The Stanley Cup rode shotgun — with a seat belt, of course — but Alex Ovechkin was never too far away in the back seat as a police escort had the duo zipping through town Friday afternoon. At each stop, a crowd donning Washington Capitals attire was waiting, chanting “O-vi!” as he lifted the chalice out of the white van and resumed his Stanley Cup-carrying duties. He’d hoist it overhead to more cheers. As he placed it down and kept one hand on the top for rounds and rounds of photos, he gently reminded each giddy person who approached, “Don’t forget to touch it.”
“We was excited when we touch it for the first time, when we spent a couple minutes with it for the first time. It was the probably the best moment of my career, and I think of all my teammates’ career,” Ovechkin said. “That’s why we play. For them, it’s maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be around it, touch it, someone kiss it already. It’s great. It’s fun to see how people react, how people give you hug because they really love it, they really enjoy it and they support us.”
Ovechkin and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis paraded the Stanley Cup around the region Friday, from the Arlington Police Department to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to Fort Dupont Ice Arena. It had been eight days since the Capitals won their first championship, and now that the drunken escapades through Georgetown and the parade down Constitution Avenue have passed, local tours with the trophy have started.
“It’s fun,” Ovechkin said. “We just want to share with everybody. I think we said in parade, ‘It’s yours.’ We try to share with everybody and see the smiles and see the happy faces.”
A crowd of fans was waiting behind yellow tape when Ovechkin, Leonsis and the Stanley Cup arrived at the Arlington Police Department for their first stop of the afternoon. Everyone who works at the department had an opportunity to take a photograph with the three; they were briskly shuttled through one door and out another as officers and civilians posed in groups of four. Patrol officer Sarah Butzer has lived in the area for 13 years — “as long as Ovi has,” she said — and she first touched the Stanley Cup when she provided security for the team’s private party at Arlington restaurant Don Tito last Friday. The night the team won, she drove her police car to Clarendon and blared the air horn to the “Let’s go Caps!” chant.
A Stanley Cup had been painted on cloth and displayed at the front of the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic at MedStar Georgetown, the artwork serving as a placeholder for Ovechkin and the real thing. Some kids sat at a table in the back and sketched drawings of a screaming Ovechkin hoisting the trophy for the first time last week in Las Vegas. Leonsis presented the kids a banner they had made for the team several years ago: a silver Stanley Cup painted with “Let’s go Caps” written across the top. It had been for good luck, so Ovechkin signed it and returned it to the hospital with the same well wishes.
Kids lined up for photos, and Leonsis noticed one girl standing off to the side. He asked whether she wanted a picture with the Stanley Cup, but Meadow DeMille had gotten separated from her brother and was waiting for him. Tyler DeMille, who turns 12 soon, needed a bone marrow transplant before his first birthday, but he has been cancer-free for the past 11 years.
“Now I feel great,” Tyler said. “So, a cancer survivor touched the Stanley Cup.”
“You don’t know how much it means,” said Erica DeMille, Tyler and Meadow’s mother. “When life is almost taken from you, every moment of every day, whether it’s something small or something big, means more than it does maybe to people who haven’t been through this experience. So watching those kids in there, I was just tearing up. They’ve been through the worst of it, and to get to have an experience like this is absolutely amazing. We just got to see the Stanley Cup. That’s crazy.”
Ovechkin said the Stanley Cup has “lots of energy. I tell everybody, ‘Touch it,’ because, seriously, it’s history. Everybody want to be part of it, and we want to share with all our community.”
At Fort Dupont, the only full-sized indoor ice arena in Washington, Ovechkin lifted the trophy with Neal Henderson, founder of the Cannons, the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America. The two greeted each other with a hug; the Capitals have been longtime partners and supporters of Fort Dupont, with players occasionally dropping by the rink for Cannons practices.
“That’s something that I’ll never forget,” Henderson said of Ovechkin’s hug. “I’ll carry it to the afterlife.”
After more photos and smiles, Ovechkin placed the Stanley Cup back in the front seat for a final time, with the seat belt carefully pulled across to keep it steady. The two have hardly been separated this week, so what will it be like when Ovechkin has to part with his beloved silver sidekick?
“We never say goodbye,” he said. “Maybe we say back-to-back.”
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