The Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — A Stanley Cup championship banner rose to the rafters at the home of the Washington Capitals for the first time, and everyone in attendance Wednesday night got to relive the sheer excitement of it all.
Alex Ovechkin and the other players craned their necks to see the video montages of last season on the overhead scoreboard — and couldn’t help but smile. Coaches, too, including new head man Todd Reirden. Not to mention the owner and the GM and the assistant equipment manager and anyone else on staff.
And, importantly, the 18,506 fans, decked out in their jerseys — most of them in the team’s main color, red, so many with Ovechkin’s No. 8. They sang along to “We Are the Champions!” in full throat and shook their 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, 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, then added with a laugh: “I want to experience that again.”
Those fans roared at any mention of “champions.” Or any clip of Ovechkin. Or, especially, 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 back on June 7. One thing missing from the festivities: 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,” said Oshie, who scored 24 seconds into the game, “how can you not be excited to get going and try to do it again?”
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 photos, the Stanley Cup itself resting nearby on the ice.
There already were five red banners hanging from the rafters to signify some sort of accomplishment by the Capitals: Three represent a total of 11 division titles, one marks the team’s pair of Eastern Conference titles, and the last celebrates a trio of Presidents’ Trophy triumphs.
None, of course, is quite as significant as the piece of material hoisted on this night.
“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, we had so many emotions, so much fun out there, and you can see how we played.”
Wilson hit with 20-game ban
Meanwhile, Capitals forward Tom Wilson was banned 20 games by the NHL on Wednesday for a blindside hit to the head of an opponent during the preseason, a punishment reflecting what the league called an “unprecedented” series of suspensions for the physical player.
Wilson’s fourth ban in less than 13 months will cost him nearly a quarter of the 82-game regular season and $1.26 million in salary. It was announced just hours before the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals were to raise a banner and open their title defense by hosting the Boston Bruins.
The right winger, who plays on Washington’s top line with captain Alex Ovechkin, drew a 10-minute penalty for the hit on St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist in the second period of the teams’ exhibition game on Sunday. Wilson had an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in New York on Wednesday.