WASHINGTON — As if Capitals fans needed another reason to be proud, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham is crediting them for the energetic, almost arrest-free street celebration in several blocks surrounding the Capital One Arena.
Almost 17,000 people were inside the arena watching Game 5 from Las Vegas on the Jumbotron and considerably more people at the watch party outside the arena, not to mention all the people inside bars in Chinatown and Gallery Place.
Yet, with all the people, excitement, energy and alcohol, Newsham said there was only one arrest.
“Apparently when D.C. sports fans celebrate, they do it safely — they certainly can make a lot of noise,” Newsham said. “And that’s fine.”
Newsham said one person was arrested for “leaving after colliding,” when a motorcycle struck a pedestrian.
Without mentioning any opposing teams by name — (cough, cough, Philadelphia Eagles) — Newsham said D.C. fans deserve the most credit for the peaceful celebration.
“They key to the whole thing, in my opinion, was the response by our fans — we’ve seen some celebrations in other cities that went terribly bad.”
Earlier this year, before and after the Eagles’ Super Bowl win against the New England Patriots, police in Philadelphia applied Crisco and hydraulic fluid to downtown light poles to try to deter shimmying by Eagles fans.
“We have a group of fans in Washington, D.C. who are respectful of their city. They wanted to have fun and they did that,” Newsham said.
Newsham said when officers saw fans with open containers of alcohol, fans were asked to deposit them in a garbage bin.
Fans obliged in most cases, Newsham said.
“The key is to have a visible police presence, then to intervene in circumstances where people could potentially get themselves hurt,” Newsham said. “For instance, if people tried to climb trees or poles, police officers would cooperatively go up and ask them to come down.”
With two home games and two large viewing parties in the arena before Game 5, Newsham said police had a plan and footprint involving street closures and procedures for large crowds on the street.
As the nation’s capital, Newsham said D.C. police — working with several federal agencies — “handle large crowds all the time.”
But on the night the Washington Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup, Newsham said there were no problems.
“We saw a lot of hugging and we saw a lot of dancing, so I was very pleased with the way our fans reacted.”