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I blame my father for all of this.
It’s his fault that I love this stupid team. It’s his fault that I devote time and energy to every game. And it’s his fault that I start each year with a level of optimism that, at this point, is bordering on psychosis. Because of him, being a Caps fan is in my blood.
My dad grew up in Brooklyn but spent his teenage years in New England, where he became a fan of the Boston Bruins - and more specifically their superstar defenseman, Bobby Orr. Orr’s knees would eventually falter, and (thankfully) so would my dad’s love of the Bruins, but hockey continued to draw him in.
So it seemed like fate that he moved to the DC area for work in 1974... just as a new expansion team was headed for the nation’s capital. He attended the team’s first ever preseason game - a surprising tie against the dominant Montreal Canadiens - and bought season tickets that very night.
...see, this is the part of the horror movie where the entire audience is yelling at the screen, “no, turn back, don’t go in there!!”
So he suffered through that first miserable season and the handful of equally miserable seasons that followed. He quickly went from casual observer to diehard fan, helping to found the fan club and even taking my mother to a hockey game for their first date. By the time my sister and I came along, the Caps’ fandom was firmly embedded in our DNA. Hockey was just part of our lives, and we loved it.
I remember the rare treat of getting to attend games at the old Capital Centre with my dad, falling asleep in the car on the way home with the dulcet tones of Ken Beatrice acting as a lullaby. I remember watching games on TV and honestly believing that if I could stay up and watch the whole thing, the Caps couldn’t lose. I remember jumping up and down on the couch when Joe Juneau scored that overtime goal to send the Caps to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Hockey was magical to me back then, and it remains magical today - perhaps not in the same naive, little girl sort of way, of course. I’ve seen too many bad hits and lockouts and ugly business-type things to hold on to all of that. But magical nonetheless.
I still get excited - and we’re talking bouncing in my seat like a kid excited - when it comes time for the first game of the season or the opening faceoff of another playoff run. I still believe that the Caps will come back when they fall behind, and never leave early even when it looks like that comeback won’t happen. I’m as enthralled watching Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom skate as I used to be watching Peter Bondra and Bengt Gustafsson and (don’t laugh) Sylvain Cote.
And as much as I’ve cried over trades, and huddled in a dark room after playoff disappointments, and cursed at every single person employed by the organization from the players to the guy who orders the office supplies…somehow I always find my way back by fall.
Because despite all of the pain and heartbreak, I find that it’s still more fun to love this silly team and to continue to hope that someday - maybe - I’ll get to see them win it all. That admittedly bizarre, optimistic approach to being a Caps fan? Yeah, that’s all my father’s fault. 100%.
So I say with complete sincerity: thanks, Dad.
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