Capitals raise Stanley Cup banner to kick off new season

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Five Washington Capitals banners hung in the Capital One Arena rafters before Wednesday night. They praised Presidents’ Trophies and Eastern Conference championships, but nothing greater, until now.

The Capitals kicked off their 44th season of hockey Wednesday by raising their first Stanley Cup banner in front of a packed arena, commemorating last year’s title run that Washington fans will continue to take pride in for years to come.

The night will be remembered less for the Capitals‘ season-opening game against the Boston Bruins and more for taking a final hurrah and remembering last season’s triumph.

Glowsticks blinked and fans roared as a Washington postseason highlight reel played on the Jumbotron. Capitals radio voice John Walton walked to center ice to emcee the affair.

“(They) broke through the pain, the suffering, the bad bounces and unfulfilled potential of years past and made themselves champions,” Walton said.

Players skated on to individual introductions — including Tom Wilson, who earlier in the day was suspended 20 games by the league for a check to the head. But that would not overshadow the celebration. Captain Alex Ovechkin entered last, hoisting the Cup over his head just as he did for the first time in June.

Just before the banner went up, team owner Ted Leonsis thanked the city once more.

“Hands down, you are the world’s greatest fans, and tonight we get to recognize the world’s greatest hockey team,” Leonsis said.

The city reserved some streets around the arena for an outdoor viewing party, in the spirit of the parties that consumed Chinatown last spring for the final rounds of the playoffs. Fans began gathering outside Capital One four hours before the game, and most of them wore red — except for one wearing silver.

It was a Capitals fan wearing a life-sized Stanley Cup costume with only a thin slit to see through. The fan, who went by “Stan” for the night in an homage to the cup, said he first made the costume years ago for Halloween but gave it some refurbishing in order to wear it Wednesday.

Fans in attendance also received a banner replica when they left the arena.

Wednesday was also the head coaching debut of Todd Reirden, who was promoted to succeed Barry Trotz when Trotz resigned in June. Before the game, Reirden said the team would have to be patient while the banner festivities took place.

“But it’s an exciting time for all the fans and our entire organization and our players. It’s awesome to be part of,” Reirden said.

The Capitals do not have a long wait before facing some of last year’s familiar opponents. They travel to Pittsburgh Thursday to play the archrival Penguins. After a five-day break, Washington hosts the Vegas Golden Knights, who they vanquished in the Stanley Cup Final in five games.

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