When the Nationals and Capitals gathered for a group photo during the Stanley Cup champions’ beer-filled visit to Nationals Park on Saturday, Ryan Zimmerman and Alex Ovechkin cozied up next to each other on the Nationals’ clubhouse floor. The camera captured a shared moment of pure joy between D.C.’s two longest-tenured pro athletes, who made their Washington debuts roughly one month apart in 2005 and met when Ovechkin attended a Nationals game at RFK Stadium on Sept. 27, 2006.
“He listened to instructions from Nationals hitting coach Mitchell Page before entering the cage with a bat, not a stick,” The Washington Post’s Steven Goff wrote of Ovechkin’s first Nationals game nearly 12 years ago. “He met Zimmerman. He wore a Nationals cap backward, played catch with right fielder Austin Kearns and tossed left-handed ‘fastballs’ against the backstop. And just before the start of last night’s game, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin threw the ceremonial first pitch.”
“It’s a good game. I had fun,” Ovechkin said at the time.
Ovechkin, whose pitching skills evidently haven’t improved over the past decade, hasn’t stopped having fun since the Capitals clinched the franchise’s first Stanley Cup on Thursday. The celebration continued during Tuesday’s championship parade along Constitution Avenue, an event 44 years in the making for some Capitals fans and which featured five of the 10 longest-tenured athletes in D.C. sports. The two names at the top of that list remain unchanged since the last time we updated it more than two years ago, but the rest of it looks quite a bit different. The list stands to change again in the coming months with the Capitals facing some difficult decisions in free agency.
In keeping with the Bog’s methodology, we’re basing this on consecutive seasons in Washington following a player’s on-field big league debut. Some of these players went back to the minors following their debut, but we’re counting their service time in Washington as uninterrupted. For previous lists, see here: October 2009, December 2010, March 2012, August 2012, March 2016. Note that Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall, who is “95 percent sure” he will retire after nine-plus seasons in Washington, is not included in the list below. Hall’s Redskins debut was on Nov. 16, 2008, which would rank him fourth among these names.
1) Ryan Zimmerman: In his 14th season (Debut: Sept. 1, 2005)
Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first draft pick, is among the longest-tenured players in all of baseball. Across MLB, only the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (Aug. 4, 2005), the New York Mets’ David Wright (July 21, 2004), the St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina (June 3, 2004) and the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer (April 5, 2004) made their debuts for their current clubs before Zimmerman.
2) Alex Ovechkin: Finished his 13th season (Debut: Oct. 5, 2005)
Earlier this year, Ovechkin became the Capitals’ all-time leader in games played. The 32-year-old isn’t showing any signs of slowing down after leading the league in goals scored during the regular season (49) and playoffs (15).
3) Nicklas Backstrom: Finished his 11th season (Debut: Oct. 5, 2007)
Backstrom arrived in D.C. two years after Ovechkin’s rookie season. They have been making magic on the ice ever since. “Me and him been together since day one, and we fought through lots of negatives, lots of problems,” Ovechkin said of why Backstrom was the first teammate he handed the Stanley Cup to during Thursday’s on-ice celebration. “I was really happy when we did it, and I told him right away, ‘I am going to give it to you.’ It was something special.”
4) Jay Beagle: Finished his 10th season (Debut: Feb. 11, 2009)
Beagle, who became the first player to win an ECHL, AHL and NHL title, is a pending unrestricted free agent. “I can’t imagine playing with another team,” Beagle said during the Capitals’ playoff run. “This is my family, and that’s the way I treat it.”
5) John Carlson: Finished his ninth season (Debut: Nov. 20, 2009)
Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2008 is a pending unrestricted free agent. After following his best regular season by shattering the Capitals’ record for points by a defenseman in a single postseason, Carlson is expected to command a huge contract to remain in D.C. “I want to stay here,” Carlson said Wednesday, “but there’s more to it than that.”
6) Stephen Strasburg: In his ninth season (Debut: June 8, 2010)
Strasburg, who was No. 12 on this list two years ago, is poised to continue climbing the ranks. He signed a seven-year contract extension in 2016 that could keep him in D.C. through 2023.
7-Tie) Nick Sundberg: Finished his eighth season (Debut: Sept. 12, 2010)
The Redskins’ longest-tenured player signed a futures contract with Washington in January 2010 after going undrafted out of Cal in 2009. The gregarious long snapper was at T-Mobile Arena to see several of the names ahead of him on this list clinch the Stanley Cup.
7-Tie) Trent Williams: Finished his eighth season (Debut: Sept. 12, 2010)
The Redskins selected Williams with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft to anchor their offensive line. Despite battling knee injuries, he has developed into one of the NFL’s best left tackles.
9) John Wall: Finished his eighth season (Debut: Oct. 28, 2010)
Washington won the NBA draft lottery in 2010 and used the No. 1 pick to select the one-and-done University of Kentucky star.
10) Braden Holtby: Finished his eighth season (Debut: Nov. 5, 2010)
Holtby, who had a 2.16 goals against average in this year’s playoffs, was the Capitals’ fourth-round selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
11) Ryan Kerrigan: Finished his seventh season (Debut: Sept. 11, 2011)
Kerrigan has been one of the Redskins’ most dependable defenders since he was the 16th pick out of Purdue in the 2011 NFL draft.
12) Nick DeLeon: In his seventh season (Debut: March 18, 2012)
Recently sidelined with a knee injury, DeLeon, who made his 150th appearance with D.C. United last season, has one assist in 10 matches this year.
Read more on the Capitals: