The Tested Generation of Capitals Fans

Posted May 9, 2017

Written By Brandon Alter and Max Wolpoff – Photos by Philip Van der Vossen

Wednesday may be the biggest night in D.C. since forever, but what about those born after 1998, or who were too young to remember how big some games were before the turn of the century? This generation of Capitals fans, and D.C. Sports fans for that matter, have never seen any local team past the second round.

Redskins fans remember how close they came in 2012 with Robert Griffin III at quarterback, only to see his knee blown out and his playing time mismanaged in a Wild Card Game against Seattle. Then there was Paul Pierce’s buzzer-beater-that-wasn’t for the Wizards against the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks in 2015. The shot went in, but, in what seems to be “typical D.C.,” the clock ran out before the ball left his right hand.

Washington sports are an easy punchline for locals and outsiders alike. Opposing fans know all the tired lines they’ve rehearsed over the years. Wednesday’s game has the chance to be the latest example of confirmation bias for out-of-towners to chant whenever they conjure up the money to invade the Metro, or the end of a strung out joke.

Game 7 between the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins will either be just another test for us, or we will finally get the “A” we deserve for sticking with this fan base through one “disappointment” after another. What exactly will this game, win or lose, mean to us? Last year, we wrote how this is a new generation of Caps fans and that we will create our own history. How do the rest of us feel?

“Since our generation has never seen the Capitals succeed at really any level in the playoffs, it would mean so much to me,” said John Herald, 18, via Twitter.

“It would be incredible, after so many second round losses over the years I [have been] a fan,” added Nicholas Franco, 16, via Facebook Messenger.

Nadiv Panitch, 18, added via Messenger that even if Washington wins, there are still eight more wins to go.

“Honestly, I’m [not] sure exactly what I’ll feel if we win. On one hand, it will be the furthest we’ve made it, but at the same time there’s still two rounds to win.”

18-year-old Jack Brody captures how many of us feel.

“Having been a Caps fan for so long and never getting past the second round since I’ve been alive is just awful for me, especially when we are always a top seed team,” he said.

If the Caps lose, we might just feel numb because it is what we are used to.

“I’d be so sad but then also this entire series I never thought that we’d win game seven and get past the second round just cause that’s all I’ve ever known from the Caps” said Heather McCall, 16, via Twitter.

Then there are fans like Ezra Katz, 20. For the last five years, he’s seen the best and worst this club can offer in on-ice performance. Considering the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, Katz thinks “this has to be the year.”

“It took so long to build this monster of the team, so if we lose, who knows who will stay in Washington and how good [Alex] Ovechkin will be in the following years? Who knows how long it will take to build an amazing team like this again? Washington will officially be the joke of hockey if they lose,” Katz said via Messenger.

“If they win however, it will be one of the biggest moments in Washington sports history. The year that Ovechkin finally gets past [Sidney] Crosby,” Katz says. “If we win, the amount of pride and joy we will have as Washington fans will be indefinite. It will be a symbolic moment as us Washington millennials.

There is also Brennan Jones, 21, who is just looking for confirmation that D.C. is a real hockey town.

“The first time I went to a caps game (in addition to being deathly afraid of the goal horn, thinking it was an alarm of some type) I was told by my dad that they would ‘probably lose,’” he said through Messenger. “You go to Verizon now and you expect them to win.”

“They’ve certainly changed for the better in our lifetimes. We’ve become way more of a hockey town than we were, even in my memory. It would just be lovely to get some hardware to confirm that.” he added.

There is no escaping the past (not until someone invents time travel). The playoffs are supposed to be painful. Do not grieve for the past, for it is already dead. If you are stuck in the past saying “here we go again,” maybe sports fandom isn’t for you. You are missing what should be regarded as one of the best teams to hit the ice in the Salary Cap Era. It is a shame that they will be judged on whether or not they can win 16 games in the spring.

Do what you need to make yourself comfortable for a long night Wednesday. Say your prayers, eat that one meal, sit in your favorite spot, throw your phone into a dark room and don’t answer any calls or texts until this game is over.

It’ll be a classic. Enjoy it. You can’t ask for anything more.