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A Capitals Anniversary

Kevin Blain and Phil Abruzzese queue up for Stanley Cup tix. (TWP file photo by James A. Parcell)

After a week of Washington Capitals craziness--clothing line launches, awards show victories, post-awards parties, keys to city handoffs, famous girlfriend appearances and other stuff--you take a look at the calendar and see, oh yes, it's June 17, 2008. So that would make it exactly 10 years ago this day that fans awoke, picked up the paper and read about the Caps last Stanley Cup finals game, a 4-1 loss at what was then called the MCI Center. The three stars were Chris Osgood, Sergei Fedorov and Doug Brown, and the signs said things like "Not in our House," which feels quaint somehow, not nearly good enough to satisfy an early 21st century sign-seeking blogger. There were no mentions of mohawks.

What did then-coach Ron Wilson say afterward, words that could be read 10 years ago this AM? "I'm proud of our players. I'm proud of our organization. And I know we'll be back."

Some would argue this was the last time a D.C. pro sports team appeared in a major North American professional sports league finals. Those would be the same people who claimed Ovechkin was D.C.'s first MVP in a major North American professional sports league since Joey T, choosing to go out of their way to take a slap at D.C. United and MLS, which actually has the word "Major" in its name, but no mind. I can say for sure that June 16 of 1998 was the last time a D.C. pro sports team appeared in a major North American professional sports league Stanley Cup finals, so let's honor the moment--and a time when daily newspaper sports coverage still mattered--with some excerpts from that next day's Washington Post coverage.

(TWP file photo by Rich Lipski.)

For Caps, Dream is Over, by Jennifer Frey: Chris Simon tapped his stick gently and Olaf Kolzig wearily rubbed his hand through his damp hair as the Washington Capitals formed a quiet, lonely line across the middle of MCI Center last night. They waited, graciously, for the Detroit Red Wings -- their conquerors -- to break from an exuberant Stanley Cup celebration and join the Capitals for the traditional handshake at center ice.

After waiting 24 long years to make the Stanley Cup finals, the Capitals watched their dream season end abruptly here last night, when the Red Wings finished a four-game sweep of these Stanley Cup finals with a 4-1 victory on Washington's home ice. Once hands were shaken and congratulations offered, the Capitals retreated to their dressing room to a standing ovation, while the Red Wings held an emotional celebration in front of the sellout crowd.

"I've got a bit of an empty feeling right now," said goaltender Kolzig, who forged a new reputation for himself -- and this franchise -- with his amazing performance this postseason. "In a few weeks, it will pass, and we'll realize what a great season we've had."

Capitals Are Swept Away, by Rachel Alexander:The Stanley Cup was wheeled onto Washington ice for the first time in NHL history last night, tauntingly close to the Capitals but too far away to touch. It had been like this throughout the Stanley Cup finals, so close in front of them but still so far away, and in the end the Capitals discovered they simply couldn't make up the distance in between....Almost no one in the crowd left early, waiting patiently to give tribute to a team that didn't play to its potential in this series but still managed to awaken a city to the sport of hockey and a franchise to the possibility of greatness.

The win that made the loss possible. (TWP file photo by Rich Lipski.)

No Shame in Shutout, Fans Say, by David Montgomery: [Jack] Finley and his brothers, Patrick and Tim, said the big season this year might turn Washington into more of a hockey town -- and produce more die-hard fans like the red swarms from Detroit at the arena.

"There's a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon," said Tim Finley, 35, of Dover, Del. "Let them jump. The more the merrier....Regardless of the outcome of this game, I'm going to go home happy."

Before the Stanley Cup trophy was brought to the arena to be awarded to Detroit, it was on public display at Union Station. Michael Weintraub, 25, of Rockville, and Scott Shippey, 31, of Frederick, Md., went to the station to take pictures of each other in their Caps jerseys next to the trophy. They said they never expected the cup to be anywhere near Washington this season.

For Caps' Hunter, 'A Big Disappointment', by Liz Clarke: Hunter was among the last players to emerge from the showers and players' lounge. His blue eyes were bloodshot, and his hands were thrust into his pockets in dejected fashion as he answered nearly every question with the word "disappointment."

Osgood's Not Only as Good, by Josh Barr: Maybe now the doubters will stop chasing Chris Osgood. The Detroit Red Wings' goaltender, chased by nay-sayers throughout the season, was brilliant again last night. Osgood stopped 30 of 31 shots to help the Red Wings win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

Caps Amazing Run Puts Out the Dogs For Good, by Tony Kornheiser: The fact is that the Capitals made hockey matter in this city for the first time. The hundreds of shots Kolzig turned away, the playoff goals that Bellows, Sergei Gonchar, Adam Oates, Todd Krygier, Joe Juneau and Peter Bondra scored -- even the shot that Tikkanen missed -- they'll all be remembered fondly, long after the pain of losing four straight to Detroit is forgotten.

Ron Wilson had the year wrong. We shouldn't remember 1942. We should remember 1998.

Which one is more likely to be a Cap next season? (TWP file photo by Rich Lipski.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 17, 2008; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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