Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is confident the turnout will be massive, and based on the scene outside Capital One Arena after Washington clinched the city’s first championship in one of the four major pro sports since 1992, a six-figure crowd isn’t impossible to imagine. A formal announcement is expected later Friday.
“I think it’s going to be much bigger than everyone is expecting,” Leonsis told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski after the Capitals’ 4-3 win in Las Vegas in Game 5. “We want to be able to say thank you to people in Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. My goal is to create something that elevates and unites all of the people in our community, so people think happy thoughts about Washington, D.C.”
It’s been a while since D.C. hosted a championship parade, but previous celebrations offer possibilities for how the Capitals might be feted.
Nov. 3, 1997
A small, but enthusiastic crowd cheered D.C. United during its nine-block midday parade along Pennsylvania Avenue after the team captured its second consecutive MLS title.
“Several hundred people gathered along the route as the Eastern High School Marching Band led the way, followed by several fan clubs with big drums, a Mexican mariachi band, and old D.C. United players waving from Old Town tourist trolleys,” The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable wrote.
Jan. 28, 1992
Two days after the Redskins defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, more than 75,000 fans turned out for a celebration on the Mall. Players and coaches, excluding the eight Redskins, including Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, who were in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, addressed the crowd from a 13-foot stage erected at Third Street NW.
Authorities, adamant that there be no repeat performance, limited this year’s celebration to a rally and erected fencing 75 feet from the stage to keep the crowds at a safe distance. A force of about 500 D.C. police officers and a large contingent of U.S. Park Police officers, including 21 on horseback, were on hand.No arrests were reported, and none of the eight ambulances at the scene was used.The crowd size — 75,000, according to U.S. Park Police, and 100,000, according to D.C. police — fell far short of predictions, which had included a figure of 1 million. Metro did not need to go on the all-day rush-hour schedule it had planned.Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. speculated that several factors contributed to the smaller turnout.The federal government, unlike in 1988, did not give workers time off for the rally, and two television stations broadcast the events live, he said. Also, fear of a massive turnout might have kept people away, he said.
“The police estimated the crowd at 75,000,” Thomas Boswell wrote. “I estimate that, when I jumped up in the air and looked back at the Washington Monument, all I could see were people. People almost shoulder to shoulder, not only on the Mall, but in the streets. People on the steps of the Museum of Natural History. People on the roof of the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing. Some say this isn’t such a big crowd. Nothing out of the ordinary for a team that just won a world championship. I say it’s a lot of people in one place at one time if you aren’t giving anything away.”
Feb. 3, 1988
A crowd of roughly 600,000 fans lined Pennsylvania Avenue along the parade route from Third Street NW to the District Building three days after Doug Williams led the Redskins to a 42-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Two days earlier, about 2,000 fans welcomed the Redskins home upon their arrival from San Diego at Dulles Airport.
Hundreds of thousands of proud and loud Redskins fans turned Pennsylvania Avenue NW into a massive line of scrimmage yesterday, greeting Washington’s triumphant football team with tumultuous, if occasionally unruly, glee.Government offices closed up tight, streamers and confetti fell through the air, souvenir vendors did record business and area teachers stood before half-empty classrooms as all Washington joined Mayor Marion Barry and President Reagan to celebrate the Super Bowl sensations.But Assistant Police Chief Isaac P. Fulwood Jr., who estimated the crowd at 600,000, said police “lost the street” as the parade reached the District Building. The throng surged onto the street, snapping wooden barricades and pressing against the speakers’ platform.Police arrested 31 people, mostly for disorderly conduct and vending violations. At least 24 people required minor medical treatment; most felt faint from the press of the crowd. Other than one woman who broke a leg, there were no serious injuries, but it took much of the day to clear the area of fans, including rowdy teenagers who had to be escorted from The Shops at National Place, the mall across from the District Building.Although police said the crowd was larger than the 500,000 gathered for the 1983 Redskins Super Bowl celebration, other estimates of yesterday’s outpouring were more conservative by half.With a few exceptions — notably a dozen or so teenagers who traded punches and racial epithets outside the Pavilion at the Old Post Office — the crowd was powerfully good-natured, cheering at speeches they could not hear, waving to players they could not see.
Feb. 3, 1983
Four days after the Redskins won their first Super Bowl, about half a million fans braved the rain to celebrate the team during its 12-block parade along Constitution Avenue.
Reveling in a driving rain that they blithely dismissed as “hog weather,” more than half-a-million soggy celebrants crushed together yesterday along Constitution Avenue to welcome home the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins.The parade’s start was delayed by surging crowds that blocked the route, frantically trying to glimpse the two Metro buses carrying the town’s triumphant football team. Fans jumped up and down, climbed trees and shinnied up traffic-light poles, while police acknowledged they could not control the tumultuous celebration.Lining the 12 blocks from the District Building to Third Street NW were fans with rain-smeared Indian war paint dripping down their chins, fogged-up glasses and limp World Champion pennants, squishy sneakers and hoarse voices. They squealed like hogs and whooped like Indians. They jumped up together in the middle of Constitution Avenue and slapped hands. They stole kisses from the Redskinettes. And, despite the cold rain, they said it was worth it.When fans finally caught sight of the Redskins in the two buses — after anxiously peering into passing cars only to find waving politicians inside — many were seized with near hysteria. They broke through police lines, pounded on the buses, grabbed players’ hands, threw bottles of champagne and beer through open windows and attempted to follow the procession down the avenue.The crowd, which D.C. police said was as large as the throng of more than 500,000 that greeted the return of the American hostages from Iran two years ago, was too big and boisterous to be contained, said Assistant Police Chief Marty Tapscott. However, police reported no arrests related to the parade and no serious injuries.
June 9, 1978
The parade following the Bullets’ only NBA championship stretched 11 miles, from Capital Centre in Landover to RFK Stadium, with stops at the District Building and the White House along the way. Could this be the type of celebration Leonsis is envisioning for the Capitals?
Via The Post’s Thomas Boswell and Milton Coleman:
From the horse-grazing countryside around Capital Centre to the White House, Washington roleld out its red carpet — a royal rug bordered by more than a hundred thousand fans, cheering and touching their heroes. Along all those miles from Central Avenue to East Capitol Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, thousands of Washingtonians craned their necks, all with the same worried question in their faces“Are they coming?”After 36 years without a world champion in any sport, those eyes almost seemed to anticipate some final disappointment, some other road taken at the last minute.At the crest of each hill of the undulating ride, the reaction to the first glimpse of the 25-car Bullet cavalcade was the same. As the red lights of the police escort blinked into view, the throngs surged forward, filling the streets.
“The true Washingtonians, people who had lived there all their lives, they finally had something sports-wise to really be excited about,” Bob Dandridge said in March when his former teammates gathered for the 40th anniversary and Phil Chenier’s jersey retirement ceremony. “We went through very diverse neighborhoods. About every eight blocks, everybody had the opportunity to get a feel. No social group in the city was left out of feeling an active part of that championship, and I felt that was real special and unique planning. Before it was termed the DMV, that was our fan base. I feel like everybody felt a part of our championship.”
This post has been updated.
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