Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When history happens faster than your eyes can see

At around 10:45 p.m. Monday night I was contemplating what I was going to write in a blog entry this morning that essentially detailed both my excitement and my anxiety regarding Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. At the time, the Boston Bruins had somehow managed to hold a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the waning minutes of Game 6, a remarkable feat considering what had transpired to that point. The Bruins had thoroughly dominated the first half of the game only to find themselves tied 1-1 after a demoralizing de facto shorthanded goal by Jonathan Toews and numerous fruitless power plays. This was the type of game we had all seen before. The team fighting for its life controls the pace and dominates, but doesn't manage to translate that domination to the scoreboard before the opposing -- and often better -- team weathers the storm before eventually wearing them down and pulling out a heart-wrenching victory.

This game had that written all over it.

But then in the third period Boston broke through, as Milan Lucic scored with just under nine minutes remaining, re-energizing TD Garden and putting the Bruins on the brink of forcing a decisive seventh game. As the clock ticked down this began to seem all the more certain. When the Blackhawks got a late power play and proceeded to look as dead as Aaron Hernandez's career for the entire two minutes, that seemed to seal the deal.

Much as I was rooting for the Blackhawks, this was, really, fine. This had been a series between two great teams with six taut, entertaining games including three that went to overtime. It was historic in nature and it warranted, nay deserved to have a seventh game. That was necessary to complete the legacy and etch the series into NHL lore as one of the greatest ever played.

And then with 1:16 to go, something crazy happened.

Now, I have lived a long enough time to have seem some nutty things in my life, but never in my wildest dreams as a sports viewer did I ever think I would see something like this. Just to spell this all out here it is: The Chicago Blackhawks went from planning for a Game 6 to being in position to win the Stanley Cup, and the Boston Bruins went from having their season stay alive to getting their hearts wrenched out of them, in a span of 17 seconds.

The moment was so shocking and happened so quickly that I was less excited and celebratory than I was shocked. My brain had not yet had the time to process what I had seen. From the looks of all the reaction shots CBC provided on its coverage of Dave Bolland's game-winning goal, neither had anyone in the arena. I hadn't quite been able to emotionally shift from my placid acceptance of a Game 7 to exuberance over Chicago being a mere minute from celebrating, but the time passed, and sure enough there was celebrating to be had. And all that celebrating led to this.

One of the things I realized when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 was that I was excited, but it didn't feel quite the same for me as when the Devils had won it any of those previous times -- nor would it feel the same as when the Devils finally upended the Rangers to win the Eastern Conference Final last spring. It still didn't feel the same this time around. The lifelong bond and dedication are not there in the same way. But an emotional connection to the Chicago Blackhawks certainly does, and I learned this Monday night when, even as I had trouble deciphering what had just occurred on my television screen, I still had a wide, uncontrollable smile stretching across my face.

That was all I need to see to know this was special. What happened in Game 6 Monday was unusual, almost certain to never happen again and truly amazing. It will be a moment talked about for years as one of the wildest in the history of the sport. In many ways it's a shame my brain wasn't able to put it all together in the moment.

At the very least, though, I know it now.

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