I’m always fascinated when a long-suffering professional sports franchise finally wins a championship and gets the monkey off its back.
You could see it in the faces of the Washington Capitals players and their fans on Thursday night after taking home the organization’s first Stanley Cup.
There was a look of joy, of course, but also one of relief. Forty-something years is a long time to carry around that burden.
Players like Alexander Ovechkin and Braden Holtby weren’t even born in the mid-‘70s when all this futility began.
But you can bet a number of Capitals faithful fans were and this was payback for all those years of loyalty.
I remember covering Game 7 of the 1994 title game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers had not won a Cup since 1940, something fans in opponents’ buildings (including the old Spectrum here in Philadelphia) reminded them of constantly.
When the Rangers won the game, a fan unfurled a banner that read “Now I Can Die in Peace.’’
Now that’s how you spell relief.
We’ve seen long streaks of failure end a lot in recent years: The Boston Red Sox in 2004, the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and city of Cleveland a couple years back when Lebron James and the Cavaliers staged a dramatic comeback from down 3-1 to win the NBA.
You could even mention the Phillies in that club, seeing as how the 2008 World Series title ended 28 years of frustration.
As for the Capitals’ impact on hockey in general, it should be worth noting that the Metropolitan Division has now won three straight Cups, the first time a single division has done that since 1990, when Edmonton won its second title in three years sandwiched around a championship by division rival Calgary.
From a Flyers’ perspective, they can take a little pride knowing they finished third in the Metro last season and did it playing frequently against some of the best talent in the NHL.
In fact, they had a winning record against the Caps this past season.
On the flip side, the Vegas Golden Knights gave a miraculous effort, becoming the first NHL expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues to make it all the way to the championship round.
A tip of the hat to ex-Flyers Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Luca Spisa for making significant contributions.
Sometimes it seems like the Stanley Cup playoffs can drag on a bit but not this year. The Vegas storyline kept things lively in the West and the Capitals’ comebacks against Columbus and Tampa Bay kept things interesting in the East.
Bet you thought I wasn’t going to mention the Eagles in that futility club, right?
Well, let’s just say we saved the best for last.
Thanks goodness they finally won the Super Bowl so all my friends in the green T-shirts can smile for a change and watch football at my house on Sunday with a sense of satisfaction.