at the foothills of the Alps, and on a foggy Tuesday morning, Grubauer took the Stanley Cup up a mountain, where he allowed a few roaming cows to approach the bowl.
In what was the last chapter of his Capitals career, he was at the summit. — Isabelle KhurshudyanRead more
Day 41 | Valbo, Sweden
VALBO, Sweden — Nicklas Backstrom rocked from one foot to the next, a hand stuffed in each pocket and the Stanley Cup on the ground beside him. Still hidden from the crowd, he listened to his own introduction, a summary of his impressive career resume and “that I don’t forget my roots,” Backstrom said, interpreting the Swedish for the English speakers standing next to him.
Backstrom’s father, Anders, lifted the walkie-talkie to his ear for an update.
“Four minutes,” he announced.
Backstrom stared straight ahead, described as always being serious even when he was a young boy.
“Two minutes and 30 seconds,” Anders said, and Backstrom cracked a smile at his father’s countdown.
Anders then hoisted his phone up, preparing to record a video of Backstrom’s big entrance. There was just one minute left.
“Does anyone have vodka here?” Backstrom joked.
The garage door to the Zamboni tunnel started to rise, and Backstrom picked up the Stanley Cup to walk down a red carpet lined with local youth hockey players as the biggest crowd in NickBack Arena’s history gave the pride of Valbo, Sweden, a standing ovation. The rink has carried Backstrom’s name for the past seven years, and it was home to the first team Backstrom ever played for as a kid. His Washington Capitals jersey is framed in the café upstairs, and there are posters of him on the walls.
Backstrom had invited teammates from some of his earliest playing days to stand on the ice with him. Backstrom often defers the spotlight to others, but on Sunday morning, he took the microphone and then did his best to hold back the tears.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 25 years,” the 30-year-old Backstrom told the crowd.
He first started dreaming of bringing the Stanley Cup to Valbo when he saw Hall-of-Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom celebrate with it in Stockholm after Detroit’s titles in the late 90s. Backstrom said a championship was the one thing he wanted before retiring from the NHL, and as the Capitals repeatedly failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs, he started to question if he’d ever get to take part in the tradition of spending a day with the iconic trophy.
Even as his two children ate his favorite ice cream out of the Stanley Cup’s top, Backstrom jokingly reminded that this “only happens once in 11 years,” referencing how many seasons it took him to bring the prize home. In that time, the center has amassed 799 points in 815 games, the first player in Washington franchise history to record 500 assists. Backstrom is the elite playmaker so often behind superstar captain Alex Ovechkin’s goal-scoring.
He has a different reputation here. The area is known for its coffee production; the Gevalia coffee company has a factory in nearby Gävle and Backstrom said windy days make the whole town smell like the beans. But it’s also a hockey-crazed community, and Backstrom is the greatest player it’s ever produced. Backstrom and young Washington defenseman Christian Djoos are the first to bring the Stanley Cup to this corner of Sweden.
“He’s still the most humble guy,” said Peter Gustafsson, one of Backstrom’s first coaches. “And that’s probably the reason this brings tears to your eyes.”
When Backstrom started skating at this Valbo rink, it was an outdoor sheet. A cover and some wooden bleachers were eventually built around it, and the capacity is roughly 600 people. More than 1,200 showed up to see Backstrom and the Stanley Cup, and anyone who wanted a photo with him and the trophy got one. In a town of roughly 7,000, Backstrom recognized many of the faces, including Ingrid, who worked at the rink back when he spent most of his free time there.
“When we were kids, my mom used to drop us off and say, ‘Ingrid, can you look after these kids?’” Backstrom said as he held up the Cup for her to touch.
He stopped by his old school to lift the trophy over his head in front of it. Then he took it to his old neighborhood, where a field would get flooded every year so the eight kids on that street could skate on it. It’s part of a farm now, and as sheep roamed behind him, Backstrom posed for a photo in front of the plot of land that he first stood on skates as a 2-year-old. His childhood home was sold years ago, but Backstrom pointed out his old bedroom window. A poster of Mats Sundin hung on his door then, and one of Peter Forsberg on his wall both legendary Swedish players sporting Quebec Nordiques colors.
“I remember the first time he got his skates on his feet, he walked outside, and I told him, ‘You have to take them off to go inside,’” Anders said. “’No, no,’ he said. He got to sleep with the skates on.”
Once a rainy morning became a cool late afternoon, Backstrom carried the Stanley Cup to the dock off his backyard, hopping on a boat for a short ride on the Baltic Sea. He later held up the trophy as his grandmother ran a finger along the engravings. She put one hand on the top rim and another on the base to test its weight and gasped. It’s 35 pounds.
