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Carly Slomnicki is easy to spot. Among the red-clad Washington Capitals fans several rows deep along Constitution Avenue NW on Tuesday morning, she’s the one wearing no discernable Capitals gear, standing on top of a trash can. From her perch, she has a clear view of the same street that the Stanley Cup-winning Capitals team would ride down on a double-decker bus minutes later as part of their victory parade.
Slomnicki doesn’t care that she’s in her work clothes or that she somehow forgot to put on her Alexander Ovechkin jersey before sprinting out of the office. On this day, she is celebrating her favorite team with other diehard Capitals fans in weather that can only be described as perfect.
“I’ve been waiting for this my entire life,” she says.
Occasionally, the crowd breaks into chants of “Let’s go Caps!” and “We won the Cup!” drowning out Slomnicki, 29, as she reflects on all the emotions she’s invested in the team.
She lives in D.C. but grew up rooting for the Capitals in Potomac. She watched the clinching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at the watch party inside Capital One Arena last Thursday with her best friends. “Just crying, laughing, so much anxiety,” she says. All the heartache and playoff disappointment, Slomnicki realizes, has led to this moment on top of a trash can at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street NW.
“I’m learning that patience is worth it,” she says. “I’m not a patient person, but this has taught me a lesson.”
The parade and subsequent rally on the National Mall was the first celebration of its kind since the local NFL team won the Super Bowl in 1992, and thousands of fans joined in the celebrations. People in suits were mixed in with fans of all ages wearing Capitals gear, as tour groups from out of town squeezed through the crowd.
Metro announced that over 567,000 people rode Metrorail by 5 p.m. Tuesday, up more than 132,000 from the same time Monday.
Nihar Shah, 35, took a break from work to join in the festivities. Raised in Boston, Shah says he has attended victory parades for the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics within the last two decades. He roots for the Boston Bruins, but considers the Capitals his second favorite hockey team. Championship sports teams find a way to bring a city together, Shah says.
“This is exactly the same” as Boston, he says. “The pride is the same. The celebration is the same. …This parade is everything a parade should be.”
Brian Nelsonand Dorothy Olszewski are a little sleep deprived. The couple, both 26, drove 10 hours from Nashville Monday night and arrived in D.C. at 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday with their 5-year-old Norwegian Elkhound mix, Loki. They lived in D.C. from 2015 to 2017, but Nelson has been a Capitals fan for more than a decade.
When he first started watching hockey, he debated between rooting for Ovechkin or Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. He went with Ovi, and doesn’t regret his decision.
“I just think Ovechkin is more fun to watch,” Nelson says. “He’s more reckless. He does whatever it takes to win. I mean, Crosby isn’t missing any teeth. …If anyone was to break the [D.C. sports] curse, it would be Ovi.”
Michelle Jackson could see the Stanley Cup approaching, the sun reflecting off the silver trophy raised high above Ovechkin’s head.
“Here comes the Cup! Here comes the Cup!” Jackson yells to no one in particular. She jumps up and down on the park bench, her cell phone camera ready in her hand to capture the historic moment.
Jackson, 56, is from Northeast D.C. and only started watching the Capitals the last few years because her 94-year-old mother got her into it. Her boss, a big Caps fan, gave her and her colleagues the day off and she didn’t think twice about coming.
“It’s been over 20 years for D.C. sports,” she says. “I think this pretty much boosts our morale.”
Standing beside Jackson on the bench is 10-year-old Andrea Cass of Arlington, who begged her mother, Jennifer, to come to the parade. Even though it meant skipping school, Jennifer agreed. There isn’t a lot to feel good about these days, Jennifer says, and the Stanley Cup has brought people in D.C. together.
“Now I want to be more of a Caps fan and watch hockey more,” Andrea says.
Aaron Cohen, 42, of Potomac feels the same way. He took off from work to bring his 4-year-old son, Hugh, to the parade. He told his coworkers that he had a “commitment,” but assumes his boss is at the parade as well. There’s no telling when the next championship parade will be, Cohen says. And maybe, he adds, looking down at his son, there will be fewer heartbreaks in D.C. sports going forward.
“Hopefully he remembers this day,” Cohen says.