Here to help you navigate this “very Capsy” Stanley Cup final is our very own Caps correspondent, Brad Parker.
Late Saturday morning it was already about 92 degrees in Madrid and the streets were packed with thousands of fans in the blue and white jerseys of Alavés, and hundreds in the red and blue of Barcelona.
You’ve heard of Barcelona, and players like Messi and Neymar and Luis Suarez. You have not heard of Alavés or any of their players. It’s a small club from a small town. The bellman at our hotel told me 50,000 people live there and today 25,000 of those people are in Madrid (Wikipedia puts the number closer to 300,000, but work with me). Later tonight Barcelona and Alavés will play in the Copa del Rey final. Barça is looking to salvage their season with a lesser trophy. Alavés has never won hardware, this would be their biggest moment ever. Ten hours before kickoff you couldn’t turn a corner without finding their fans singing, partying, without an ounce of impending doom.
I didn’t go to Europe to see the match. Or to escape the devastation of yet another Caps playoff letdown against the Pens. But it sure helped me forget.
Our trip started in Italy where we ate the food, drank the wine, and saw the sights. I honestly didn’t even know what was happening in the Eastern Conference Finals. There wasn’t even an English-speaking sports channel in our room. Then I got the email.
Subject line: If the Pens win G7 …
… I’m thinking I’d like to read a post from you on how a Caps fan should go about navigating these very Capsy Stanley Cup Finals: the Forsberg factor, Trotz’s departure from Nashville, all things Pittsburgh, etc.
Goddammit! They’re gonna do it again. Don’t respond, just go get a glass of red.
Ok, so the Preds are in the Finals. Fine. Is there a “typical Caps” feel to it? Sure.
Barry Trotz built that franchise from scratch but couldn’t get them out of the first round. So they brought him to D.C. to run a team with much more talent that couldn’t … you know the rest.
Filip Forsberg was “The Next One.” Add him to the excessive talent already here and we’d finally get over the top. It’s not his fault that George McPhee decided Martin Erat was actually the missing piece that would put us over the top. MARTIN EFFING ERAT! Do I ever wonder what might have been if we kept Forsberg? Of course. But we didn’t, and he’s not coming back. And GMGM eventually paid the ultimate price. (And now he’ll steal Philipp Grubauer for the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.)
Predator’s GM David Poile made the Caps relevant when he held that position in D.C. from ’82-97. He just couldn’t get us to the … you know the rest.
So it took Trotz leaving for Nashville to make it. And it took Poile leaving for the Caps to make it.
Yes, there are reasons to feel jealous, or annoyed, or cursed if Nashville wins the Cup before the Caps, but is anyone honestly asking which is the lesser of two evils? Crosby has his name on the Cup two times. Both happened after beating the Caps in the playoffs. That happening again would be yet another massive kick in the nuts.
There are plenty of reason to root for Nashville. They have one of the most charismatic and “rootable” players in the game, P.K. Subban. They have Mr. Carrie Underwood. And former Caps Twitter Hall of Famer @AdamVignan is now working the beat in Nashville. (Be sure to give him a follow for the Finals.) As a Capitals fan I can’t think of a single reason to root for Pittsburgh.
Even after the email, I didn’t check to see if Pittsburgh won until a couple of days later. Of course they did. I didn’t check to see how it happened until a day after that. Double OT. Of course it was.
But here in Madrid it really didn’t matter. Just look at the cover of every paper on the newsstand. And all afternoon we watched fans in different colored jerseys pass each other singing. Occasionally they would nod and shake hands. Never was as much as a dirty glance exchanged. We were a world away from the Portrait Gallery steps.
A few hours later at the airport I get another reminder of the Stanley Cup Finals. The woman next to us at the cafe is reading a book, Death and the Penguin. I’ll take it as an omen.
By the time we land in Dublin, the Copa del Rey final will be over. Those fans that started the day so joyously will be doing one of two things:
1. Celebrating the most amazing win in their town’s history, or …
2. Celebrating that they played in the biggest match in the club’s history.
The Caps don’t have that luxury. The roster is filled with stars and yet we have as many titles as Alavés. We can’t be happy with coming close, or losing to the eventual champions.
Now we can only hope Nashville can do our dirty work for us.
And maybe next year, we should plan to go to Europe a couple weeks earlier.
Bonus: Listen to Brad Parker and Jamie Mottram talk about it on the Mr. Irrelevant podcast (aka the Mr. I-Pod).
(Photo of a penguin meeting its death taken with love from the Daily Mail.)