In the days and hours leading up to Wednesday night’s Game 7, Jake Genachowski and his buddies didn’t bother talking much about the possibility of attending the Stanley Cup finals.
“Being lifelong D.C. sports fans, I think our confidence in actually winning was pretty low,” the 26-year-old said, “so we didn’t know how realistic it was.”
But then the Capitals scored in the opening moments of their Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then two more times in the second period. Genachowski and his friends were watching with a Capitals-crazed crowd at Macintyre’s in Woodley Park and, when Washington pulled ahead 3-0, they started looking up flights to Las Vegas. With three minutes left in the game, the group pulled the trigger and booked the trip.
Now comes the hard part: getting seats to the Capitals’ first Stanley Cup finals game since 1998.
“We have not locked in on tickets yet,” Genachowski said Thursday morning. “They’re pretty expensive — way more than the entire trip. So there’s a chance we just go out there to be around the experience and not get in the game.”
Washington area sports fans went to bed in a delirious, blissful state that many hadn’t experienced in a generation. Anyone waking up Thursday hoping for an up-close view of the Capitals’ series opener against the Vegas Golden Knights was met with a stern, pricey reality.
The cheapest seats available Thursday morning on Ticketmaster — the NHL’s official partner — cost $914 apiece. On StubHub, they were $983. Vivid Seats had one for $828, but the rest were at least $920. SeatGeek listed tickets for as low as $908, a price that jumped to more than $1,100 with fees.
It was sobering news for Capitals fans who were excited about a Vegas trip.
The high prices have forced others to get creative — even if it’s only in jest.
As of late Thursday morning, Kelvin Spriggs — who had offered up his kidney to raise funds for tickets — said no one had taken him up on his offer, but he wasn’t yet pulling the offer from the table.
“I honestly have no idea what the going rate for a kidney would be,” he joked.
And yet others were ready to pay whatever it will take to get inside T-Mobile Arena. Sabah Al-Sabah was inside what was then known as MCI Center for the last two Capitals Stanley Cup finals games, losses in Games 3 and 4 in 1998. He was in Vegas for Washington’s first regular season game there this season, and by Thursday morning he and his friends were torn between two choices: going to Vegas for Games 1 and 2, or waiting until Game 5. Not attending any of those games? That’s not an option.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, obviously,” Al-Sabah said Thursday morning. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get this chance again. I mean, this is my life, basically. I’ve always wanted this.”
He and his friends are already expecting their tickets in Vegas will run four figures. Of course, the secondary market for tickets could always drop. The tickets for Games 3 and 4 at Capital One Arena are similarly priced, which means many Capitals fans — at least non-season-ticket-holders or those who haven’t been saving their money since the team’s last conference title 20 years ago — could be priced out.
One Capitals fan even started a GoFundMe page late Thursday night.
“Ever since age 9 I have been a huge Washington capitals fan,” Annie Chaale wrote. “I’ve also become very depressed over the years. thankfully, this year the caps have decided not to make their fans go into a depression! Stanley cup tickets are insanely expensive and I can not afford even half of one. so basically I need at least $750 to see my main man Tom Wilson fight a guy from vegas.”
Capitals fan Ajay Hara ended up shelling out $1,200 for a Game 1 ticket in the wee hours following Wednesday’s shutout win. He’s a 23-year-old college student, graduating this week from University of British Columbia, which turned out to be pretty good timing: His parents helped pay for the ticket as a graduation present.
“I wish I could’ve gotten tickets for more,” he said, “but I’m living the broke university student life now.”
Alex Ovechkin is what hooked Hara into his Capitals fandom, and to him, the finals feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience: the chance to see his favorite player on the biggest stage.
“I’ve been waiting for this for like 10 years,” he said.
Genachowski and his two buddies got a good deal on a flight and hotel. They figured they’d try to sort out the game tickets later, but barring a big night at the casino, they might not get in the arena Monday. For them, being close is good enough — and more than they’d experienced in two decades of rooting for Washington teams.
“We’re all 26. The last time any D.C. sports team was even in a championship, we were in kindergarten,” he said. “We have no memory of that. Who knows the next time this will happen?”
Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the first two games are in Las Vegas.
“Would we be doing if they were playing Winnipeg?” he said. “Probably not.”
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