More friends and family arrived for a party under a tent at his home. Anders’s friend’s band played late into the night, and when it was time to part with the Stanley Cup, Backstrom lifted it over his head for a last time. He gave it a series of kisses as guests started chanting, “back-to-back.” He placed the trophy into its black case – “It was awesome,” he said to Cup minder Philip Pritchard. Backstrom then raised his fist and spurred on the “back-to-back” cheering, hopeful the wait for another day like this would be short.
“It was very emotional, and that’s what it’s supposed to be, I think,” Backstrom said. “Just bringing back this trophy is what I’ve dreamed about since I came to the league.” — Isabelle KhurshudyanRead more
Day 40 | Gävle, Sweden
GÄVLE, Sweden — Christian Djoos had his hands stuffed in his pockets as he stood under a literal spotlight. The Stanley Cup rested on a table behind him, and he faced a hometown crowd in the rink he first played in. All eyes were on him, a situation that still causes some unease but one he embraced nonetheless because of the occasion.
“It’s fun because we’ve done something that’s not easy to do,” Djoos said. “I would do this day everyday if I could. It’s such a great day.”
Djoos is an oft overlooked member of the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup run, but his contributions earned him his own day with the trophy in his Swedish hometown on Saturday as the attention was on him for a change. Soft-spoken and reserved off the ice but patient and poised on it, Djoos was one of three rookies who played the majority of Washington’s postseason games. He was the right side of a third defense pairing that was an occasional liability during the regular season but a pleasant surprise in the playoffs.
The 24-year-old played in 63 games in his first NHL season, scoring three goals with 11 assists while averaging more than 14 minutes per game. A seventh-round pick in 2012, Djoos can already be considered a developmental success story, but while the Capitals’ repeat bid still largely depends on the superstar veteran core, the continued improvement of homegrown youth like Djoos is significant to the team’s present and future plans. He’s expected to again be a mainstay on the third pairing — though now with more security as the team’s fifth defenseman on the depth chart rather than the sixth.
Though Gävle has been home to several notable NHLers, the Stanley Cup has never visited before this weekend, when Djoos and Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom get to do as they wish with the chalice on back-to-back days. Djoos’s 14 hours with it started at Gavlerinken Arena, home of the Swedish Hockey League’s Brynäs club. Djoos’s father, Per Djoos, played for Brynäs, and a young Christian sat in the stands and idolized Backstrom when he starred for the local team more than a decade ago.
Djoos wanted to share part of his Stanley Cup day with the player he once tried to mimic and the teammate who’s mentored him, so Backstrom joined him for a ceremony and photo session at the arena.
“He was really happy to have Nicklas with him because it took a little bit of the pressure off,” Per Djoos said.
Christian Djoos was so concerned with just making the NHL team last season and then surviving his rookie year that he never allowed his dreams to go so far as envisioning what a day with the Stanley Cup would be like. Gavlerinken Arena introduced him and Backstrom to Karate Kid’s “You’re The Best Around” and presented them with bouquets of flowers and plaques. Highlights of their careers in Sweden and Washington flashed across the videoboard, and when Backstrom was interviewed by the event’s master of ceremonies, he expressed gratitude to Djoos for including him.
Asked what separated this Capitals team from all the others who failed to advance so far in the playoffs, Backstrom chuckled and credited Djoos’s arrival as the difference. A line of fans that wrapped around the concourse waited for photos, and after two hours of smiling and shaking hands, Djoos carried the Stanley Cup into his old locker room.
“Did you get a picture with it by your old stall?” asked Philip Pritchard, the Stanley Cup’s chief minder.
“No,” Djoos said. “Do you think I should?”
He was eventually convinced as he waited for Backstrom to join him. The nostalgia continued as he took the Stanley Cup to his childhood home and sat it next to the net he used to practice his shot growing up. More family and friends later met him at a nearby golf club, and after Djoos sat the trophy down on a table, a crowd gathered around the hulking silver, snapping photos while keeping a distance, seemingly nervous to touch it. A group of Djoos’s friends arrived in custom-made T-shirts that had a photo of Djoos as a disc jokey with “DJ OOS” inscribed. Patrons finishing their round of golf would pop into the clubhouse to catch a glimpse of the iconic trophy.
Two kids approached Djoos and asked him to sign their hats. Though a reluctant one, the local star obliged. He’s hopeful there are more days like this one in his future.
“I feel like once you’ve done it, you want to do it again,” Djoos said. — Isabelle KhurshudyanRead more
Day 40 | Malmo, Sweden
MALMO, Sweden — Andre Burakovsky stuck out his tongue to his friends waiting for him as he arrived to the Limhamn sports complex, home of the rink where he first started playing organized hockey. Just ahead, a small crowd had gathered near a stage set up on a soccer field. A young tennis player, racket in hand, leaving the courts next to the field asked his father what was going on. “Something about that trophy,” said the man as he nodded toward the car.
