Two-and-a-half years ago, Emanuel Borja was introduced to Carolina Soto through a mutual friend. Carolina was beautiful, sure, but there was an indescribable chemistry Emanuel had never felt before.
“We hit it off instantly. We just clicked,” Emanuel said. “I had no doubt in my mind that there was absolutely something special about her from the first time I talked to her.”
The couple met right before Halloween, and by Christmas, Emanuel knew he wanted to be more than friends.
“I had received some tickets to a Caps game as a Christmas present and decided to take her since she’d never been to a hockey game before,” Emanuel said. “She ended up loving it. I let her wear my jersey and she loved the goal horn, the lights and how fast the game moved. That same night I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes!”
Fast-forward to Saturday’s Stadium Series game and Emanuel had another important question for Carolina.
On November 20th, my 33rd birthday, I received the following email from Emanuel.
Hey Ian! So I’ve been a Caps fan my whole life, and just about 5 or 6 years ago, I would say the passion got reignited because I could finally afford to pay my way into games and such. I met my girlfriend just a little over 2 years ago, and she met me when hockey was the only thing on my mind, and she knew nothing of it. Since she didn’t, I told her I was going to teach her about it and take her to a game. Up until I took her, I had never gone to a Caps game and seen them win, and she had a blast, and she loved it. The day I took her to her first hockey game, was also the day I finally asked her to be my girlfriend. She said yes, and she loved hockey so much she refused to give me back my 2015 Winter Classic jersey back until she got her own.
Now she has her own jersey, and I haven’t been able to take her to another game because she runs a photography business on top of being a student part-time, and working part-time. I also work pretty much seven days a week, because Ive been saving up to buy a house, and now to propose to her.
So I bit the bullet and bought the tickets for the Stadium Series game in March, and I thought this is it. This is the perfect time. She’ll never suspect it at the game, and it’s a link to one of the very first things we ever did together, and it’ll make for a good story. A once in a lifetime experience on the game, and the proposal, but the problem is I know she wanted to have a photographer surprise her with pictures of her reaction when she got asked (she’s got a fairy tale mind) and I thought I should hunt down a way to have cameras on us when I do it, if I can manage to find the right people.
I had never met or talked to Emanuel before, but after reading the context behind his idea, I immediately wanted to help. His story was sweet, genuine, and all sorts of awesome so I forwarded the email to a member of the Capitals organization who I thought could help Emanuel’s dream come true.
Sadly, Emanuel didn’t get a response back, and he emailed me months later asking if I could personally help.
I’ve never helped someone propose before. Nervously, I said yes.
Since December, Emanuel did the little things to make his idea a reality. He secured tickets to the Stadium Series game, Caps jerseys, and planned an entire romantic day in Annapolis beforehand. And he remained ruthlessly positive.
Emanuel really wanted the experience to feel “full circle” for Carolina.
“It all started on a day we went to a hockey game together, why not take the next step at a once in a lifetime hockey game, outside, surrounded by thousands of cheering fans,” Emanuel said. “It just seemed like the perfect idea, plus it was also just another way to buy a new jersey without her getting mad at me.”
But having a perfect proposal at the Stadium Series game is harder than it seems. The outdoor game is run by the NHL, so many of the norms of a Caps game at Capital One Arena could not be relied upon. Ushers would likely block non-ticket holders heading down for warmups, where you’d have a bad view of the ice anyway. Moving around the stadium for a perfect background shot would be difficult and awkward if you had random photographers following your every move. Plus, knowing where a perfect background shot would be was a virtual unknown because this was the first time Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium hosted a hockey game before.
Emanuel chose a difficult day to do this.
After thinking about how this might work, I reached out to Emanuel three days before the game with a loose idea of how it might work: have no plan! After thinking through the potential hazards and unknowns in my head, I told Emanuel to lower his expectations and not do it during the game. I did not see any way of getting a photographer to where he was sitting and not tip Carolina off. The surprise was where the romance lied.
“Here’s how… I THINK … it’s gonna work, Emanuel,” I wrote in Facebook chat. “Pregame is the best time, during warmups. I don’t know if people are allowed down for warmups so I’ll leave it up to you on game day on where this might best work at the stadium. I want you to go to RMNB’s tailgate and meet up with several RMNB Crashers (readers who donate $20 or more to the website through Patreon). They will follow you and they’ll all take video and photos. I’m entrusting this someone I really trust, Julie Ann.”
Julie Ann is a long-time supporter of RMNB and a Crasher herself. She took point on coordinating the specifics, going back and forth with Emanuel throughout the day. Due to the chaos of the Stadium Series game, Emanuel couldn’t actually make it to the tailgate.
“I got a little scared because he didn’t make it over to the RMNB Tailgate, so I didn’t really know what he looked like or anything like that,” Julie Ann said of communicating with Emanuel. “I messaged Ian freaking out like, ‘uhhh, he’s not even responding on Facebook now, what am I gonna do?’ But then he did. It was kind of funny because I made eye-contact with him while he was standing inside the door of the men’s room? So it was like, well, this is an utterly bizarre thing we’re doing, but this is gonna happen! And it did.”
Finally. It happened.
With fellow Crasher, Nikki Deacon, and new RMNB writer Donya, in tow, Julie Ann led the group to Section 27. It was easy enough to look inconspicuous with so many Caps fans grouped together and swarming around.
“After warmups, Emanuel came up onto the concourse to ‘use the bathroom.’ Carolina followed him,” Donya said, recounting their first meeting. “We had a small window to get this right in, as the game was due to start imminently. Emanuel led Carolina back into their section, and we followed them down.”
Near the bottom half of the stadium seating was a narrow platform. Julie Ann and her group followed them, pretending to look for their seats. Emanuel eventually stopped on the platform and asked Julie Ann to take a picture of the two of them, with the rink in the background, using his phone.
Then everything else fell into place.
Video: Donya Abramo
First contact. Emanuel was nervous!
The picture that gave the opening to propose.
Perfect form by Emanuel here.
We’re really doing this. 😍 (Photos: Nikki Deacon)
Several months of planning turned into the perfect moment for Emanuel and Carolina. She said yes to becoming the Captain of Emanuel’s heart, forever.
We all wish you nothing but the best, Emanuel and Carolina.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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