Diddy’s “I’m Coming Home” played on the Verizon Center speakers. A highlight reel of Dale Hunter’s career with the Capitals accompanied it on the video boards.
But the real soundtrack was made up of cheers. Minutes after showing the “History Will Be Made” commercial with Hunter’s famous goal from the 1988 playoffs that ended with the line, “History Welcomes You Back … Coach,” this video ended with another chilling line.
“November 29, 2011 … Back where he belongs.”
When Hunter the coach, dressed in the only suit he owns, was shown on the video board, fans rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
“It feels good,” Hunter said. “I come back here, it was an awesome feeling.”
Then, 10:15 into the opening period, Nicklas Backstrom provided the answer to the trivia question of who scored the first goal in the Hunter era. Backstrom memorably scored the game-winner in Bruce Boudreau’s first game as coach in November 2007, and the next game he was on the top line with Alex Ovechkin.
It was only fitting that Ovechkin fed Backstrom the puck for this goal. The rest of the game didn’t go as the Caps had hoped, as the St. Louis Blues came from behind to win 2-1 while suffocating Washington with some stringent defensive hockey.
Players said they would have wanted to give Hunter a victory, but Matt Hendricks couldn’t tell his new coach had any emotions about the night.
“He seems like he was just in tune in the hockey game,” Hendricks said. “Surroundings didn’t seem to matter.”