Burakovsky spent the next three hours signing autographs and posing for photos next to “that trophy,” known to some as the Stanley Cup.
“Every time I looked up I expected the line to be shorter,” said Burakovsky. Instead, it continued to grow throughout the morning. Groups of kids from summer camps, hockey players on their way to practice, people on bicycles, parents pushing strollers, young and old alike stood for as long as an hour for a chance to have their photo taken with the Cup.
Afterward, Burakovsky took a quick trip down memory lane as he walked through the ice rink showing the media photos of himself scattered throughout the building. “It’s nice to be able to share this with my community where I came from,” he said.
Then it was on to lunch, a quick stop by an Audi dealership, and a visit to a friend’s house. The day wrapped up with a private party and dinner with friends and family. Before bidding the Cup farewell, Burakosky — sunburned from his three-hour signing session — and his father gave the trophy a good night hug and kiss, watching it depart for a rendezvous with two of his teammates elsewhere in the country. — Toni SandysRead more
Day 38 | Rødovre, Denmark
RODOVRE, Denmark — For Capitals’ center Lars Eller, a joy-filled summer entered a new phase as he stood with his prize on his home soil.
“Celebrating with your teammates is one thing,” Eller said. “I’m sharing this day now with people I grew up with and have been a big part of my life. I get to see the joy on people’s faces that have played roles in my life and invested time in me.”
The Stanley Cup has over 2,500 names engraved on it and had traveled to 25 countries before today. When Eller’s name is eventually inscribed, his will be the first Danish player inscribed on its sides. Wednesday he was the first Dane to bring it to the small country.
Eller started his day with the Stanley Cup with a reception for family and friends at a local restaurant and park. He posed for photos, placing a friend’s baby in the Cup, eating a Danish summer treat called Koldskål & Kammerjunkere from it and then playing a yard game called “King’s Game.” The Cup played the role of the king.
Later, a 20-minute drive away, over a thousand people waited to greet Eller in front of the Rødovre City Hall — the town where Lars grew up and honed his skills on the local ice rink. Speeches by the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark and the mayor were interrupted by cheers of “Eller, Eller, Eller.” Kids in Washington Capitals jerseys waved Danish flags as workers leaned out the windows of a nearby office building.
After the outdoor rally, fans lined the street for the ride from City Hall to the ice rink. As the car made its way slowly through the throngs of people, Lars shook hands and signed autographs. Hundreds of hands reached out to touch the Cup as it passed. Once at the arena, the crowd packed into the seats for more speeches and photos. Half a dozen youth teams paraded out to pose for team photos with Lars and the Cup. Former coaches, trainers and players also joined in.
“This is where I’m on the top right now. This is it,” Eller said after stopping by his elementary school with the Stanley Cup. “It’s one of the best days of my life.” — Toni SandysRead more
Day 36 | Toronto, Ontario
While spending the day with Devante Smith-Pelly, the bowl of the Stanley Cup became a crib and a kennel. Both babies and a dog both found themselves on top of the trophy during the trip to Smith-Pelly’s hometown.
Smith-Pelly later posed with the Cup in front of an ice sculpture of himself holding the trophy.
In the afternoon, fans holding umbrellas lined up in the rain outside the Black Dog Pub in Scarborough, where guests took photos with the Capitals player and the Cup.
The right winger and the trophy also visited the SickKids Foundation’s hospital, the same Toronto charity Tom Wilson raised money for when he had the Cup the day prior. At the hospital, patients and families got to spend time with the Cup.
After making an appearance during Wilson’s day with the Cup, Toronto mayor John Tory visited to congratulate Smith-Pelly.
Smith-Pelly notched the game-tying goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals before Lars Eller ultimately scored the winning goal to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington. Smith-Pelly also scored in Games 3 and 4 of the finals.
Smith-Pelly accumulated seven goals in the postseason, matching the number he scored through 75 games in the regular season. After his first year with the Capitals, Smith-Pelly was recently re-signed to a one-year extension worth $1 million. — Emily GiambalvoRead more
Day 35 | Toronto, Ontario
Tom Wilson began his Sunday in his hometown of Toronto sitting on a couch with a bowl of Lucky Charms. The scene may not have been that remarkable, had the bowl not adorned the top of the Stanley Cup.
Fresh off signing a $31 million, six-year contract with the Capitals, Wilson celebrated his day with the Stanley Cup by returning to his roots. He brought the trophy to North Toronto Memorial Arena, his hometown rink that already features a banner with a photo of Wilson hoisting the Cup after the Capitals’ win and the words, “Brought it home.” Wilson stood in front of the banner with the Cup over his head, mirroring the image behind him. He also sat in the locker room with a jersey and trophy from the first youth team for which he played.
