As tens of thousands crammed like red sardines at a watch party outside Capital One Arena in Washington to view a historic Stanley Cup finale being played in Las Vegas, the atmosphere at Power Plant Live!’s Game 5 viewing party in Baltimore, which was filled with people sprawling over couches as they would at home, was the calm reprieve some fans were seeking.
Then the game ended.
When the third-period clock ran out and the Capitals had beaten the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, for their first NHL championship, comfort transformed into bedlam. Men and women proudly wearing red leaped and screamed.
Reggie Morris, a 32 year-old Washington transplant, evolved from a quiet onlooker before the game to a euphoric reveler, bellowing as beer sprayed around him and red and blue confetti sprinkled down from above.
“It was a great time. Atmosphere was great. Everyone was in good spirits. We’re Stanley Cup champions!” he said at the top of his lungs.
Young men and old fans alike hollered and cried, embracing one another and jumping up and down.
Daniel Hausman, 27, a Washington native now living in Baltimore, tried to scrounge up two tickets for the Capitals’ in-arena party in Washington, but was, like many, too slow. The tickets sold out in 10 minutes.
“We weren’t the most upset when we couldn’t get tickets,” he acknowledged before the game. “We’ll be a lot more comfortable here.”
When the postgame turned into pandemonium, Hausman lifted Linda Benesch, 27, into the air before he couldn’t stand any longer, gazing starry-eyed into the distance.
“We needed to be here for this,” Hausman said. “Everyone needed to be here for this.”
“It’s definitely more convenient than D.C.,” said Adrian Moore, a Ravens season-ticket holder who drove from York, Pa., to be among his own kind for the special night.
He met with his sister Lindsay, who journeyed from Gaithersburg to be with her lifelong hockey partner.
“It shows a lot of camaraderie,” Adrian said of the event. “There’s more Caps fans here than you think. They’re good neighbors here. Forty-four years with a curse is a long time.”
There’s an understandable feeling of missing out as a Caps fan in Baltimore — which is why PPL added authentic hockey color to its party, blasting celebratory confetti while air horns blared.
“We wanted to give people a good, free place to go to watch the game,” said 24 year-old DJ Ross Hyatt, one of the event’s creators and a Caps fan himself.
Bartenders crafted “boozy snowballs” with Capitals-themed names such as “We Want the Cup” (cherry plus Smirnoff Red White and Berry) and “ALL CAPS” (strawberry and Captain Morgan).
Bob Mosier, 53, raised in a suburb outside Washington, said he and his wife, Diana, would have made the trek south if the crowds weren’t likely to be apocalyptic — but he wasn’t going to experience history on his couch either.
“It’s time for Washington sports to have theirs. It’s been 26 years since the Redskins won. Just to be out … as part of a celebration,” he said.
As the national anthem roared before the game on the big screen, PPL’s onlookers cried “Red!” in unison with the legions of fans many miles away. They chanted “Caps, Caps, Caps” in support of the red-cloaked figures in Medieval Times-like pregame show on Vegas’ ice.
Before the game even began, the outdoor gathering had transformed, in the fans’ eyes, to their own makeshift Capital One Arena.
“I didn’t want to be at home when it happened,” Hausman said. “The relief, elation, everything. It’s here.”
The arena-like enthusiasm even had non-Capitals fans feeling themselves getting pulled in.
“I’m a Sharks fan, but even I’m feeling it,” said Cody Hauser, 29, of Millersville. “To see fans down here, not even in D.C., this excited is amazing.”
In the second period, fans launched from their comfortable seats to roar with each of the two goals the Capitals logged. Complete strangers high-fived and hugged one another, and then sat down to debate the minutiae of the play.
They sank in their seats and groaned when Vegas flicked in three of their own, arguing interference as if the referees were really on the ice only feet away.
Undeterred by the score, Pete Saunders, 51, of Pigtown streamed through the couches and tables, acting as if he were a one-man hype force. Behind half of the “C-A-P-S, Caps Caps Caps” chants was Saunders, holding his arms out like a preacher.
“I want to take my two boys down to D.C.,” he said. “To see the parade. It’s just so important.”