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 Tony Kornheiser bids farewell to "choking dogs."
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 Capitals Section
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  No Shame in Shutout, Fans Say
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 1998; Page A18

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Second best was good enough for many Washington Capitals fans who said last night that they were proud of the hockey team even though it lost four straight games in the Stanley Cup finals.

"They have nothing to be ashamed of," said Iris Salcewicz, 38, of Chantilly, after the Caps' 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings ended the championship series. "They played so well this season, they'll be back next year."

Many fans at MCI Center said they were grateful that the team had just made it to its first Stanley Cup finals in the franchise's 24-year history.

"Overall, you've got to appreciate the fact that they got here," said Brad Jones, 25, of Annapolis. But, he said, "it's disappointing to get swept in this round."

Although fans were prepared to accept defeat in the series against Detroit, the defending NHL champions, the Capitals' failure to win even one game in the best-of-seven series was embarrassing to some.

"It's kind of hard to go out this way," said Scott Zweibel, 24, of Fairfax City. "It makes you despondent to lose in your own building without winning one game. It hurts."

Before the game, Caps fans entering the arena were full of enthusiasm, even as they navigated past boisterous Detroit fans who were confidently predicting victory. Many of the Red Wings fans had their faces painted the team colors of red and white, and some carried brooms symbolizing their hopes of sweeping the series.

"I feel like I'm in Detroit," said Caps fan Jack Finley, 37, of Fairfax County.

In too many seasons past, the Caps have choked and not lived up to their potential, failing to make the championship and leaving fans with a familiar frustrating feeling come June, Finley said. Not this time.

"Even if we go home with Detroit winning the cup, I will not be going home with that frustrated feeling," Finley said. "The Stanley Cup is in this building. The Capitals brought it here."

Finley and his brothers, Patrick and Tim, said the big season this year might turn Washington into more of a hockey town — and produce more die-hard fans like the red swarms from Detroit at the arena.

"There's a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon," said Tim Finley, 35, of Dover, Del. "Let them jump. The more the merrier. . . . Regardless of the outcome of this game, I'm going to go home happy."

Before the Stanley Cup trophy was brought to the arena to be awarded to Detroit, it was on public display at Union Station. Michael Weintraub, 25, of Rockville, and Scott Shippey, 31, of Frederick, Md., went to the station to take pictures of each other in their Caps jerseys next to the trophy. They said they never expected the cup to be anywhere near Washington this season.

"We're happy we came this far," Weintraub said.

"The Caps have done an excellent job this year, and they got respect," Shippey said. "Next year, I hope more of Washington pays attention to the Caps. I want sellouts all year, not just in June."

Stacey Freedman, 28, of Ellicott City, spent the minutes before the game sending an e-mail from one of MCI Center's video kiosks to a co-worker and Caps fan who was working late at the East Columbia branch of the Howard County library.

"I think the Caps should be proud of how far they got," Freedman said. "This is great. This is history."

In her e-mail, she wrote: "Here we be. Cross your fingers and hope we win 'cause these Red Wings fans are too damn obnoxious."

Two of those fans were Anthony Shamoun, 22, and his brother, Kevin, 21, from outside Detroit, who flew to Washington yesterday for the game. They paid face value plus handling charges — $117 — for each game ticket from a ticket service. Tickets were still available for the Washington games after they were sold out in Detroit. It was cheaper, they said, to pay for plane fare and a hotel room and come to Washington than it was to pay scalpers more than $1,000 each for tickets in Detroit.

"Detroit is a hockey town," Anthony Shamoun said. "We love our Wings. It's like Washington people loving the 'Skins."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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