At the rink, Wilson hosted fans to raise money for the SickKids Foundation, a Toronto-based charity. Wilson also welcomed a young boy from the foundation who also had a chance to hold the Cup above his head. Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, was among the group of visitors.
Wilson answered questions from kids during the session, including one boy asked the 24-year-old, “Why do you like fighting?”
“Just so everybody knows, I don’t think I got into one fight when I played for North Toronto, so keep the gloves on, play hockey,” Wilson told the laughing crowd. “I’m always big on sticking up for my teammates. It’s part of the game. … Sometimes you’ve got to do it.”
The Wilsons took a family picture on their front porch with the Cup. Standing on a boat in Lake Ontario, Wilson posed for photos with the trophy against the backdrop of blue skies and Toronto’s waterfront. At one point during the day, Wilson took part in some offseason training by bench-pressing the Cup.
Through the 2018 regular season, Wilson accumulated 14 goals and 21 assists, as he averaged about 16 minutes on the ice per game. He tacked on another five goals and 10 assists in the postseason. All those marks are career-highs. Now, with his contract extension, Wilson will continue to represent Washington for the foreseeable future. — Emily GiambalvoRead more
Day 30 | Lashburn, Saskatchewan
Roughly 5,000 fans lined up outside the Lashburn Sportsplex in Saskatchewan on Tuesday for the opportunity to snap a photo with hometown hero Braden Holtby and the Stanley Cup, the trophy the Capitals’ netminder had talked about winning since he learned to skate in the tiny farm town of Marshall about 10 miles to the northwest.
Holtby signed autographs for three hours at the rink where he first played organized hockey and where a display commemorating his journey from Lashburn to juniors in Saskatoon to the NHL adorns one of the walls. It was the Lloydminster-native’s way of giving back to the place and community that shaped him into the Holtbeast he’s become.
“I never really thought twice about it,” Holtby told the My Lloydminster Now website of how he would spend his day with the Cup. “I grew up playing in Lashburn, that’s where I learned how to play and my dad coached basically every team I played for here. It was just a big part of our life growing up. It was nice to bring it back to your roots and I thought the town deserved it.”
On Monday evening, Holtby, who regularly returns to Saskatchewan in the summer, posed for a photo with several family members, including his mom and dad, his wife, Brandi, their two kids, Ben and Belle, and the Stanley Cup in front of a grain elevator in Marshall.
It had been nearly two months since Holtby helped the Capitals clinch their first title in franchise history after an exhilarating postseason run that began with the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner on the bench. Philipp Grubauer outplayed Holtby for much of the regular season and earned the starting nod from Coach Barry Trotz in Washington’s first-round series against Columbus. But after the Capitals fell behind two-games-to-none, Trotz turned to Holtby in search of a spark. Holtby provided one, posting a .935 save percentage and a 1.92 goals against average in Washington’s next four games, all of them wins.
The soft-spoken and fashion-conscious goalie, who wore a cowboy hat, an unbuttoned shirt over a T-shirt and Birkenstocks on Tuesday, got stronger as the playoffs wore on and was at his best when his team needed him most. With the Capitals facing elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay, Holtby made 24 saves for his first playoff shutout since 2016. Two nights later, he turned away all 29 shots he faced to help the Capitals advance to the Stanley Cup finals for only the second time.
Holtby was also responsible for one of the defining moments of the Capitals’ title run — a play that will be talked about for years to come and, frankly, would look terrific painted on the side of Marshall’s grain elevator or the Lashburn Sportsplex. With Washington protecting a one-goal lead in the waning seconds of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, Holtby dove across the crease to stop Alex Tuch’s one-timer, which was bound for the back an apparently wide-open net.
“Thank God he’s our goalie,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said afterward.
After his low-key morning spent signing autographs in Lashburn, Holtby made a stop at the Lloydminster Animal Hospital. He also showed off something even prettier than “The Save” — an enormous, Stanley Cup-shaped cake featuring his name and the Capitals’ logo. It looked almost too good to eat, though it certainly wouldn’t survive a celebratory dip in a fountain. — Scott AllenRead more
Day 23 | Warroad, Minnesota
T.J. Oshie landed at the small airport in Warroad, Minnesota — also known as Hockeytown, USA — around 9:30 local time on Tuesday morning. A police escort, complete with a community firetruck, waited for him. This was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Washington Capitals forward to bring the Stanley Cup back to his hometown, and he wanted to do it in style. So he loaded his young family into a 1933 Lincoln limo, top down so he could wave and lift the Cup as the classic car made its way along Highway 33. The town’s massive digital billboard greeted him with a message — “Welcome Home, 77” — and included a photo of Oshie hoisting the cup. Now he was doing it in the flesh.
