The Washington Capitals are on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. We've got an easy guide for Caps fans to follow should it happen.
Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: "Please don't die" – That's a really polite chant. Being a hockey fan just makes everyone 20 percent more Canadian.
The second star: Lynda Carter – Yes, Wonder Woman. This is the time of year when random celebrities start showing up to support the remaining teams, and it's easy enough to dismiss them as PR stunts. But Carter seems like a diehard – especially when she's taking sides in the Capitals' fan blog wars.
The first stars: Ryan Zimmerman and Max Scherzer – They're baseball players for the Washington Nationals, but they've gone all-in on the Capitals' run. Like, really all-in.
As an added bonus, Nationals' star Bryce Harper is also a big hockey fans so this is probably a great team-building exercise for the whole… oh. Oh no.
Be It Resolved
Capitals fans, we need to talk.
But maybe not right now. Because with the Caps taking the ice tonight with a chance to capture the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, we're going to talk about what should happen if they win. I completely understand if you want no part of that discussion. Feel free to skip this section entirely, and then come back if and when they close out the series. Do a CTRL+F right now for "obscure" and keep going. No hard feelings.
But the Capitals are probably going to win. That's not a knock against Vegas; it's just basic math. Teams that go up 3-1 in a series win an overwhelming amount. And even factoring in the Capitals' historically awful performance when up 3-1, they still have a better than 50 percent chance of closing this out.
So it's probably going to happen. We're mere days and quite possibly hours away from a world in which the Capitals are Stanley Cup champions. And normally, this is where Caps fans would be told to act like they've been there before. But you can't, because you never have.
So I'm going to tell you how to act: However you damn well please.
That's it. It sounds simple, and it is. But I promise you that the second that Alexander Ovechkin's hands touch the trophy, you're going to start getting lectured by other fan bases who want to rain on your parade.
You're going to hear from Penguins fans about how you still have four more Cups to go to catch up to them. You'll hear from Flyers fans who say you're only halfway to their total, and from Islanders fans who say you're only a quarter, and if you're under the age of 35, you'll just have to take their word for it. You'll hear from Devils fans. You'll hear from old school fans in places like Detroit or Montreal who have lots of Cups, and from new fans in places like Carolina or Anaheim wondering what took you so long. God help us, you might even hear from a Rangers fan or two.
I want you to listen to me very carefully: Screw those people.
You have earned this. It's been 44 years of misery, from being the worst expansion team ever to the league's most notorious playoff chokers. If you stuck around for all of it, or even most, then this is your moment. You have endured more of Those Games than just about any fan base in pro sports. But one more win, and it's bonfire time for all those memories. And when it happens, you get to react however you want.
If you're the gracious sort, then fine. If you want to run through the streets, do it. If you want to cry, nobody is judging you. If you want to return a few shots at anyone who's spent years taking them at you, by all means.
And if anyone tells you that you're doing it wrong, or that you're too excited over one title in 44 years, or that there's some cutoff you have to reach before you're allowed to feel as happy as they once did, tell them to get bent. Laugh in their sad little faces. Flex. Spike the football. Literally. Go out right now and buy a football, then spend the days after a Caps win running up to random fans of other teams and spiking it right in front of them. Preferably into the birthday cake their child was about to blow out the candles on.
There are no rules. After 44 years, you deserve at least that much. If the fun police try to show up, flip over their cars and set them on fire and then keep going. It's basically The Purge for Washington fans until October, because nothing will matter except that the freaking Capitals finally won the freaking Stanley Cup.
(Unless they don't, in which case you should probably never watch hockey again.)
Obscure Former Player of the Week
Garth Snow was fired as the Islanders GM this week, ending a 12-year reign that had been in jeopardy as soon as Lou Lamoriello was put in charge of hockey ops. That's got to be frustrating. Snow probably feels like repeatedly punching somebody. This week's obscure player is Andrei Trefilov.
Trefilov was a Soviet goaltender who'd played for Dynamo Moscow and made international appearances at the Olympics and Canada Cup. He was a long shot pick by the Flames in the 12th round of the 1991 entry draft, the 261st selection out of 264 made that day. It would turn out to be a decent gamble, as Trefilov made his way to North America in time for the 1992-93 season, spending most of it with the IHL's San Diego Gulls. He made a single appearance for Calgary that year, making 34 saves in a 5-5 tie against the Canucks.
