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To the Champs!

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Rink alum Kareem E. drops by with a toast 43 years in the making

NHLI via Getty Images

Let’s celebrate this joyous day with a toast!

To the Washington Capitals, first-time Stanley Cup winners.

To the owners of this franchise, past and present, Abe Pollin and Ted Leonsis.

To the DMV, who despite needing a few rounds to “believe,” got behind this team at an unprecedented level and helped propel the team to victory in the final two rounds.

To the fans that have been around since the ‘70s and ‘80s, who watched the Caps on Channel 20 and HTS, who ‘saved’ this franchise by buying season tickets and $100 partial plans, who screamed for the “Pizza Goal” at the Capital Centre, who experienced every bad bounce, torn calf, series-ending turnover by all-star defensemen, questionable 5-on-3s going against the Caps in OT of the playoffs, more bad bounces, waived off goals, etc. This fan base has been put through a ringer, but in one magical night over an amazing two months, their loyalty was rewarded.

To the Capitals legends, who never got a chance to lift the Stanley Cup in DC but still bled for this franchise: Rod Langway, Dale Hunter, Mike Gartner, Yvon Labre, Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra.

To those underappreciated Caps players, who never received the acclaim they deserved because they played in what was then a hockey outpost, players like Bengt Gustaffson, Denis Maruk, Calle Johansson, Gaetan Duchesne, Mike Ridley, Sylvain Cote, Don Beaupre.

To those Capitals grinders of the past, who played every shift like it was their last and left everything on the ice: Kelly Miller, Bobby Gould, Lou Franceschetti, Doug Jarvis, Brendan Witt, Steve Konowalchuk, Mike Eagles, Matt Hendricks, Quentin Laing, Kevin Kaminski, John Erskine and the DMV’s very own Jeff Halpern.

To those players who enthralled this town during their relatively short tenures with the team: Dino Ciccarelli, Al Iafrate, Bobby Carpenter, Alan May, Adam Oates, Sergei Fedorov.

To Scott Stevens, whose poster grazed many of our childhood walls, but whose premature departure from this organization prevented this celebration from happening earlier.

To those that both shared and taught us the game: Joe Beninati, Mike Fornes, Kenny Albert, John Walton, Ken Sabourin, Steve Kolbe, with a special shout out to the three that have done this the longest in DC, Craig Laughlin, Smokin’ Al Koken and the legendary Ron Weber.

To the greatest hockey blogosphere, starting with our own Japers’ Rink.

To those that built great Capitals teams that could never get us over the hump, Milt Schmidt, Roger Crozier, Max McNab , George McPhee and, most especially, David Poile, who simultaneously saved this franchise and bled for it as much as any of us die-hards.

To GM Brian McLellan, for overcoming a challenging summer with a steadfast confidence of what cards he held, coupled with deft deadline dealing.

To the “unsullied”, the rookies and newer faces on this team that wouldn’t be weighed down by the franchise’s history: Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos, Jakub Vrana, Brett Connolly.

To the black aces who stepped up when their number was called: Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey, Shane Gersich, Pheonix Copley, Nathan Walker and the man who opened up scoring in Game 6 of the Pittsburgh clincher, Alex Chiasson.

To Philipp Grubauer, for carrying this team the last third of the season while the team in front of him ‘figured it out’.

To Andre Burakovsky, for his Game 7 heroics against Tampa and for his history-creating Stanley Cup-winning assist.

To Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen, for being a dominant shut-down d-pair.

To Michal Kempny, for dropping into the Caps lap and filling out our defense with exceptional play. (And to Joel Quenneville, for not realizing what he had in Michal Kempny.)

To Brooks “Batya” Orpik, for turning back the clock and being a rock on defense.

To John Carlson, who transformed into an elite, playoff-hardened defenseman this spring.

To Tom Wilson, who wreaked havoc on opposing players, scored timely goals, and regaled us with the most important and symbolic fight in Capitals history.

To Jay Beagle, who’s been here for 10 seasons now and may not return next season. Beagle’s tenure in DC will be cherished and valued – and he will absolutely be on the Mt. Rushmore of the greatest Capitals grinders.

To Lars Eller, for having a great playoffs and scoring the most important goal in Capitals history.

To Evgeny Kuznetsov, who dominated the playoffs, singlehandedly exorcised demons for this franchise, and carried his team as it soared to unheard of heights with a surreal playoff performance. Fly Kuzya Fly!

To Barry Trotz, who adjusted from past failures and thoroughly outcoached everyone in his path. And, more importantly, he did it all while remaining one of the most decent human beings in the League.

To Devante Smith-Pelly, Legend, whose will-over-skill hustle, determination and clutch play embodies NHL playoff virtue and heroism. No one this playoff season played above their heads more than DSP. Seven playoff goals, five of them in the third period!

To Braden Holtby, who responded from an up-and-down season with one of the greatest post-seasons ever, topped off by giving us The Save.

To T.J. Oshie, whose timely scoring and tenacity are only equaled in stature by the size of his heart.

To Nicklas Backstrom, who brought consistency and two-way dominance every year and whose name deserves to be inscribed on the Stanley Cup more than anyone else associated with this franchise.

Well, save for one person.

To Alex Ovechkin, who has singlehandedly turned Washington into a hockey town. Who made hockey “fun” for a whole generation of hockey fans in DC and worldwide. Who mesmerized fans with his highlight reel goals. Whose infectious joy for the sport is unmatched by any player. Who classily dealt with the unfair and xenophobic comments about his inability to win the Cup. Who carried this team and took all of its criticsm. Whose resilience is one for the storybooks.

Yes, Alex Ovechkin! 7-time Rocket Richard winner. 3-time Hart Winner. 3-time Ted Lindsay winner. Calder Winner. Art Ross Winner.

Conn Smythe winner.

STANLEY CUP winner!

Yes, Alex Ovechkin, Stanley Cup winner! Finally!

So on behalf of the grateful, jubilant and resilient fans of the Washington Capitals, who have waited a LONG time for this joyous moment, Cheers to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals!