Flashback a few months ago when I got a call up at school from my dad about him and my older brother going to Las Vegas in June. Well, as someone who had never gone before, I was less than happy, as one could imagine. So I kind of willed my way into this trip. Now as an anti-Knights fan, I never wanted them to make it this far, but part of me was hoping, praying that we’d somehow get lucky, and that is exactly what happened because Game 5 was last night. Now, let me tell you about the Cup Winning night in Vegas...
I made the walk over from the Aria to T-Mobile Arena about an hour and a half before puck drop. The walk took about 10 minutes, but right away I could tell this was no ordinary hockey city. Sure, it helps when your team makes the Stanley Cup Final in their first year, but these fans were absolutely nuts the whole way over. That was observation #1. Observation #2 was that Capitals fans had invaded this place. For every two Knights jerseys you saw, there was a Capitals one. It really was that close of a margin, which led to an incredible atmosphere.
As you walk off Las Vegas Boulevard toward the plaza, you are immediately greeted by a big Vegas Golden Knights welcome gate. You go down this pretty big sidewalk area to the arena, with bars draping the left side and fans absolutely everywhere. It’s Vegas, it’s the Stanley Cup Finals, and they all knew it. Once you finally get to the arena, picture the plaza at Little Caesars arena, but on steroids and in Vegas. Cameras everywhere, fans everywhere, drink stands, you guessed it, everywhere, and a stage with live music and an emcee who clearly did not know much about hockey, but hey he helped get the massive crowd fired up best he could. Not to mention Toshiba Plaza contains the only main entrance to the arena (don’t worry, it’s big), so everyone was there.
Now as someone who wants to go into sports broadcasting, I positioned myself behind the NBC crew. Got to meet Kathryn Tappen and Anson Carter (fellow Spartan, Go Green), which was pretty cool, but that was right before puck drop and I wanted to get out of there before the even larger crowds started gathering for the viewing party outside. Oh yeah, their viewing party screen was on the arena, like the jewel inside LCA. Not only was that cool, but it was clear, and outside, and in Vegas (picture below doesn’t do it justice). For someone who was not even close to a Knights fan, I was absolutely blown away by the scene and it left me wanting something, anything close to that here in Detroit.
Now to the fun part, the game itself. We posted up at the sports book restaurant in the Aria at the 1st intermission, and again, I’ll give Vegas fans credit because they were into it right away. I watched with my dad, brother and some friends, and didn’t really get into it until after the absolutely fantastic 2nd Period. Slowly, but surely, Caps fans started trickling in from the casino and the crowd was fired up.
DSP scored. The place went nuts.
Eller scored. I thought these Caps fans were going to all have have heart attacks.
Now let it be known, Alex Ovechkin is my favorite player of all-time so I was joining in because man I needed to see him lift the Stanley Cup. The clock started ticking down, then it disappeared (thanks NBCSN) and I thought the Caps fans were going to murder someone at that point. Then the icing, then triple 0’s, and then, sheer elation.
I wish there were more fans watching with us, but the few Caps fans that were there just started breaking down (I had a video, but a lot of choice words were being said in it, figured I’d leave it out). Hugging, high-fiving and cheering, much like their captain. Then a crowd of Caps fans came storming in and I was wondering what was going on. Well they had to cash in their winning tickets of course! For the rest of the night, you couldn’t walk by any of the thousands of Caps fans without seeing them smile, even if down a few hundred dollars at the tables, and you had to give it to them, they earned it. The celebration was endless, deserved, and really, perfect.
The night wound down for me, but I’m sure everyone has now seen the videos and pictures of Ovechkin not letting go of the Cup whether at the club, the casino, the bar, you name it. We wanted to go to the MGM to find them at the club, but figured it’d be a zoo and just wasn’t worth it (We should have gone, because we all ended up losing money thanks to our great dealer, Peggy, who just couldn’t stop turning over that face card). One can imagine the endless celebration that ensued here, and oh yeah, it wasn’t even in the Capitals home city. You saw DC celebrating, right? Unbelievable.
One of the greatest stories in the history of the game will be remembered with the Great 8 finally lifting the Cup. And since this is a Red Wings blog, how could you not compare this team to the 1997 Red Wings? Years of great regular seasons followed by always choking in the playoffs, the trade rumors around their captain in the offseason and absolutely no expectations coming in because everyone believed they were never going to win. It’s all like looking in a mirror. The next one is coming Red Wings fans, but until then, appreciate what was last night and where you were last night for a great moment in hockey history.
I’ll never forget my first night in Vegas, just like Ovechkin and the Caps will never forget their first Stanley Cup.