Ted Leonsis promised then that he would do right by these fans, and sure enough, he did. The team reached out to Simon after his return, asking when he and Andreas would be able to come back to Washington. After coordinating their schedules with Adam Barragan — their local host — the trio settled on Sunday’s season finale. That, coincidentally, was the rescheduled Ducks game they had missed in January.
Thurgren and Forsman flew to New York on Saturday, drove down to Maryland, and wound up sitting in the Verizon Center owner’s box Sunday evening. A host of prominent Caps, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, sat out that meaningless game. That didn’t much matter.
“Sitting in the owner’s box was better than seeing those two games,” Thurgren told me Wednesday afternoon. “It’s amazing. I would never imagine this would happen. As I said to you before, I’m following the team in Sweden, I’m staying up every night watching the games, so it’s huge for me as a fan. I appreciate it a lot, and I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I will remember this for the rest of my life.”
The three fans sat and chatted with Leonsis, his son Zach and team President Dick Patrick. They went to the ice-level owner’s suite for an intermission meal; “total luxury,” Simon called it. He was interviewed by a Swedish radio station about the experience, and the team helped them acquire tickets to Thursday’s playoff opener against the Flyers. It’s hard to be a bigger Caps fan than Thurgren already was; he watches most of their games, which start at 1 a.m. in Borlänge, watches postgame interviews on the team’s app, and says following the team is his biggest hobby. Still, if it’s possible, he’s now a bigger fan.
“I mean, I loved the organization before, but now I love it even more, because I got the chance to really speak to some of the main people in the organization,” he said. Forsman, too, is “more of a Caps fan right now, after he got a chance to sit next to the owner. He doesn’t have any option.”
The team had sent the Swedes Caps T-shirts after their last trip, so Thurgren and Forsman brought back a personalized Tre Kronor jersey for Leonsis. Verizon Center is scheduled to host an exhibition between Team Sweden and Team Europe before the World Cup of hockey in September; they suggested he wear it then.
“He said it was perfect,” Thurgren said. “We are very, very happy this happened, and we are so thankful for the setup. They were first class, every one of them.”