He'd spend two more years doing spot duty with the Flames, playing a total of 17 games before becoming a free agent in 1995. He signed with the Sabres, where he played a career-best 22 games while backing up reigning Vezina winner Dominik Hasek during the 1995-96 season. That was also the year that saw him accomplish the two things most fans might remember him for: Starting the last ever game at the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, and getting pummeled by Snow during a bizarre line brawl.
(This is of course the infamous Matthew Barnaby fakeout brawl, which we previously broke down here.)
Trefilov spent one more year in Buffalo but only appeared in three games. Early in the 1997-98 season, he was traded to the Blackhawks, where he played seven games over two seasons before being dealt to Calgary, where he played four. That was it for his NHL career, which spanned seven seasons but only included 54 actual games. He played another year in the IHL and five more in Germany before retiring. He appears to have since gone into business as an agent.
Debating the Issues
This week’s debate: The Stanley Cup will be in the building tonight in Las Vegas, and a Capitals win would mean we'd see Gary Bettman perform his annual presentation duties. If he does, should Golden Knights fans boo him?
In favor: Yes. Hockey fans should always boo Gary Bettman. This isn't a hard question. Boo him, Vegas.
Opposed: But just because everyone else does something doesn't mean you have to, too.
In favor: But sometimes it does, because despite our differences, some things are integral to the human condition. Everyone eats. Everyone sleeps. Everyone boos Gary Bettman on sight. What are we even debating here?
Opposed: OK, but can we at least agree that if there was ever a time when cheering Gary Bettman would be appropriate, this is it? He's the reason the Golden Knights are in Vegas in the first place. If you're a Vegas hockey fan, and you've enjoyed all the ups and downs of the last year, Bettman is the guy you have to thank for it. Booing him would seem like a weird way to do it.
In favor: Oh well. Sometimes life takes us in expected directions. Boo the man.
Opposed: Imagine trying to explain that to a Vegas fan. Hey everyone, here's the guy who became the first commissioner in major pro sports history to believe in your market enough to put a team there. He shrugged off the countless naysayers who said it would be a disaster. He made sure you had at least a decent chance at being good in year one. And then that first season ended up being far better than anyone could imagine. And now you're supposed to boo him?
In favor: Yes. Yes you are.
Opposed: But why? Seriously, why do hockey fans do this? There have been times where it made sense, like when Devils fans in 1995 thought Bettman was actively working to move the team to Nashville, or when Carolina fans booed him immediately after the season-long lockout. But why does he get booed in Pittsburgh, even though he helped steer the team out of bankruptcy? Or other non-traditional markets that he's stood by? Or even Original Six markets like Detroit that he's never done anything but support? Is there any point to all of this?
In favor: Gosh, you mean other than the constant lockouts, the almost total lack of progressive solutions to the game's many problems, the decision not to go to the Olympics, the mishandling of concussions and CTE, and the steady stream of condescending media appearances in which he can barely disguise his contempt for his customers? Yeah, once you get past all that I guess there's no reason at all.
Opposed: OK, but again, most of those haven't impacted the Golden Knights. Their fans have never lived through a lockout, and it's not their job to worry about the problems of the past. They've just enjoyed one of the best seasons in the history of any sport, and it's because of Bettman. They should be looking forward. They're the new guys.
In favor: Yes, they are. And when you're new somewhere, it's a good idea to take a look around and figure out what the customs are. Real hockey fans boo Gary Bettman. You want to be one of us, you know what you have to do.
Opposed: That's silly. You're asking a team that has pregame knight fights and laser shows to be bound by tradition?
In favor: Not tradition—respect for your fellow fan. We boo Bettman because it's our only chance to express our frustration with how this league is run. Many of us have been fighting this fight for decades. You come along, and everything is perfect in year one. OK, great, many of us are very happy for you. But you're part of a bigger picture now. And here's a chance to show the world that you're hockey fans, not just Golden Knight fans.
Opposed: And if they do, will the rest of you forgive them for the Twitter account?
In favor: We'll consider it.
The final verdict: Vegas fans are under no moral obligation to boo Gary Bettman. But you'd impress the hell out of the rest of hockey fans if you did.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
Tonight could be Gary Bettman's 25th Cup presentation, and it's fair to say that some have gone better than others. But by now there's a pretty standard process: Bettman arrives, makes a half-hearted joke to the fans who are booing him, he congratulates the losing team, talks way too long about the winning team's owners, calls over the captain, and then forces him to awkwardly pose for photos instead of just handing over the Cup and getting on with it. Typical stuff.
