WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I have four words for you,” Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said, looking out at the thousands of fans packed in before him on the National Mall. “I’m going to paraphrase from one of the greatest Americans of all time: ‘We had a dream.’”
If it seems a bit absurd to hear Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship—well, that’s fair, but it was par for the course in a team celebration that’s been so consistently giddy as to make everything seem a little absurd. For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have won it all, and they’ve spent the last few days swimming in fountains and breaking into song and engaging in what’s felt like one long display of delightful public drunkenness. With Tuesday’s official victory parade, they kept all that going.
The players rode double-decker buses down a six-block stretch of Constitution Avenue, moving through a teeming crowd as they headed from the Lincoln Memorial toward the U.S. Capitol. When they reached their final destination—a stage constructed in the center of the Mall, surrounded by still more fans—their names were called one by one, each player invited to step forward and take the spotlight to himself for a moment. An impressive range of behaviors followed. Brett Connolly, for example, chugged a beer. Nathan Walker chugged a beer while being lifted in the air by some teammates. Devante Smith-Pelly chugged a beer while displaying a custom wrestling-style championship belt. T.J. Oshie pulled his jersey over his head in order to chug a beer through it.
The crowd had been waiting along the parade route for hours, with some who arrived even before the sun rose. One man said that he’d spent the night driving down from Pennsylvania to set up by 6 a.m. He was standing next to a local couple who’d gotten there even earlier—bringing along their eight-month-old daughter, who was somehow resting peacefully in her stroller despite the thousands of people cheering and screaming around her. But the wait was worth it, everyone agreed, no matter how long it had been. After all, in a different sense, many had been waiting for years. They held signs that read “We Lived to See It” and “Now I Can Die in Peace” and “Born in 1974 + Waited My Entire Lifetime.” Now, at last, they had nothing left to wait for.
“There’s been a lot of chants,” Oshie told the fans at one point. “There’s been, ‘Let’s go Caps.’ There’s been, ‘We want the Cup.’ We heard in the streets, ‘We’ve got the Cup.’ We got a new one for you tonight—today,” he quickly corrected himself, though the crowd didn’t seem to notice his mistake, much less care anything about what time of day it was. “Back-to-back!”
The crowd roared his words back to him, again and again and again, until Oshie finally retreated to rejoin his teammates. A moment later, though, he ran back up to the front of the stage.
He’d forgotten to pick up the beer that he’d brought up to the microphone with him.
Oshie’s address to the crowd was one of several. There was Tom Wilson (“Everyone says what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but we brought the Cup home!”) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (“Let’s f— this s—!”) and, finally, there was the one that everyone wanted to hear most.
“What’s up, babes?” Alexander Ovechkin greeted the crowd.
Seemingly from the first moment that he lifted it over his head on the ice after Game 5 last week, Ovechkin and the Cup had been inseparable. He’d carried it everywhere; he’d drank from it; he’d even been photographed sleeping with it. Here, though, he wanted to tell the fans that this championship—and all the ridiculous joy that came with it—belonged to them just as much as to him.
“It’s yours, boys and girls! Let’s go!”