ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) – Joe Snively grew up a Washington Capitals fan and playing for the Washington Capitals junior hockey team.

On Thursday, the 26-year-old Herndon native and Capitals rookie forward, scored his first career NHL goal, in a 5-2 win at the Montreal Canadiens, finishing the game with two goals and an assist.

“It was a big relief,” Snively, who has now played six games for the Caps this season, said. “Had a few chances, in the games earlier, so that was nice to get that out of the way.”

According to USA Hockey registration, youth hockey participation in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia grew 221 percent between 2003 and 2020. In 2003, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was drafted by the team. The rise in DMV Hockey participation is known as the “Ovechkin effect” and Snively is now the face of that movement.

I haven’t reflected too much on it and just trying to stay in the moment, but it’s, looking back it is pretty cool,” Snively said. “Every step of the way, I’m just trying to stay focused and now I’m professional and got the opportunity to play in the NHL, it’s pretty cool.”

Snively tells WDVM that his favorite players growing up were Peter Bondra and Nicklas Backstrom. Now, he’s playing with his childhood heroes in Backstrom, Ovechkin and the other longer tenured Caps.

“Being in the locker room, talking with them, playing hockey with them. It’s been pretty cool,” Snively said. “Just sharing the ice with them, learning little things they do.”

While Snively is living his dream, he’s focused more on the work ahead, than soaking in the moment.

“I’ve only played six games so far. But that’s my goal is to try to stick around,” Snively said. “Get an opportunity, get a call. I’m just trying to make my mark right now, help the team win, have a positive impact and just try to stick around.”

The Capitals rookie, who was once a youth player himself, is now an inspiration to current youth players.

“It’s a pretty cool feeling to be that guy that kids look up to,” Snively said. “I’m proud to be from this area and to have made it at the NHL level or gotten the opportunity, so yeah, I’m proud to be from the DMV.”