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Hockey Can Be a Cruel, Cruel Game

June 26, 2013

Hockey can be a cruel sport. Last second or overtime goals can be as painful as a punch in the stomach for both the players and the fans. Walk off homers, final second field goals, and amazing buzzer beaters can certainly knock the wind out of you, but hockey is different. Something about it makes it worse.

It’s a function of the pace and scoring difficulty. Baseball has the bottom of the ninth. Not to mention all the time in between pitches. Football has time outs, the two-minute warning and one hundred yards between goal lines. Basketball’s pace is similar to hockey, but when is the last time you saw a basketball game that ended with a 3-2 score.

Hockey is unique. There’s no time to breathe. There’s no sending your opponent to the foul line in moments of desperation. You can’t intentionally walk a strong player to get to a weaker one. You can’t run the clock out by kneeling down.

If you could, the Bruins’ hopes of a seventh Stanley Cup would likely still be alive.

It’s been a while since I have experienced such a loss as a fan. In the past decade, the Red Sox are two for two in the World Series. The Giants are also perfect in Super Bowl chances having defeated the Patriots twice. The Bruins won in 2011 and the LA Kings won last year. The Celtics won it all in 2008, and when they lost in 2010 it was to the Lakers—have I never mentioned that I’m a Lakers fan?  That’s a different story for a different day.

It’s been a pretty spectacular ride for me, when you really think about it.

Of course, there was Andy Roddick’s loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009. That match certainly took the wind out of my sails for the rest of the day. There was also the “Best Play in NFL History”—please don’t get my started on that—but DeSean Jackson’s punt return did deliver a blow similar to two goals in 17 seconds.

The closest fan experience, for me at least, was probably Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal in the Vancouver Olympics, which ended the USA’s dreams of gold. That game, although soul crushing, was what got me into hockey. The disappointment from the loss didn’t prevent me from recognizing the brilliance of the game, and a hockey fan was born that day.

My appreciation and knowledge of the sport has grown since. Someday soon I may even understand the icing rules. Although, I have to admit I’m afraid of falling in love with it.

If the Red Sox or Giants had been out there on that ice and suffered a loss like that, I would have likely gone into hiding for days or weeks or had a heart attack long ago.

Hockey is not for the meek. Losing can be excruciating—just ask Toronto—but doesn’t that make winning all that much sweeter.

I have to tip my cap to the Blackhawks.  They played an incredible game and series.

To the Bruins, thank you. You lifted us up when we needed you the most. You provided us with a truly thrilling distraction.  We didn’t need you to win it all, we just needed you to keep playing. We needed the hope of winning for as long as possible. You gave us that, and we will be forever grateful.

It was moving to see, hear actually, the fans at the Garden chanting, “Let’s go Bruins,” after the game and the Cup had been lost.  It would have been an awesome moment to be a part of.

See what you have done Bruins, you have turned me into a hockey fan, for life I fear, but for this I am thankful…I think.

And for anyone who is clamoring, “What about soccer?”  When they cut the field in half, we can talk.

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