The Rolling Stones will tell you that it’s only a shot away when they want some shelter. Eminem will tell you that you only got one shot when he’s losing himself. In fact, anyone who’s been to a concert knows the feeling right when the lights go down and their favorite band takes the stage.
But this isn’t a music blog—it’s a hockey blog. Today, we’re talking about the feeling that transcends hockey. Really, it’s a feeling that transcends sports all together. We’re not talking about the electricity of a Game 7 yet. That comes tonight. No, today, we’re talking about the excitement leading up to Game 7.
Just imagine how fans in Boston and Tampa are today. We’ve all been there at some point. You know that feeling: can’t focus on anything during the workday because the game is all you can think about. Trying not to think about the “what if’s” after the game—but still letting them seep in once or twice. Will this be the last night of the season I’ve lived for 8 months? Will I get a stay of execution that gives me another week or two of hockey? Or, if we really let our minds get the best of us, we think about if this could be “the year.” Is this the year that all of my waiting pays off?
Do you know that feeling? That’s what every single hockey fan in Massachusetts and central Florida is going through right now. It’s all about tonight. Well, unless they earn the right to play another day. But they can’t think about that yet.
It’s all about the here and now—the future can wait for a night. Tonight’s the antithesis to opening night. At the beginning of a season, everyone’s tied for first place with hope and faith in their team. Everyone has six months of hockey to look forward to and just about everyone outside of Edmonton and Miami had visions of the playoffs dancing in their heads at the end of 82 games.
But tonight? Tonight is the night when all of that hope manifests itself into nervous energy. Was the hope misplaced? Was it just an enormous waste of time and emotion leading up to a Game 7 failure? Or was it all prelude to a thrilling Game 7 victory that catapults their favorite sons to the sports grandest stage?
Tonight? Tonight we see the marathon of the NHL’s season reduced to a 100-yard sprint between two of its best teams for the opportunity to play for the most iconic trophy in all of sports.
There’s a nervous excitement that will build within fans from the time they wake up until the first puck is dropped at center ice. It’s like an entire city listening to “Shipping Up To Boston” on repeat for a few hours straight. Just like anyone else listening to that song, they’ll be full of energy—but just a little bit on edge. That nervous excitement is what it’s all about. That’s the feeling that the passive fan can’t understand. We’ll hear announcers and talking heads drone on about how tonight’s game is “what it’s all about.” Sure, that might be true for some people.
But for me, TODAY is what it’s all about. It’s about the nervous energy that fills the day. It’s about the fans who try to stay on task and try to stop looking at the clock. It’s about the fans lucky enough to be going to the game, who admit they just need to take half the day off of work because they simply can’t function. Hell, it’s about the fans that just mail in the entire day of work because they’re too excited.
It’s the day that being a passionate diehard is rewarded.
What about everyone in our city? This is when they live in OUR world for a day. Sure, non-believers will say we care too much—but this feeling, today, is what it’s all about. It’s the (legal) high that sports fans chase all year long. After the game, the victors will get another hit and get to ride the rollercoaster for a little longer. The defeated? They have to deal with the unenviable crash that happens to all of us when the ride is over. They’ll whine, and kick, and scream for a little bit—but then they’ll think back to how great the ride was. And eagerly await for the next ride to start again in September.
Tonight is what I’ll call an “in the building” night. It doesn’t matter how crappy the seats, how far away the ice is, or how may stairs it requires to find your seats. None of that matters. All that matters is that you’re in the building. Sure, the stuff going on down on the ice matters—but it’s the atmosphere that separates Game 7 from Game 29 of the regular season.
Tonight could be a 7-0 woodshed job. But that’s not what any of us are thinking about right now. Right now, we’re all thinking about a game that’s as close as the series has been. We imagine a game that comes down to the wire; a 3rd period goal and a furious final push to tie the score. Who’s scoring the goal and who’s trying to come back? Who’s cheering and who’s crying? Who’s the hero and who’s the goat?
Don’t worry, we’ll have all the answers soon enough. But in the meantime, the unknown is most of the fun, isn’t it?