Ben Boggs began to travel with the Caps Road Crew in 2003, a March bus trip to see Washington face the New Jersey Devils. It only took one trip with the group for him to set a goal: see the Capitals play in every NHL arena. Which is something he has worked toward, for more than a decade.
Boggs has been to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and the United Center in Chicago. There were trips to old barns no longer in use by NHL teams — Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh (RIP) and Philips Arena in Atlanta (Sorry about the Thrashers), according to Boggs. Most recently, he has made stops in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the new arena in Detroit. There was one active arena that has remained on his list, though.
“Las Vegas is the last one and all season, I’ve been joking with friends: How cool would it be if the Caps had a chance to win a Cup in Vegas, to complete this journey?” said Boggs, a fan so devoted his license plates read “2ND RD.” (For real.) “Even though it was a pipe dream at the time, it actually might be coming true, finally.”
Boggs, a 31-year-old from
Lovettsville errr, Capitalsville, Va., plans to be in T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night, when the Caps meet the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. You know what could happen during this game. You don’t need me to say it. Also, it might be a jinx? This is uncharted territory, I am actually not sure? I will not be held responsible. So anyway, Ben, how do you feel?
“To be honest, I’ve been in a state of shock, ever since the Kuznetsov goal against the Penguins,” he said. “Everything since then has been surreal. Beating Tampa. Making the finals. Winning three games. Heck, even my hometown suddenly named itself Capitalsville. I’m still just sort of in a state of disbelief, and I imagine if they win Thursday night, years of dedication and emotion will come out all at once.”
Boggs — who can trace his hockey fandom back more than 20 years, to the release of “The Mighty Ducks” — said he initially purchased a standing-room-only ticket for Game 7, a decision made as soon as tickets went on sale. As he was online buying the ticket, he realized that something special might happen in Game 5, too, so he tossed in a stand-room ticket for Thursday night.
“I have chills thinking about it,” he said, when asked if he’d imagined what it would be like, to be in the building for this. “Me and my friends have chills thinking about it, every time we talk.”
In total, Boggs said he has been more than three dozen NHL arenas, a list that has included venues for outdoor game as well as old arenas that are not in use anymore. (He has also taken in games that did not involve the Caps, but most have been Washington games, and he said he has seen the Caps at every current arena but Vegas’s.) Here is a map he has used to track the trips, in case you are more a visual learner.
The trips, Boggs said, offer him a chance to experience the culture of a city’s fan base. Hockey fans in Philadelphia are different from hockey fans in Montreal. And both those hockey fan bases are different from hockey fans in Minnesota.
“I thought seeing all the actual stadiums and teams would be most interesting, but by far the most interesting thing is meeting all the other fans,” he said. “Most places you go, there can be some hostile fans, but when they realize you’re not just some local choosing another team, and you’re a dedicated fan that traveled all the way to see your team in their stadium, they’re a lot more welcoming, and it sparks a lot of good conversation.”
He has played pond hockey with a buddy in Minnesota. He and his mother went to a game in Detroit during the last season of Joe Louis Arena. They sat on the glass and caught a puck. He called the trip to T-Mobile Arena a “storybook ending to a 15-year journey,” but also acknowledged that things would probably different with this trip to Vegas. For obvious reasons.
“Unlike so many other games where I’m going to absorb the culture and absorb the fans,” he said, “the only thing on my mind Thursday night is going to be winning the Cup. I don’t know if I’ll be able to think or absorb anything else.”
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