Most of the city’s youth players, along with hundreds of others, arrived at the arena in which Oshie starred in high school to see him with the Cup. The trophy wouldn’t have been there had it not been for one of their favorite sons. Oshie was a cornerstone of the Capitals’ championship run, a run that began with questions of whether Oshie was playing hurt. Early in the playoffs, he wasn’t even skating with the team in practices.
But he played in every game. He scored 21 points and displayed a knack for elevating his offense at opportune times. He had six of his 13 goals on power plays alone; he scored goals in two of the final three games of the second-round series win over Pittsburgh, had two goals in a do-or-die Game-6 win over Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals and a goal and an assist in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against Vegas. Those were crucial performances. Moreover, it was his usual feistiness and countless big hits that set the tone for a team that simply wouldn’t be denied.
There were other memorable moments off the ice during the run; Oshie endeared himself with his fan base by riding Washington’s Metro to Game 3 and 4 of the final series. He emotionally paid tribute to his father, who coached him growing up and has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, on the Vegas ice after the team won the Cup. And he was one of the more colorful personalities during the celebration back in Washington, making a habit out of chugging beers through the filter of his jersey pulled over his face, including as he delivered his address after the title parade. The party continued on Tuesday in Warroad.
Citizens from his community drank from the Cup. He held a toast for everyone who had shown up at a local bar, raising his Bud Light with a wide smile on his face. He stopped by the town’s water tower, emblazoned with two hockey sticks and considered something of a monument. He reminisced with his old friend Gigi Marvin, a gold-medalist with the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team and who, along with Oshie, had been named royalty at the 2005 Warroad Frosty Festival, when both were still in high school. He sat down at one point to eat Cap’n Crunch out of the Cup.
He planned to take the Cup to Minneapolis later in the day to share with teammates Shane Gersich and Travis Boyd, but before he returned to the small airport, he posed for countless more photos. That included one with the town’s mayor, who officially and proudly declared Tuesday, July 24, as “T.J. Oshie Day.”Read more
Day 21 | Virginia, Minnesota
Fans began arriving up at Miners Memorial Building in Virginia, Minnesota just after sunrise on Sunday morning, and soon hundreds more raced to get a spot in line to see one of their hometown sons hold the Stanley Cup. Matt Niskanen had learned to play hockey at this facility, first in pee-wee and then in high school, so it only made sense that this would be the first stop for the Washington Capitals defenseman on his day with the Cup.
Niskanen wore a gray shirt with black shorts and black hat, almost blending in as he shook hands with countless citizens from the community. He had already shown an ability to relate to his fans during the Stanley Cup run during the spring, when he rode Washington’s Metro to Game 3 along with teammate and fellow Minnesota native T.J. Oshie; that only endeared him more with a fan-base that already recognized how valuable he was on the ice.
Niskanen was not only a centerpiece of Washington’s markedly improved defense during the postseason — but he also embodied the Capitals’ willingness to outwork teams down the stretch. One of his signature moments came at the end of the second period in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against Vegas, when he out-hustled the Golden Knights and created a shorthanded breakaway. He was tripped by Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on his way to the net, earning a penalty and providing a momentum-altering sequence in his team’s 3-1 win. His teammate, Jay Beagle, would later call him “our rock back there.”
Washington wouldn’t lose another game in the series, in large part because Niskanen — who also produced one goal and eight assists during the playoffs — helped galvanize a roster that checked and blocked shots at every turn. It only made sense that he was gifted with the key to his hometown on Sunday.
After he was done posing for photos and taking the Cup to the middle of the arena at Miners Memorial Building, he eventually returned home and watched his young son, Charlie, use it as a bowl for some fruit snacks.
After a decade of chasing the Stanley Cup — he had lost both in the Western Conference Finals with the Dallas Stars during his rookie year in 2008 and in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013 before enduring several years of postseason heartbreak with the Capitals — Niskanen spent one of his final moments with the cup on the banks of Lake Vermillion, lifting the trophy over his head as the sun set, finally a champion. — Roman StubbsRead more
Day 10 | Prague, Czech Republic
The night that ended with the Washington Capitals lifting the Stanley Cup began with a goal from Jakub Vrana. The speedy Czech winger skated down the left-center of the ice on a breakaway, then sniped a wrist shot over the glove of Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The goal put Washington ahead 1-0, a just reward for a player who had created numerous scoring chances throughout the Stanley Cup finals.
That moment, and that night, triggered a chain reaction that helped introduce the Prague native to fans in his new home of Washington. On the Capitals’ first weekend back with the Cup, Vrana’s Instagram story helped detail much of the beer-drenched celebration — and provided a look at his new Stanley Cup tattoo. He further endeared himself to fans during the parade by shotguning a beer from the top of a tour bus and professing his love for the fan base during an impromptu radio interview conducted on a phone flung into that bus.
