WASHINGTON — A sea of red and waves of fervent chants engulfed downtown D.C. Tuesday as thousands of fans raucously cheered on the city’s Stanley Cup champions. And after the festivities, fans streamed into nearby Metro stations, crowding platforms and creating lines at entrances.
Washington Capitals fans have waited 44 years for this day, and things like work and school became secondary to Tuesday’s parade down Constitution Avenue and the rally on the National Mall.
“Every time I’m driving on Constitution, for the rest of my life, I’m going to remember this day,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby told a screaming crowd at the rally.
Teammate T.J. Oshie started a new chant and goal: “Back to back! Back to back! Back to back!”
Captain Alex Ovechkin closed out the day’s celebrations, gathering his teammates to the front of the stage to sing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” with the crowd. He yelled, “We’re the Stanley Cup champions!” and hoisted the nearly 35-pound Cup over his head.
Caps owner Ted Leonsis also spoke at the rally, noting the sense of community solidified between the team, the fans and the city.
“Now, we have something that bonds us and unites us: a Stanley Cup championship!” Leonsis said.
Thousands of fans attempting to get down to the parade made for long lines at Metro stations.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Metro said over 567,000 people have used Metrorail so far.
RIDERSHIP: As of 5:00 p.m., over 567,000 people have taken Metrorail so far today, up more than 132K from same time yesterday. Continuous rush-hour service continues. No operational issues to report at this time. #WMATA#ALLCAPS#StanleyCup
The Caps parade kicked off with F-16s from the D.C. National Guard flying over the Potomac River toward Independence Avenue and 23rd Street Northwest near the parade route.
Then, cheers of “Ovi! Ovi! Ovi!” mixed with the blares of triumphant bagpipes as the Caps made their way down Constitution Avenue on a bright red bus. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer even ran on the street, clutching a D.C. flag as he gave fans high-fives with a huge grin on his face.
Some fans showed up several hours before the 11 a.m. parade start to stake out their spot along the parade route.
“I was thinking of taking a nap,” one Caps fan who works nights told WTOP’s Neal Augenstein. “But there’s too much excitement in the air, so I’m just going to take it all in and chant when everyone else chants.”
Joe and his 10-year-old son, Joey, from Bethesda, Maryland, also showed up early and had been waiting for several hours. But for Joe, and lots of other Caps fans, the wait has been a lot longer.
“I told Joey, I had to wait 44 years for this,” he told WTOP’s Mike Murillo. “He had to wait 10 years, so he wins.”
Another father and son duo, enjoying their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the shade, spoke to WTOP’s Kristi King. Dad Jesse Kellmer said, “We came all the way from Harwood, Maryland; we rode the Metro, which is scary to us rural people, and we came down to the city to celebrate with the rest of the Caps fans.”
“We’re hoping that this parade is contagious and the other D.C. sports franchises catch on,” Kellmer added.
“I’m so excited,” said one woman who had a front-row view to the parade along Constitution Avenue. She was there with friends and coworkers. One coworker, donning a Caps jersey, chimed in, “It’s about damn time it [the Cup] showed up here! We’re super pumped! Let’s go Caps!”
There wasn’t a shortage of marching bands at the parade: The Eastern High School Blue and White Marching Machine Marching Band, the Ballou High School Majestic Knights Marching Band and the D.C. Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums all performed.
Some Caps alumni, the Capital One Arena ice crew, the Capitals Red Rockers and mascot Slapshot also made appearances.
Constitution Avenue was closed to pedestrians. There were hundreds of port-a-potties in place along Constitution Avenue on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Security fences were set up along Constitution Avenue from 23rd Street all the way down to 6th Street.
The federal government remained open, but the White House encouraged federal agencies to grant employees two hours of administrative leave between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to attend the parade, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The Caps also offered fans a doctor’s note to help get out of work for the day.