“I just stopped dead in my tracks, I was so excited,” said the 30-year-old Hranicka, an eight-year veteran of the company who was among the group of Monumental Sports & Entertainment employees rocking the red inside T-Mobile Arena during Washington’s 6-4 loss to the Golden Knights on Monday. “Just being in the Stanley Cup finals is absolutely amazing. I can’t even explain the feeling.”
Leonsis chartered two flights, one that left Monday morning and another scheduled to leave Wednesday morning, with each one carrying roughly 100 full-time employees from nearly every department. A company spokeswoman said ticket availability prohibited Leonsis from inviting more of Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s roughly 500 full-time employees, so priority was given to employees who work most closely on Capitals-related business and was also based in part on seniority.
Hranicka and the rest of Monday’s traveling party were handed red “All Caps” rally towels as they boarded their 7 a.m. charter flight at Dulles Airport.
“It was an early start to the day, but everyone was very, very excited about it,” said Hranicka, a lifelong Capitals fan who was making her first trip to Las Vegas. “It was very generous of Mr. Leonsis to do this for us.”
Omar Castro, a guest relations manager who has been with the company for nearly two years, was at Capital One Arena on Monday helping prepare the venue for the Game 1 watch party, which drew more than 12,000 fans. He was already looking forward to Wednesday, when he and about 100 other Monumental Sports and Entertainment employees were scheduled to fly to Las Vegas to watch Game 2 in person.
Castro, 34, first learned of the trip on Thursday via a call from his boss, who gave him a heads up that he would soon be receiving an email with details, and that he shouldn’t ignore it, or assume that it was intended for someone else.
“I’ve never replied to an email so fast,” Castro said. “I said, yep, I’m good, I can go, here’s the information that you need.”
Before this season, Castro, a Puerto Rico native, had never watched a full hockey game. After he was named one of the primary guest relations managers for Capitals games, he became determined to learn the sport by peppering his more experienced colleagues with questions. By the start of this year’s playoffs, he said he had a handle on most of the rules. He was also hooked on the team.
“I started sitting at home and watching when they were away and screaming at the TV,” Castro said. “I knew the history of us against the Penguins. They owned us, basically, for years. That last game in Pittsburgh, I have never screamed so loud as when Kuznetsov scored that goal at the end. My dogs started running toward me like something was wrong with me. It was crazy.”
Castro, who worked at Disney for more than 10 years before joining Monumental Sports & Entertainment, said he can hardly believe he’ll be making his first trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“It’s truly amazing and out of this world,” Castro said. “I never expected an owner of the company to do this. We get to share in this with them. … He’s thinking of us as part of a family, as part of the experience. There’s no reason for him to do it. All I can say is a big thanks to Ted and his family for the opportunity, and for truly making this into something memorable for all of us here in the company.”
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