‘Rocking The Red’ leaves me feeling blue…

April 23, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

The ending could’ve been a whole lot better, especially for what an amazing and memorable event it was.

And for a little while, I felt like I was in the twilight zone and it was 1987 all over again. I was sitting on the roof of a Game 7 Capitals home game, and five feet to my right was Phil Jackman, the same guy I sat with 21 years ago when a Game 7 overtime went on all night.

This time – mercifully but not benevolently – it ended quickly and abruptly with Joffrey Lupul’s goal at 6:06 of the first overtime, squashing the Caps’ series comeback from 3-1 and their season.

The initial penalty call on Tom Poti was questionable to begin with, and what a way to have a season end on a cheap call like that? But, honestly, that’s been the story of the Capitals’ existence since 1974.

Good enough – in the minds of their fans — but never left standing at the end of the dance.

This team truly wasn’t good enough to win a Stanley Cup as assembled, but they were certainly good enough to win last night’s game. And the referees, as Poti suggested after the game, certainly played a major role in deciding the outsome.

Twenty years from now, I hope we’re still around to tell the story of how the Caps got boned in overtime of Game 7 against the stinking Flyers.

The Alex Ovechkin “pass away” in the third period when he had half of the net staring him in the eyes. The Alexander Semin “fan” on the empty netter after the strange bounce in the third. Hell – the WHOLE third period the guys in the red sweaters had chance after chance, only to fall short.

The march out of the Verizon Center was funereal indeed for the 18,277 who “rocked the red” and brought back the magic that Jackman, Ed Frankovic, Drew Forrester and I remember from those days on Landover Road.

The one hour ride home — in a limo provided by my man Mark Chapman from Chapman Limos (443-610-3430…good guy, big Ravens fan!) — had Drew so perturbed he was almost unintelligible. He just kept mumbling under his breath: “How the F does the referee make that call?”

Jackman called it — a Flyers win on a “cheap goal” — but he didn’t think it would happen until 1:19 a.m., in the seventh period.

Meanwhile, poor Frankovic, was despondent. He’s the one who’s remained a hardcore, jersey-wearing Caps fan through all of the “character building” years when they changed homes.

I have very few complaints, aside from the outcome.

It was a fun, memorable night. Tons of energy. Tons of noise. My wife and son were next to me. Some of my best hockey friends were there (some others weren’t, which was a bummer).

We have tons of wnsTV footage we’ll be screening soon enough.

But it had a VERY unhappy ending.

And the one thing an “old time” hockey fan like me (and a guy who spent a decade engulfed in Caps Fever)  notices is the energy and youth of the Caps new fan base in downtown D.C. I’m a serious geezer at nearly 40, a rare guy who WAS there for that famed four OT night against the Islanders that featured Bob Mason and Kelly Hrudey, Kelly Miller and Pat Lafontaine.

And I was there, too, when the franchise went to the Stanley Cup Finals ten years ago and couldn’t give their tickets away. When Olie Kolzig and Joe Juneau were rock stars in the hockey world but could walk unnoticed down the streets anywhere in the nation’s capital without getting recognized.

Circa 2008, the Washington Capitals have grown into a nice “regional” franchise and the “Rock The Red” promotion was ingenius, really. It was fun, and at least for a night, it was fun to be a part of the bandwagon, even if I’m not truly fully onboard.

Just bringing back the old colors and logo — as STUPID as that sounds — has brought me back to some degree. To see those many folks rocking their “old school” red and white (I saw Gartner, Stevens, Gustaffson, Maruk and other jerseys last night…the REAL ones, like my Steve Seftel red Skippies special from 1988!) was really kinda cool and brought back some great memories of chasing hockey and girls at the Capital Centre.

(I’ve always wondered what happened to that hot blonde girl who used to sit on the glass below the press box in Sect. 111?)

One day I hope to be a full-fledged “Caps fan” again. But it takes time and attention and energy.

But I really think we at WNST are going to make more of an effort to bring some fans back to  hockey games, both in Washington and in Hershey.

You know why?

Because it will be FUN! (And isn’t that why we’re all sports fans to begin with?)

I had a great time last night just because of the group of people I went to the game with and had some beers and storytelling (all on wnsTV soon!)

It’ll be a long offseason for the Caps. A hard to swallow loss, especially when it feels unfair (and it does).

But my love of hockey has been reawakened.

I’m VERY realistic about the fact that hockey might NEVER come back to Baltimore.

As I’ve said MANY times, if I EVER get wealthy, the first thing I’d do is go buy a hockey team and bring it to Baltimore so I could lose some of my money.

But I’m hardly there yet. LOL.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go back to some Caps games next year, support a franchise that seems to “get it” and is heading in the right direction.

Game On!

The next round awaits.

P.S. The REAL injustice of the evening was coming home to watch the greatest hockey announcer on the planet calling an Orioles-Mariners game from the West Coast for a meager audience on MASN instead of being on the roof of the Verizon Center calling Game 7 for the adoring hockey masses, the way it should be.

Gary Thorne should be doing HOCKEY in April and May, not baseball games from the West Coast in the middle of the night.

THAT’S a real injustice!

Although hearing him and Palmer do a game is a joy.

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