Alex Ovechkin high fives fans on the way to the locker room after warmups. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
At 7:12 PM on January 22 six ounces of vulcanized rubber hit the ice at Verizon Center for the first time in 258 days. It was May 9, 2012 when the Washington Capitals held their last home game here, a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Since then, there was a Game Seven in New York, a long summer, and an even longer fall. The almost four month long NHL lockout kept fans across the continent away from the game and for some separated them from their second home.
“I’m overjoyed to be back at Verizon Center because I feel like part of me was missing when they were gone,” said Caps fan Melissa Blum of Germantown, Maryland. “I grew up watching hockey and it’s my favorite thing so when it wasn’t there that was unfortunate. Now that they’re back so I’m happy.”
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to knock the fan rust off,” William Stilwell, better known as Goat, said. “This time of year I’ve usually gotten some yelling callouses build up but tonight it’s like boom, right into the thick of it. I’ve been doing a lot of screaming in traffic, things like that.”