Vrana both toned down and classed up his drinking when he reclaimed the Cup in his home city, most notably when he sprayed champagne into a crowd and eventually his mouth at a rally near the ice rink where he learned the game.
Earlier in the day he hosted a private gathering with friends and family at a favorite restaurant, the Cup sitting on a table surrounded by wide-bodied Bohemian beer mugs and trays of food. From there, Vrana and his mother brought the trophy to the cemetery in which his grandmother was laid to rest.
He also squeezed in a trip to the hockey shooting range — a large rectangle of netting with a goal-sized yellow frame — where he refined his shot outside his apartment. It was that shot that gave the Capitals an early lead in the decisive game of the Stanley Cup finals.
Vrana capped his time with the trophy at a Prague night club before it was shipped back to North America to continue its tour. Come the fall, Vrana will follow suit, now firmly entrenched within the Capitals’ scoring lines after helping the team capture its first Cup. — Mike HumeRead more
Day 9 | Hodonin, Czech Republic
With his Washington Capitals jersey tied around his shoulders, Michal Kempny was reunited with the Stanley Cup at his home in Hodonin, Czech Republic at 10 p.m. on Monday night. He carried it into the backyard, where his family and friends awaited with their phone cameras at the ready, eager to capture a moment that seemed inconceivable just five months ago.
Kempny started the season with the Chicago Blackhawks, and by February, he was often out of the lineup for a team that was going to miss the playoffs. The 27-year-old was in just his second NHL season, and his career in the league was on life support. He was already considering returning to Europe and to play.
But then he was traded to the Capitals in exchange for a third-round pick before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, and his smooth skating helped solidify what had been a porous Washington defense. En route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship, Kempny scored two goals with three assists while skating more than 17 minutes per game. After his future in the NHL was in doubt earlier this year, Kempny signed a four-year, $10 million extension with the Capitals.
In his backyard in Hodonin, a barrel served as the pedestal for the Stanley Cup, a small dog placed inside the bowl for photos. The next morning, he buckled the trophy into the passenger seat of his Ford Mustang convertible before arriving at his childhood rink. A drum line introduced him as he walked through the crowd, stopping so people could rub their hands on the names engraved in silver. His isn’t on there yet, but Washington’s roster will spend 65 years on the trophy.
Kempny’s next stop with the Stanley Cup was Brno, roughly an hour away from Hodonin. The drum line greeted him there, too, and highlights from Kempny’s career flashed across the videoboard. Kempny played in Brno for six seasons, from 18 to 24 years old. The NHL was just a dream then, but on Tuesday, he returned with the league’s greatest prize.Read more
Days 7-8 | Moscow
MOSCOW — The silver sparkled in the late Sunday afternoon sunlight as the Stanley Cup made its way toward Red Square. Its bearer wore jeans, a black polo and a flat-brimmed NHL All-Star Game cap as he strode toward the gated entrance with a small entourage circling him — makeshift security. But despite his otherwise nondescript appearance, the hulking chalice made Alex Ovechkin unmistakable, one of Russia’s most recognizable athletes carrying hockey’s grandest trophy to his country’s most iconic spot.
He immediately was swarmed as people tried to shove their way through the cameras following him to touch the trophy or the man. They pleaded for a photo or an autograph. They yelled their congratulations. “Great job, Sanya!” some shouted, calling him by his Russian nickname.
“Alex Ovechkin is in Red Square with the Stanley Cup,” one woman frantically whispered into her cellphone as she tried to keep up with his brisk strides.
With St. Basil’s Cathedral in the background, Ovechkin stopped, and his agent and a Washington Capitals spokesman attempted to keep the crowd back. Ovechkin asked the people posted behind him to clear a path so that the cathedral could be visible.
“Can I please get a picture?” he asked of what had become a mob.
The crowd obliged, parting to create a clearing. He then hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head to the sound of cheers. Phones followed the Cup up to get the shot of Ovechkin finally returning home with the prize so many expected he would claim one day.
It has been a month since the Capitals won their first Stanley Cup championship, and in a weekend 13 years in the making, Ovechkin was awarded two days with the Stanley Cup in his hometown, a tradition for the winning team’s captain. For one of Moscow’s most beloved sons, it represented a prophecy fulfilled.
“I wanted to be the guy who brings the Cup,” said Ovechkin, who had promised as much as recently as last summer.
Ovechkin returned Saturday to the Dynamo hockey club facility where he played as a teenager and where there’s a large photo of him in the main lobby that he signed, “Thanks for everything.” When Ovechkin was 14, Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, who won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, visited Dynamo and spoke of his career and his championships.
