Unlike most others who entered the contest, I never really "discovered" hockey. There was no turning point, no one event that cemented my fandom forever. I simply was. I have no memories of a time when hockey wasn't a part of my life. My dad always used to take my brother and I to Caps games when we were little. We were two little ADHD balls of energy and both loved action. There are few places you can take kids like that in D.C. at an affordable price, but with the futility of the franchise in the mid-90s, tickets to hockey games were cheap and easy to come by. We loved the pace and the atmosphere.
It began more regularly when I was about six and my brother was nine, when we were both old enough to take out in public without being superbly embarrassed or obnoxious. That also just happened to be the year that the Capitals made their magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals on the back of Olaf Kolzig. I remember the days of the eagle uniforms fondly, when you were never crowded and always made friends with the people around you, because it was mostly the same people going to all of the game. I myself got a Blue Joe Juneau jersey for Christmas, while my brother got a blank Black Third jersey.
I was not a crazy fan, being way to antsy as a kid to really invest the time needed. But I knew who the players were. I loved Jeff Halpern because he was from my town in suburban Maryland and played hockey for the local high school. When I began playing for the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association Blue Devils (CBHL Champs 04 baby!) I wore number 12 in honor of my favorite player, Peter Bondra. I would compare myself to the players on the ice: when I played defense, I felt like Sergei Gonchar; later, when I moved up to center, I likened myself to Adam Oats. In middle school, I began to completely immerse myself in hockey during the season. 04-05 was the longest 8 months of my life, especially considering my team had just picked some kid named Alex Ovechkin 1st overall in the draft and he was supposed to turn the whole franchise around or something...wonder if it worked? :)
I have carried my fandom throughout my entire life, and I never see myself stopping. It is a part of me, a part of my identity. In school, I was either known as the girl who played ice hockey, or the redhead. I have grown with this franchise through numerous rough years, an ownership change, a building change, and a jersey change. I used to have to root for the Capitals and then pick another team to cheer for that actually had a chance at the Stanley Cup. Not anymore. It makes it all the more special to see how this city has accepted hockey and put it's full support behind the Caps. This is now a hockey town in addition to a football town, and I am proud to be one of the original diehards.
This team has my undying loyalty, as it has for my entire life. And it always will.