5 Signs That You're a Diehard Washington Capitals Fan
Since the Washington Capitals entered the National Hockey League back in 1974, the team has, for the most part, had the consistent support of a reasonably devoted fanbase.
Yes, it's worth noting that D.C. is without question a town that supports its Redskins first, but at least since the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the Capitals have certainly made a case to be considered Washington's No. 2 team behind Robert Griffin III and the 'Skins.
The volume of Capitals fans may not be nearly as great as one of the game's long-tenured franchises such as Detroit, Chicago, New York or any of the seven Canadian NHL teams, but this is a fanbase that has been on a drastic rise in terms of numbers and enthusiasm since Alex Ovechkin broke into the league in 2005-06.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top five signs that you're a diehard Capitals fan.
You Know Who Yvon Labre Is
OK, so it's no secret that the Capitals' first few years in the NHL were some of the most painful seasons ever endured by a major professional sports team in North America.
Not only did the team fail to make the postseason in each of its first eight seasons, but Washington also only managed to climb out of last place within its division twice during that span.
And fittingly, the player most commonly associated with that era of Capitals hockey is Yvon Labre, a rugged defenseman who finished his NHL career with a rather paltry 14 goals in 371 games.
Labre, who served as team captain between 1976-1978, earned the distinction of being the first Capitals player to have his number retired, so regardless of when you were born, if you've been to the Verizon Center enough times, you know exactly where his No. 7 hangs in the rafters.
He may not have been a star, but he was certainly the first player to integrate himself deeply within the community, and that's why Yvon Labre will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Capitals fans.
You Still Haven't Forgiven Esa Tikkanen
Finnish super-pest Esa Tikkanen is remembered by most hockey fans as the agitator who played an integral role on five Stanley Cup-winning teams, including four with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers from 1985-1990.
But for fans of the Washington Capitals, Tikkanen will forever be remembered for a different reason: The two-time, 30-goal man registered one of the most infamous missed chances in Stanley Cup Final history.
In Game 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, the blue-collar Caps held a 4-3 lead on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, and the series-tying victory seemed to be within Washington's grasp.
And then, Tikkanen appeared to be on his way to icing the game midway through the third period, as the then-33-year-old skated in on Detroit's Chris Osgood, and after a nifty fake, found himself staring at a gaping net.
Unfortunately, the historically clutch Tikkanen choked and fired what should have been a layup wide, and the Red Wings immediately seized the momentum and rallied back to win the game in overtime. Needless to say, the Capitals never recovered, and that remains the closest Washington has ever been to Cup.
You Still Stick Up for Dale Hunter
Basically anywhere outside of the D.C. area, Dale Hunter is widely considered to be one of the dirtiest players in NHL history.
Objectively, it's difficult to argue against that notion, especially given how malicious the longtime captain's blindsided hit on Pierre Turgeon was during the 1993 postseason.
However, Hunter was the type of heart-and-soul player who perfectly embodied Washington's workmanlike teams of the 1990s, and it was fitting to see the eventual 1000-point scorer become the first Capitals captain to take the franchise to the Stanley Cup Final.
Did the former All-Star cross the line at times?
Of course, but he did so because he simply wanted to win as badly as anyone on the ice, and no Capitals fan will ever fault him for that.
Though he may not have lasted as the team's head coach, his grit, determination and leadership are the attributes that made him an immediate fan favorite in Washington, and spectators will forever be reminded of that when they see his No. 32 banner hanging in the rafters at the Verizon Center.
You Have Springtime Nightmares Involving Pittsburgh and New York
For Capitals fans, sometimes life really isn't fair.
Over the course of the last 25 years, Washington iced some subtly solid squads, but it seems that each and every time the Caps entered the postseason with high hopes, one of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders or New York Rangers dashed those aspirations in gut-wrenching fashion.
Of course, there was the "Easter Epic" in 1987, when Pat LaFontaine's goal in the fourth overtime of Game 7 eliminated the Capitals from postseason play.
Then there's the numerous beatings the Caps have taken at the hands of the Penguins, including, but not limited to, the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal in which Ovechkin's group got pummeled 6-2 in Game 7 on home ice.
More recently, the Capitals have taken on the Rangers four times in the last five postseasons, and though they won the first two meetings (and rightfully so, as the higher seed), the last two clashes have been heartbreakers for Washingtonians.
Both of the last two Rangers-Capitals series have gone to Game 7s, and in those contests, the Caps have been outscored by a whopping 7-1. Needless to say, the Rangers advanced on both occasions.
You Realize Just How Special Alex Ovechkin Is
For the casual Washington Capitals fan, Alex Ovechkin may not be all that special, because he's just one of five either budding or established superstars plying their respective trades in the D.C. area (with Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Robert Griffin III and John Wall being the others).
But for those who have followed the Capitals intently over the years, Ovechkin represents something very unique, especially for a relatively consistently tortured sports town like Washington.
For the first time in recent memory, this city was able to lay claim to the consensus best player in a major sport, as Ovechkin captured back-to-back league MVP awards in 2008 and 2009—and bagged a third this past season.
To put those accomplishments in perspective, not only is Ovechkin the only major award winner not named Rod Langway (two Norris Trophy wins), Doug Jarvis (1984 Selke winner), Jim Carey (1996 Vezina winner) or Olaf Kolzig (the 2000 Vezina recipient) in Capitals history, he's one of just eight players in league history to win the Hart Trophy three times.
He may not be the game's most complete player, but before moping over his lack of postseason success, true Capitals fans recognize how lucky the city is to have arguably the most electrifying player the NHL has seen since Mario Lemieux.