As Ovechkin walked around his old locker room a year ago, he told Dynamo Coach Vladimir Vorobiev that he would be back with the Stanley Cup and they would drink beer together. On Saturday, Ovechkin had the Stanley Cup to his left with a tray of food on his right as his van pulled up to the training center, an arch with light blue and white balloons and a pedestal for the trophy awaiting his arrival at the front of the building. He went through the back entrance for a few quiet moments. This was where he ran laps after every practice and “hated it,” Ovechkin said, still able to picture his father sitting on the bench watching him.
His father, Mikhail, was present Saturday as well, mingling outside and posing for photos with some of the large crowd that had gathered to see Ovechkin bring the trophy home. Ovechkin grabbed the 35-pound cup and waited by the door, lifting it for Mikhail to touch as he walked in.
They then hoisted it together.
“Kiss it,” Ovechkin told him.
“We waited 13 years,” Mikhail said after planting a smooch on the silver.
The night Ovechkin and the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas, Mikhail had been watching the game at the family’s country home in the Moscow suburbs. With the NHL app on his phone, he watches his son’s every game — and later the highlights — from the dining room television. Ovechkin typically calls his parents before every game, but despite the late hour in Moscow, he called Mikhail after Washington’s championship-clinching Game 5 win against Vegas. He told his father he loved him and he was thankful for everything he did to help him reach that point.
“It was something he was dreaming about,” Alex said. “That’s why he give so much help, so much of his time to me and it’s all about that.”
“I can’t even put it into words,” Mikhail said. “Thirteen years we were working toward that goal, and finally to win the Stanley Cup, it’s a huge happiness. Huge happiness.”
The younger Ovechkin later carried the trophy up the stairs, where Dynamo has its museum. The signed jerseys and sticks of notable former players are in glass cases, and Ovechkin immediately picked out Capitals teammate Nicklas Backstrom’s display from when they played there together during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.
With the Stanley Cup still in his grasp, he turned in place as his eyes scanned the room, perhaps considering that a photo of him visiting with the Stanley Cup soon would be proudly displayed. After he told a group of kids in Dynamo jerseys to follow their dreams and then posed for photos with the Stanley Cup, Ovechkin laced up skates and carried the trophy onto the rink where he once practiced, hoisting it up as someone on the bench warned him not to fall because the blades were dull. He then returned to the locker room, set the Stanley Cup down and clinked frosted mugs with Vorobiev.
“You know, Alex is a big star,’ Vorobiev said. “When he’s young, every guy who play with him, is working with him, he know he’s going to be a big star.”
The Stanley Cup made its first voyage to Russia in 1997, the summer that Detroit won with five Russians, and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin brought the trophy to Moscow the past two summers. But perhaps no player had higher hopes placed on him than Ovechkin, the first overall pick in 2004 who became one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history. He first saw the trophy when he visited Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame as a Capitals rookie. Apparently unconcerned with superstition, he touched it.
“I knew one day we would win it,” he said.
It was after 1 p.m. on Saturday when the Stanley Cup finally made it through customs and Moscow traffic and into Ovechkin’s hands again. He set it on a table as he passed through a metal detector for a gathering of fans at the Moscow State University campus, there for a viewing party of Russia’s World Cup quarterfinal soccer game against Croatia. As he lifted it above his head for the crowd, one man yelled to him, “We’ve been waiting for you our entire lives.”
Ovechkin posed for more than 3,000 photos as part of an event organized by the Putin Team, a social media movement Ovechkin started in November to support Russian President Vladimir Putin. He shook so many hands that he later asked for a wet napkin. The night finished with a private party at a ritzy karaoke club with a guest list that included famous Russian actors, musicians, Capitals teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov and former Washington center Sergei Fedorov.
As Ovechkin waited to make his grand entrance and carry the Stanley Cup into the ballroom, the master of ceremonies introduced him: “This is a moment to remember. He’s been waiting for this Cup for a long, long time.”
After a hectic and public first day with the trophy, Ovechkin chose to make Sunday more private. He took the Stanley Cup to a closed hockey game with high-ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — but not Putin. He visited his family’s childhood apartment, laying with the trophy on the twin bed he used to sleep in. Then he and his parents went to the cemetery where his older brother, Sergey, rests after he died of a blood clot after a car accident when Ovechkin was 10. The Stanley Cup minders stayed in the car as Ovechkin carried the trophy to the headstone.
“It’s hard,” Ovechkin said. “But I think it was very important for me personally because he’s my brother obviously. He’s motivated me to play hard and give what I can on the ice.”
He then took the Stanley Cup to the most public place in the country, where the Kremlin walls enclose a cobblestone square with the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral at the center. Slava Fetisov and Larionov took photos there when they brought the trophy to Moscow as part of the Red Wings’ Russian Five with Fedorov, but Ovechkin was quick to point out that his moment was different — “I’m pretty sure there was not lots of people around them,” he said.
