When it was over—amid the triumphant rings of the tip-turned-celebration bell behind the bar, the popping of champagne bottles, and the dizzy celebration of the room full of red-clad fans—Hudson Street Stackhouse owner Dom DeSantis made like Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin on the TVs above him and hoisted an empty keg over his head as if it were the Stanley Cup. “It’s unreal,” DeSantis said about a half hour later, as the celebration continued and midnight approached. “I’m so excited for this.”
In their 44th year of existence and following many recent years of frustration, the Capitals were finally champions. That sentence may carry different weight depending on your fondness for our nearby city to the south, its sports teams, and specifically hockey. But if you were the 100 or so fans who packed 2626 Hudson St. in Canton, a designated “Caps House,” as the banner atop the building said, the emotions were clear late Thursday night.
You anxiously watched through the first two periods that ended with the homestanding Vegas Golden Knights (yep, they’re a thing) leading 3-2, then screamed and cheered as and finally let reality sink in as the Caps rallied and went ahead, a goal by Lars Eller with 7:32 left holding up as the championship-winner. With that, poof went the last decade of postseason futility, an emotion strong enough to touch the various corners of the Caps’ regional fan base, including Baltimore, which hasn’t had a pro hockey presence since the minor league Bandits stopped playing in 1997.
“It’s been forever,” said Richard DeSantis, who introduced his bar-owning son and his two brothers to hockey in Patterson Park ice rink 30 years ago, and brought them to Capitals games at the old Capital Centre in Landover, where the team used to play. That rearing essentially planted the seed for the hockey bar that emerged on Hudson Street. “It was so fun to watch, the whole playoffs,” Richard said as he took in the jubilant red-rocked scene, a few blocks from where his grandfather started the family bar business by opening Venice Tavern on South Conkling and Bank Streets the year after prohibition ended. “And for somebody like Alex Ovechkin, whose been such a great player for all these years and has never gotten there, I’m so happy for him.”
So was his son, who 10 years ago took over ownership of Hudson Street, a place where he gathered with friends after adult league hockey games and became a place where Caps’ fans flocked over time. “I had been demoralized,” the 38-year-old said of the previous playoff exits, most recently series losses to Pittsburgh (ugh) in 2016 and 2017, despite the Caps finishing the most points in the league both seasons. “This is super special. Naturally, the first thing you think of when the Caps make it this far in the playoffs, is that it brings the hockey community together. While in Baltimore, obviously hockey is not a very popular sport compared to other sports, when they make it this far, everybody comes together.”
And hangs on every moment, like when with two minutes left in Thursday’s game and the Caps clinging to a one-goal lead, the digital scoreboard clock on NBC’s broadcast malfunctioned and disappeared. “How much time?!” probably a dozen people yelled at various TVs, as everyone wondered the same question. With 50 seconds left, the clock reappeared, just in time as final countdown and celebration was captured on phones (#AllCaps) and in memories. “To see them win and bring the Cup to the area,” Dom DeSantis said, “it’s hard to put into words.” So he did it with a keg instead.