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September 21, 2018

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

It wasn’t fun watching the Washington Capitals celebrate in our city

Golden Knights players give thoughtful farewell to fans to conclude memorable inaugural season

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Steve Marcus

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) holds up the Stanley Cup after the Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, June 7, 2018.

Washington Capitals Win Stanley Cup

The Vegas Golden Knights give a salute to fans before leaving the ice after losing to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, June 7, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Fans

Washington Capitals fans celebrate following the Capitals Game 5 NHL Stanley Cup Final 4-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights at Toshiba Plaza outside T-Mobile Arena, Thursday, June 7, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Andrew St. Cyr’s mind was made up years ago.

He promised himself that if his beloved Washington Capitals had a chance to win the Stanley Cup, he’d stop at nothing to be in attendance for the clinching game. So, after shelling out $1,300 for a second-deck ticket and traveling across the country, he found himself at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the Capitals did the previously unthinkable by hoisting the Cup with a 4-3 victory against the hometown Golden Knights.

Well, kind of the hometown Golden Knights. St. Cyr wasn’t alone in cheering for the Caps.

About 30 percent of the capacity crowd of 17,500 invaded the Knights’ “fortress” to cheer for Washington and were easily spotted throughout the arena and outside at Toshiba Plaza in red and white gear. More important, they were vocal from start to finish in stealing part of Vegas’ home ice advantage.

In a must-win scenario to keep the magical inaugural season alive for the Knights, their fan base should not have sold their tickets on secondhand brokerage sites to allow Caps fans to buy up the seats. For a game of this magnitude — the most important in franchise history, right? — the team deserved better.

Considering how Las Vegas residents have fallen in love with their hockey team — thousands routinely flocked to practice, forcing fire marshals to limit the crowds — sharing the arena with visiting fans for a must-win Stanley Cup Final game is unthinkable.

To the credit of the Vegas fans who were in attendance, they were great — loud, proud and game-impacting, just like all season. And after the game, they stayed to give the players a powerful round of applause. It was an awesome display as players skated around the ice to show their appreciation.

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The Vegas Golden Knights salute fans before leaving the ice after losing to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, June 7, 2018.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that there should have been more supporters in the gold and black. (Important note: StubHub typically offers several hundreds of tickets before they go on sale to the public, meaning some Caps fans purchased these and not those sold by Golden Knights ticket holders.)

If the series were tied at 2-2, the Capitals’ faithful would have been out of luck in securing tickets. But with the Knights trailing 3-1 and playing some their worst hockey of the season in losing the previous three games, locals made the easy decision to make a profit by selling their tickets.

Some fans weren’t permitted to sell their tickets, agreeing to the franchise’s “Knights Vow,” which gave them access to cheaper playoff prices but forbid them to post the electronic tickets on StubHub. The team created the vow to discourage fans from selling to visiting-team supporters in a strategy that mostly worked until the game that mattered the most.

Those who didn’t agree to the pledge and were willing to pay extra up front surely made part of their playoff-ticket investment back tonight. About 15 minutes before the puck dropped, the cheapest ticket on StubHub was $695, or about three times the face value. Seats closest to the ice reached nearly $10,000 apiece during the series.

For those long-suffering Washington fans, overpaying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see their team win the Stanley Cup was well worth it. The Capitals have been in existence 44 years and hadn’t won the championship, even with having one of the league’s best teams in the past decade.

“I’ve been waiting for this night my entire life. No way I would miss it,” St. Cyr, 35, said.

The Knights had a 36-14 record at home this season, including winning two games in each of their initial three playoff series. The fans were a significant reason why, as Vegas earned the reputation of having one of the league’s best home-ice advantages.

Before the puck dropped, the franchise pleaded on the video screen to make this the “loudest game of the year,” which it arguably came close to achieving. While having Washington fans invading T-Mobile Arena wasn’t an ideal scenario for Vegas, it did create an awesome environment for a championship-clinching game.

Cities wait for decades to experience a memorable playoff run. Vegas lived through the ups and downs of the postseason in the first season of their first major sports franchise. Locals soon won’t forget this season, as they’ve found something to be passionate about and another reason to be proud of residing in the 702.

Yes, it wasn’t fun watching another team celebrate a championship in our house. Downright miserable, actually.

But this just the beginning. The Golden Knights next season are again expected to be one of the NHL’s top teams, meaning these memorable late-spring nights will return in 2019. Our over-the-top support of the team will only get stronger.

Next time, let’s hope that support means hanging onto playoff tickets.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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