A police officer stood near the rope line, and Allison Latham waited until he turned the other way to sneak her moment with the Stanley Cup.
The Washington Capitals arrived at Georgetown’s waterfront Saturday afternoon to share their championship hardware with the District. Latham, 25, rushed over from the Capital Pride Festival to greet them, and once past the rope line, she found herself face to face with T.J. Oshie, Devante Smith-Pelly and a whole lot of beer.
“Are you supposed to be here?” the officer asked, sensing she was star-struck and out of place.
“I’m with him,” she said, and pointed to Alex Ovechkin , the ubiquitous Capitals captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner himself.
Ovechkin nodded. The police officer shrugged. The party continued.
Washington’s NHL team is celebrating its title among the people. Aside from parade day, sports championships are typically insular affairs, honored in private ceremonies, at invitation-only house parties, blanketed by security and shrouded in secrecy until photos leak on Twitter.
But in the immediate aftermath of the Capitals’ first championship in their 44-year history — Washington’s first major professional sports title since 1992 — they wasted no time bringing the celebration to the public.
“The Caps didn’t make it about them,” Latham said. “It’s about everybody.”
NHL tradition holds that each member of the championship team gets a “day with the Cup,” time to do whatever he pleases with the 35-pound chalice first awarded in 1893. That day is usually personal, a reflection of a lifetime accomplishment achieved shared with family and friends.
Players have had their children baptized in the Cup. They have slept alongside it. It has returned to many home towns to pay tribute to hockey-filled childhoods.
It has also been used in debaucherous ways. It sank to the bottom of swimming pools during parties celebrating Pittsburgh’s 1991 win and Montreal’s in 1993. It has been used to feed a racehorse, 1991 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin. It has been dented more times than its keepers, employees of the Hockey Hall of Fame, would like to remember.
Before the Cup even begins its journey to those individual destinations, the Capitals wasted no time revealing what kind of Cup holders they would be.
Immediately upon defeating the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals on Thursday, the team took to the Las Vegas Strip and began its first night of a public bender.
Ovechkin toted the Cup to the Hakkasan nightclub at the MGM Grand hotel and casino where players danced with it, parked it behind the DJ booth, poured beer from the chalice into the mouth of said DJ, and marched back out through the lobby.
Back in Washington, the team took it to Saturday’s Nationals game, where it sat behind the pitcher’s mound as Ovechkin threw out the first pitch. The group was supposed to leave after the pregame ceremony, but instead sat in a suite and drank beers for nine innings. Then the team made it to Georgetown, Cup in tow.
The revelry continued into Sunday’s early-morning hours. Capitals fans took full advantage to create their own moments with the so-called “greatest trophy” in professional sports. Pictures and video of the jubilation surfaced on social media from practically every stop.
“It’s about D.C,” Latham said. “They’ve showed that by running around the city and crashing parties and sharing it with everyone. It makes me very, very proud to be a Caps fan.”
Latham arrived in Georgetown around 5 p.m., to find Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom standing on chairs and raising the Cup overhead. They greeted the hundred or so fans who assembled around their party and waved them in closer.
Oshie took the Cup and held it out for others to grab and and kiss.
By 6 p.m., the Caps’ location was no longer a secret.
More fans showed up. More alcohol was consumed. Fountains were discovered.
When Karl Johan Andersen, 30, and his sister, Brett, 26, arrived, Ovechkin had dived in the fountain and Oshie, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby and others followed. They called out for fans to join them. Karl Johan Andersen did.
“I can’t even tell you how cool and awesome they were,” he said.
The Andersen family is Swedish, and they chatted with Andre Burakovsky and Christian Djoos in their native tongue. It led Brett Andersen to an invitation onto the team’s party bus, where she accompanied Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana, also a Swedish speaker, to get tattoos.
The remaining Caps, Cup in hand, hailed a cab and took it to Cafe Milano on Prospect Street for dinner and (more) drinks.
Fans followed and lined the restaurant’s windows as the team entered to chants of “Let’s go Caps!”
The scene may have spoiled Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s quiet dinner, but President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law met and posed for pictures with several players. Before long, players were spraying willing patrons with champagne.
Backstrom and Oshie brought the trophy outside for waiting fans. Max Ames, 17, of Springfield, gave it a kiss.
“It was one of the, if not the, best nights of my life,” Ames said.
The Capitals’ title ended a drought that left an entire generation of Washington sports fans — coincidentally in the ideal age range to keep up with hard-partying hockey players — thirsty for a semblance of athletic success.
Finally, it arrived, and fans were happy to take it on ice. And the players were happy to share it with them.
“It was almost like they were giving back to us,” Karl Johan Andersen said. “They know. They see the videos of people crying and being devastated. This was them saying, ‘We know you’ve been through so much suffering and we want you to experience this with us.’”
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