- - Monday, June 11, 2018

Where’s Waldo?

He could be under your bed, but who cares? We’re not concerned about the famous traveler’s location right now. There’s a more pressing question in the DMV, one that should remain at the fore throughout the summer:

Where’s the Stanley Cup?

The Washington Capitals turned a bunch of folks onto hockey over the last two months. Some had never given the sport much of a chance. Others were casual fans who tuned in occasionally throughout each season. Another segment had a history of paying attention only once the playoffs began (and ended just as quickly).

Previous commitment to the Caps and the sport won’t matter Tuesday at 11 a.m., when the city’s first championship parade in a quarter-century begins on Constitution Avenue, near the Washington Monument, and culminates in a rally on the National Mall. Whether attendees have been faithful followers since the team’s years in Landover or got swept up by partying in Chinatown this month, everyone can rock some red and don some championship gear.

The Caps rewarded newcomers who gave hockey a chance this season.

The skating ability, stick handling, speed and hitting made it easier to understand why so many fans are committed. The longer you watched — from the 4-3 opening loss against Columbus in the first round, to the 4-3 win against Vegas in the clincher — the better you became at tracking pucks. And when traffic in front of the net resembled a Beltway traffic jam, various super-slow replays increased onlookers’ appreciation for technology and the goaltender’s challenging task.

Converts might not understand the intricacies of icing or set plays on faceoffs. They might be slow to grasp delayed penalties or confused by offsides calls. The constant shift changes might make it difficult to keep pace with who’s on the ice or in-game tweaks to the lineup.

But we’re all in this together now.

Chants of “We want the Cup!” reverberated in Capital One arena during games and outside the National Portrait Gallery during watch parties. And now the Cup is ours.

More accurately, it belongs to the Capitals. But they’ve been perfectly willing to share. Already they’ve lugged it to a Vegas nightclub, an Arlington bar, Nationals Park and the Georgetown waterfront.

One of the coolest things about hockey is the 35-pound, 35-inch championship trophy and its effect on people — players first and foremost, but also anyone who gets near it.

Simply put, the Stanley Cup is a rock star: @StanleyCup.

It has a website, wheresthestanleycup.com, and a Twitter account, @StanleyCup411, that allows you to track its location all year. One of the Cup’s personal valets – Philip Pritchard – has 140,000 followers on @keeperofthecup. Fellow keeper Mike Bolt logs more than 100,000 miles per year with the hardware as it spends time with winning players and travels the world.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy (NFL), Larry O’Brien Trophy (NBA) and the Commissioner’s Trophy (MLB) can’t measure up. They have neither the Stanley Cup’s substantial cachet nor a namesake appointed by Queen Victoria in 1888.

Players in the three other major leagues compete to win a title, to be called champions.

But NHL players strive to, literally, win the Cup, sports’ version of the Holy Grail.

If they succeed and finally get their hands on the trophy, they instinctively lift it like a barbell and shake it like an oblong tambourine. The gleaming silver chalice is also subjected to multiple kisses, repeated stroking and sloppy gulping.

Along with the places it visits, those might be the real reasons official keepers always wear gloves. The party never stops when the Cup is around!

(Speaking of partying, am I the only one concerned about moderation? Images and stories since the Capitals’ victory suggest many players have spent their waking moments smashed, hammered, plastered, or whatever your euphemism you prefer for “drunk.” That’s not funny and not a good look. We pray it doesn’t mean problems with alcohol exist, now or in the future.)

After the parade ends and the crowd disperses, after the streets are cleaned and folks get on with the rest of their workweek, the Cup should have a lower profile, locally. Individual players often take it to their hometown or other locations that hold deep meaning for them.

The celebrations can be less raucous and less public, reserved for families and friends opposed to an entire city.

But we’ll watch from afar, devouring photos and videos as the trophy makes its rounds. We’ll take a measure of pride, beaming like proud parents, as it brings joy to others. We’ll replay events from the postseason and the celebrations and feel the warmth anew.

We wanted it. We got it.

And no matter where it goes, this summer or summers to come, the Stanley Cup forevermore has a home in D.C.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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