Championship ‘inception’ taking place in D.C. sports?

Chris Lingebach
November 05, 2019 - 10:21 pm
Championship ‘inception’ taking place in D.C. sports?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. sports fans saw so much of the 2018 Capitals in the 2019 Nationals along their miracle ride to a World Series championship.

There's a bit of a D.C. sports Inception thing going on here. Throughout their run, the Nats said they felt like the 2018 Stanley Cup champions were an inspiration to them in their own championship journey. And now the Caps, who celebrated like it was the summer of 2018 all over again the night the Nats won it all, say they feel inspired all over again by their baseball brethren.

Carl Hagelin, who only arrived in Washington last February, sees a lot of the 2019 Nats in the 2019 Caps. If you've been knee-deep in Nationals coverage for the past month, the Capitals are off to a roaring start to the 2019-20 season, the best in hockey (25 points) after 16 games.

Hagelin, the morning after the Nats' improbable World Series victory, was asked of the similarities between the D.C. teams during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance, presented by F.H. Furr.

"Carl, I know you got here last year and I get the sense that it's this way now, but there were so many similarities for D.C. fans who follow both of you guys and the Nationals, between this Caps team that won the Stanley Cup and this Nationals club right here," said Danny Rouhier.

"And I get the same sense from you guys right now, about how together you are. Do you get that sense as well? Do you see a lot of yourselves in the Nationals in what they did this year?"

"Yeah," Hagelin said. "Like you said, when I got here, I remember watching a game of the Nats and they were one of the last teams in the standings at the time, but they've obviously, they've come together as a group."

"I think in the playoffs, it was amazing to see their true colors and the type of character they have in that locker room," he said. "It's like in their mind there was no doubt they were gonna win it all. That's why they overcame so many different things throughout the playoffs, and the reason why they always kept coming back late in games."

"It's not easy, but I think they just believed in themselves and they had a good swagger and good thing going in their locker room," he said. "It seemed like – I haven't met many of the guys there, but they seem like great team players and fun guys to hang around."

A two-time Stanley Cup champion in Pittsburgh, Hagelin says there's a definite belief of no deficit is ever too great, that you're always going to come back and win, on championship clubs. That's a trait he recognized in the Nats.

 "I think I've been fortunate to be on some good teams throughout my career where the result hasn't really been an indicator of where the game's gonna go, the result after one or two periods," he said. "I think there's just a belief in the locker room that I think everyone brings it every night and that you have those star players that can make a difference."

"But I think the difference with a good team compared to a mediocre team is that the good team will find different guys every night who brings it," he said. "Whether you need a big save from a goalie or a big goal from a guy who might not score a ton. The good teams that overcome deficits seem to have those type of players and those type of characters in their locker room.

"Like I said, you could see that the Nats, they were feeling good about themselves and they've done it throughout the entire playoffs, and I think every team that wins kind of goes through that feeling, when a lot of players not only play to their highest capacity, they also play a little above what they've done before. A little over-achieving, I guess."

Barry Trotz once attempted to plant a seed of hope in the hearts of tormented D.C. sports fans, telling them that once one team breaks through to end the championship drought in this town, they would pull the others along for the ride and winning would spread like wildfire. 

"This is a new era for basketball and hockey and the baseball team, and we're getting the football team straightened away, and then we'll go from there," Trotz said in July 2015. "It's going to be contagious. I'm telling you, it's going to affect all the sports. We're looking to be one of those cities when their sports teams are competing against each other, competing for championships."

It turns out, Trotz was three years too soon with those remarks, which became a repeated punchline each time a D.C. team would fall short. Until the Capitals finally broke through.

It's still too early to tell, but we could be seeing the beginnings of something special – again – in this 11-2-3 Capitals club.