But it wasn't always that way. So today, let's conclude our recent bout of 1993 playoff nostalgia by heading back to Bettman's very first Stanley Cup handoff. We've done a different version of this moment years ago, but this clip is a better and longer version than we had back then, which makes it feel worth revisiting on its 25th anniversary.
- It's June 9, 1993, and the Canadiens are facing the Kings in Game 5 of the Final. We're in the final minute of the third period, but I don't know the score because back then it wasn't on the screen at all times. Does anyone else get a form of low-level anxiety when they watch old clips that don't have the score bug? Just me? Great, good to know.
- Whatever the score is, it's clear that the Canadiens have this one in the bag as nobody really cares what's happening on the ice. The fans are on their feet, and Bob Cole is (of course) killing it with his countdown call. The clock hits zero, and the celebration is on.
- Wait, I'm confused, this is a 1993 Montreal Canadiens playoff game, why is it ending after regulation?
- We get our first view of a little guy in a suit who'll become a recurring character for this clip. That's Denis Savard, the future Hall-of-Famer who's in his third season with the Habs and 13th overall. He's not the player he once was, and has been scratched for much of the playoffs, but everyone still loves him and this is his first Cup, so it's a big moment.
- We also get a shot of Wayne Gretzky congratulating Habs coach Jacques Demers and then giving him his stick, presumably so the Canadiens can secretly measure the curve like a bunch of dirty cheaters.
- That leads to the handshake line, which just kind of happens organically in the Montreal zone instead of at center ice. The Kings only had 19 shots in this game, so they probably just wanted to see what the Montreal end was like.
- We get another shot of Demers carrying around Gretzky's stick. He's probably wondering why it has Doug Gilmour's blood all over it.
- Ron MacLean interviews Patrick Roy, who doesn't really say anything interesting, and then moves on to Demers. Hey, quick question: why isn't Demers in the Hall of Fame? He coached 1,000 games, won a Cup, is the only coach to ever win the Jack Adams in back-to-back years, and once tried to fight Herb Brooks. That's good enough for me, let's get him in.
- Bettman is introduced, and you'll notice the crowd doesn't boo. Montreal: not real fans. Who knew?
- Roy is announced as the Conn Smythe winner and Bettman grabs a microphone, at which point MacLean interviews Savard. That's right, there was a time when Bettman's pre-presentation ramble was treated as background noise, not something that had to be the focus of the entire broadcast. Call me crazy, but I feel like that was a good system.
- It does cost us a good look at one important moment here, though, as we miss the part at very beginning where Bettman tries to speak French. You'll have to trust me when I tell you that it was one of the funniest moments in modern hockey history. He shows up, pulls out a tiny piece of paper he tries to hide in his palm, and proceeds to pronounce each word phonetically while clearly having no idea what he's actually saying. As someone who got through high school French classes with the exact same method, I respect it.
- Bettman only talks for about 30 seconds before calling the Canadiens over to get the Cup, which is funny because it's clearly quicker than MacLean was expecting and causes Savard to bolt away mid-interview.
- We didn't know it then, but this was the very last time we'd ever see two things that had long been Stanley Cup traditions: The Canadiens winning, and the trophy being presented to the whole team at once. Bettman hands off to captain Guy Carbonneau but is quickly surrounded, and has to Homer Simpson his way out of the crowd. It wouldn't be until next year in New York when Bettman and Messier would establish the one-on-one captain handoff template that's still used today.
- There's a funny moment during the skate around the rink when Roy goes for the Cup and Patrice Brisebois ends up playing keep away like he's holding a toy over his little brother's head. Roy responds to this bout of mild adversity by immediately quitting the team and demanding a trade.
- We close with the team photo, and maybe my favorite moment of the whole clip: Demers just bolting right to the front of the group. He's practically stiff-arming trainers out of the way to get there. If that doesn't get you in the Hall of Fame I don’t know what does.
- And that's it—Bettman's first handoff. Not bad for a rookie. In fact, I think we can learn from it. So whether it's tonight or in a few days, Gary, consider going old school. Keep it short, skip the photo poses, and escape quickly. And also, maybe work in a second language. I hear the guy you'll be handing off to may know some Russian.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org .