They had been waiting for that iconic shot as long as he had.
“I don’t know if it was me or Stanley Cup,” Ovechkin said. “But both of us give all attention to this situation. It’s special moment. It’s nice to see when the people understand what you want to do. They take a step back, and we take what I think was a good picture. My friends were at the bar, and they sent it to me, the picture of how I walk and how many people were behind me.
“It was incredible.”Read more
Day 4 | Washington, D.C.
The Stanley Cup arrived on a cart, atop a white sheet with “Children’s National” printed on it. Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played as it made its entrance, and an atrium full of kids so sick they had to spend the Fourth of July at the hospital stood and cheered, phones up to capture photos of the hulking silver trophy and the man lugging it around for the day.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was the first player to get the Stanley Cup all to himself for 15 hours this summer, free to spend that time however he wished. He wanted it to stay in Washington, choosing to whisk the chalice from the Bethesda Firehouse to Children’s National Medical Center to a fundraiser in Bethesda before ending the night with a private party at Salt Line in Navy Yard.
It was all very fitting for the 28-year-old who was drafted by the Capitals a decade ago. He has since met his wife Gina in Washington, started a family here and settled here, the only player who continues to live and train here for the duration of the offseason. He had already endeared himself to the area with a career year — 15 goals and 53 assists to lead all NHL defensemen in scoring during the regular season and five goals with 20 assists in the playoffs — but nine days after Carlson signed an eight-year, $64 million extension with the team, he further cemented himself as a true Washingtonian.
“I think everyone around and my family is going to celebrate it the same no matter where I was, but it’s nice to be able to enjoy it with the fans as well and to do pretty special stuff like this,” Carlson said.
The Carlsons’s pediatrician is on the board at Children’s National, so they’ve felt a connection there and offered to bring by the Stanley Cup just 10 days earlier. Kids and hospital employees lined up to take photos with Carlson and the trophy, and for the ones who were too sick to get to the atrium, Carlson visited their rooms. One father offered congratulations to Carlson on his contract. Then he looked at the Stanley Cup sitting on a table.
“Can I touch it?” he asked Carlson.
“Yeah,” Carlson replied with a smile.
“The place exploded when it came into the room because it means so much,” said Kurt Newman, the chief executive and president of Children’s National. “It means championships, it means winning and it kind of, in some ways, is symbolic about what a kid is facing maybe with a tumor or maybe it’s a premature infant and those families. If the Caps can do it, if anybody can do it, we can, too. It just really has that kind of lift and appeal. Yeah, it’s hockey and it’s sports, but when you think about how that team came together and the city’s come together, Children’s National is proud to be part of it.”
Carlson was born in Massachusetts and played his youth hockey in New Jersey, but after his visit to the hospital, Carlson took the Stanley Cup to his Chevy Chase neighborhood, walking down the street to a yard where a small crowd had gathered to touch it and take photos with it. A five-minute drive away, a fundraising party had already started in downtown Bethesda to benefit the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation, which raises awareness and provides research funding to treat aggressive brain tumors that targets children. Standard tickets were $20 each, and a line snaked under a tent to take photos with Carlson before he even arrived. The event ultimately raised more than $100,000 for Carlson’s cause.
Grant Paulsen, co-host of 106.7 The Fan’s midday “Grant and Danny Show” and master of ceremonies for the fundraiser, introduced Carlson with a chant of “Eight More Years.”
“I love this place,” Carlson said to the crowd.
“We love you, too,” someone yelled back.
“It’s about the fans, too,” Carlson said later. “They get joy seeing the Cup and seeing me and all that, and that’s awesome, too. It’s just a good mix of both and doing the right thing and doing a fun thing. We’re all enjoying ourselves and raising a lot of money, so that’s kind of the best of both worlds.”
The Stanley Cup got a respite from the heat at Carlson’s home, posted next to his sleeping son Rudy — appropriately born during the postseason — before a final stop on Washington’s Southeast Waterfront. Patrons surrounded the outdoor bar at Salt Line when a bus pulled up and the crowd that was inside for a private party emptied out of the restaurant with their phones raised for photos. Carlson carried the Stanley Cup out of the bus as a man and his girlfriend happened to be walking by, abruptly stopping and pointing when the silver caught their eye.
Carlson put the trophy on a table in the backroom, allowing his friends and family to take photos with it throughout the evening. One father lifted his son over the bowl at the top, allowing him to peer at the engravings and see his own reflection. Carlson was at the bar, chatting with his guests, while the Stanley Cup sat in front of a Capitals flag between two American ones. Both were right at home.Read more