I started a new job recently, hence the lack of blogging. I plan to do a brief wine entry this weekend and then, hopefully, I will be able to get back into some kind of rhythm in the coming weeks.
Today, however, I am going to break my #1 blogging rule — I am going to blog off-theme. See, this is not only a wine blog, this is a D.C. blog. Something very exciting has happened here in Washington in the past couple of days. It’s not about wine, spirits, or food, so stop here if you are reading from afar. On the other hand, if you live and work in the Washington area, and you are at all a sports fan, I encourage you to read on.
The District’s hockey team, the Washington Capitals, was a perennial playoff contender back in the 90′s, but has been rebuilding over the last decade. Attendance has dwindled, and the Caps have become a subject of ridicule in places like New York, Montreal, and Ottawa. This week, the Capitals took a huge step in putting that to an end.
On January 10, Ted Leonsis (owner) and the Washington Capitals inked forward Alex Ovechkin to a 13-year, $124 million deal. It is the richest deal in NHL history. Who is Alex Ovechkin? Well, he is a young Russian phenom who was the NHL Rookie of the Year a couple of years back. This huge agreement is for the career-long services of, arguably, the best player in the NHL today. Caps fans have been rejoicing and reveling in the whining and crying of fans in the major hockey markets ever since. (You can find examples here, here, here, and here.)
Photo courtesy of WashingtonCaps.com
Why am I writing about this? Well, in addition to being a wine freak, I am a hockey freak. I played hockey my whole life. I was a Hartford Whalers fan as a kid until they packed up and left for North Carolina. So, since 1997 I have been a man without a hockey team.
Hartford Whalers Forever!
In late 2006 I decided to start watching again. Living in the D.C. area, I began to tune into the Washington Capitals. The team was not doing well and there was a feeling of tired desperation in the stands. Everyone new the team had some good young players, but the face of the team, Alex Ovechkin, would be a restricted free agent the next year. Would he really stay? Could the Caps really rebuild themselves into a Stanley Cup contender? It looked bleak.
This season started with a fresh sense of optimism, but a 3-0 start gave way to a huge losing skid that left the team the worst in the NHL. I learned more and more about the players, and saw the potential, but also watched the crowds dwindle until only the most dedicated followers remained. I began to think that maybe everyone was right, and D.C. could not be a hockey city again.
Then, at absolute bottom, the Caps fired their coach and brought in some new blood. Losses began to turn into wins, fans started coming back, and there was a sense of excitement again. But even as the fans slowly returned, a lingering doubt remained, as Alex Ovechkin had still not resigned with the Caps. Rumors were flying all over the Internet — he’s going to New York, Montreal . . . Nashville, anywhere but here. We weren’t good enough for him.
New Head Coach Bruce Boudreau deserves a lot of credit for the Caps recent success.
Photo courtesy of WashingtonCaps.com
Then Ovechkin, Leonsis, and the investors of the Washington Capitals said “Screw all y’all.” 13 years, $124 million — a great deal and a real investment in the team and the sport in Washington, D.C. I found myself on the Caps’ message boards reading and posting, and listening intently to the news on Home Ice on XM Radio.
After a full day of reading about the deal, the team as a whole, and contemplating who would be signed next, I realized that it had happened. I found a team again. I am a Washington Capitals fan. This is my town — this is OUR town — and it can be a great place to play sports; to play hockey. I am a Caps fan!
The next game is tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 13) at 1:00 p.m. at Verizon Center. I will be there; you should be there too. Our team that just put its money where its mouth is, so let’s stand with them. We can Tivo the football game, but there is only one chance to go to the Verizon Center and tear the roof off when Alex Ovechkin steps on the ice for the first time as a life-long Capital.
So, as not just a wine blogger, but as a D.C. blogger, I say, “Thank you, Alex Ovechkin.” “Thank you, Ted Leonsis.” “Thank you to all of the players, coaches, and staff of the Washington Capitals.” I am a Caps fan, and I promise, if you come out to a few games, you will be one to.
Hey, if nothing else, you can swing by Proof afterwards.
Go D.C.! Go CAPS!
Don’t forget to VOTE!