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Short Shifts

Capitals fan completes NHL arena tour with poster of late wife

Greg Christian finished six-year-long trek in Toronto on Jan. 23

by Pat Pickens @Pat_Pickens / NHL.com Staff Writer

Greg Christian could feel his late wife, Dona Coultice-Christian, in the seat next to him at Scotiabank Arena.

He was finishing the couple's six-year-long tour of watching their beloved Washington Capitals at every NHL arena. It was a journey that began in 2013 and one that he completed alone at the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 23, two months to the day of his wife's death.

Dona, however, was there in spirit. And in photo.

Christian carried a poster of Dona, who died of pancreatic cancer on November 23 at age 69, with him to the final two games of their tour.

It was something they shared before her death and something he had to complete. With her.

"I felt like the only thing to do was have her with me," Christian told NHL.com. "There were a couple of times during the game where I looked over and spoke to her and told her: 'Hey! We're here.' It was as if she were there with me."

The couple saw the Capitals play at 34 venues -- 31 different arenas, including Joe Louis Arena and Nassau Coliseum, and three stadiums. He was hopeful his wife would be with him to finish the final two arenas, in St. Louis and Toronto, but her condition rapidly deteriorated in the fall. 

"The tumor grew to the point where it was pushing on her stomach where she could not eat or keep any food down," Christian said. "She was unable to take in any nourishment, and from my perspective she started to die."

Christian had bought game and plane tickets to Washington's road games in St. Louis and Toronto during the summer before Coultice-Christian's condition worsened. He decided to finish the tour with the posters, attending the Capitals game against the Blues on January 3, then capped the couple's tour in Toronto.

The poster idea came from Christian's children. They had all planned on all going to St. Louis together in March of 2018, but Coultice-Christian's treatment schedule took priority over the trip. Christian's children attended the game without the couple but brought poster of them in their place.

"They made a poster of the two of us and took it with them and posted pictures outside [the arena]," Christian said. "It was the six of them plus the two of us (in the poster), and that gave me the idea of making a poster of Dona and taking her with me to St. Louis and Toronto."

Christian, 64, has been a Capitals fan for more than 30 years and convinced Coultice-Christian to hop along the bandwagon shortly after they got married in 2005. They were doing a 50-state tour and reached No. 48 when they decided to start the NHL arena tour, making sure to see their favorite team each time.

They never finished their 50-state tour, opting to go full steam into the hockey trips. They had been to 23 venues when Coultice-Christian was diagnosed in April 2017. They continued when they could.

They attended games in 11 different arenas last season, starting with a three-game in Western Canada trip in October, then saw the Capitals in Dallas and Las Vegas in December. A four-city, seven-day trip to Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago and Buffalo in February capped their whirlwind season.

Tweet from @charmcitygreg: Only the Cup comes between us. #nhl100 pic.twitter.com/KQbHpFogqd

Christian said his favorite venue was Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, with Madison Square Garden in New York coming in a close second. His favorite trip was when they saw the Capitals in Boston in October 2014, when they toured some of the city's sights like Faneuil Hall and the Old North Church.

But, with the couple's arena tour now complete, Christian says he still plans on going to see his Capitals on the road. A membership with the Capitals Road Crew, a fan group that annually takes a few Capitals road trips per season, and journey to Seattle are in the works for him.

If nothing else, it will remind him of all the games he saw with Dona.

"I've never taken a trip with them, so I'm thinking my next trip will be with the Road Crew," Christian said. "I don't know where their next trip will be or when I'll be able to go, but connecting with the Caps Road Crew is something in the not too distant future."

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