A Stanley Cup championship banner rose to the rafters at the home of the Washington Capitals for the first time, while those in attendance on Wednesday got to relive the sheer excitement of it all.
Alex Ovechkin and his teammates, who craned their necks to see the video montages of last season on the overhead scoreboard, could not help but smile.
The coaches were enthralled as well, including new head coach Todd Reirden.
Among the 18,506 in the crowd, many were decked out in Capitals jerseys — most of them in the team’s main color, red, and many with Ovechkin’s No. 8 on the back.
They sang along to We Are The Champions and shook team-distributed glow sticks during a half-hour ceremony before Washington opened the regular season by beating the Boston Bruins 7-0 behind a pair of goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and one apiece from Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Nic Dowd, John Carlson and Lars Eller.
“Gave me chills. I was just looking up and I was hearing the crowd sing that song,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I want to experience that again.”
Those fans roared at any mention of “champions,” any clip of Ovechkin, or when there were glimpses of “The Save” by Braden Holtby in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights and Eller’s Cup-winning goal in Game 5, and Ovechkin kissing the trophy for the first time on June 7 last year.
One thing missing from the festivities was any mention or image of Barry Trotz, the coach who led the team to the trophy then left in a contract dispute, replaced by promoted assistant Reirden.
Each burst of cheers sounded as if the games from months ago were being played all over again.
“When you’re part of something like that, how can you not be excited to get going and try to do it again?” “ said Oshie, who scored 24 seconds into Wednesday’s game.
The banner signifying the NHL championship was revealed toward the end of the festivities, slowly lifted to the ceiling, its rise paused long enough for the players to gather on the ice in front of it for photographs, the Stanley Cup itself resting nearby on the ice.
There were already five red banners hanging from the rafters to signify Capitals accomplishments: Three representing 11 division titles, one marking the team’s pair of Eastern Conference titles and the last celebrates a trio of Presidents’ Trophy triumphs.
“Kind of a historic moment for us. I’ve always said it’s nice to be a part of it; it’s nice to be in this organization,” Ovechkin said after the game. “Tonight [Wednesday], we had so many emotions, so much fun out there, and you can see how we played.”
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, rookie Elias Pettersson scored with his first shot in his first NHL game as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 in their season opener, while in San Jose, California, John Gibson made 31 saves as the Anaheim Ducks spoiled Erik Karlsson’s San Jose debut with a 5-2 victory over the Sharks.
In Toronto, the Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime.
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