Hello again everybody! Been a while, but life happens and for yours truly, it comes very fast and from many different directions. But then, that’s the fun, right? As usual this creates situations for me that I never saw coming. This is especially true in the afterglow of the Blackhawks' second Stanley Cup of the last four seasons.
That means there was a first and we all know how I feel about that one. If not, let me refresh you. In 2010, while many in the Chicagoland area where rediscovering their passion for their NHL team, those of us from Philadelphia were dealing with, once again, having the tease of expectations blow up in our collective faces. Messy. A season that started with high hopes came down to the final game against the hated New York Rangers. The winner made the playoffs, the loser went home. In typical fashion, the game went to a shootout and miracle of miracles, Brian Boucher made the save of the season in the third round to send the Flyers on, for a while at least, a magical journey.
For me there is nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs and when they include the team that you root for, that only increases their intensity by about a thousand times. Its two months of constant stress, if you’re lucky that is. I was fortunate enough that when I entered my early teens, the team I grew up rooting for won consecutive cups. It is a time I still remember with amazing clarity. This ensured that I would be a fan for life. It also ensured that life would be full of torment. The most dominant team I ever saw? That would be the Montreal Canadians of the late seventies. The Flyers lost to them in the finals. The team with the most guts? That would be the 4-time champion Islanders of the early eighties. The Flyers lost to them in the finals also. The Great One? We lost to him and his high-flying Oilers teammates in the finals. TWICE! And that recent spell of domination by the Red Wings? It all started with a finals victory over the Flyers in 1997. And that’s only the finals. I can’t count how many times we lost in the second or third round of the playoffs against a team we were favored to beat, and then they went on to win the cup. This franchise made ripping my heart out on a yearly basis an art form. Little did I know that it could actually get worse. Much worse.
In the second round of the 2010 playoffs, the Flyers went down 3-0 against the Bruins and it looked like another summer of discontent. Then, once again, they came back from the dead. They won game 4 in OT and then the next 2 to force a game 7 in Boston. Down 3-0 in the first period, they enforced their will to come back and stunned an arena full of chowderheads winning 4-3. I love this team! (As an aside: Game 7 was as crazy for me to watch as it was on the ice. When it started, I was in a packed bar getting ready to do a live shot for “Chicago Tribune Live” and not really paying attention to the show. The producer timed my bit during a commercial in the game. How cool is that? Thank you Guff! By the time I left the bar the good guys were down 3-1 at the end of the first. On my way home, I was talking to my mother during our weekly phone conversation and my phone started to blow up. It’s not nice to put mom on hold so the whole time I’m going crazy trying figure out what was going on. When I got home I found out. The game was tied at 3 after 2 periods. But no good for me since it was the Boss’s birthday and one thing she is not is a hockey fan and I was running late for our dinner plans. Does this place have TV’s? Will they have on baseball? I was going nuts! Of course the game was on in the bar, but our table was ready as soon as we walked in the front door. Right this way! Seriously?! Finally, after not being able to position my phone in a place where she wouldn’t notice it, I had to break down and let her in on what was going on. Not that I would let it take away from “her day.” Putting my phone on the table, I saw the Flyers were leading 4-3. OMG. She encouraged me to go in the bar and watch the end of the game, but I knew better. You can’t trap me!! I’ll just check out these updates on my phone and stay here with you sweetheart. After that the Eastern Conference Finals were just a speed bump and then the matchup that will haunt me forever was born. Why is everyone picking the Hawks? The Flyers are a team of destiny!
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
The longest 2 weeks of my life.
After Kaner’s freak goal, a goal so awful that the puck has been banished from this earth, it was like a weight was thrust upon me. There would be no suffering in silence this time. That had been the case for years as one Philly team after another broke my heart, but no one here could care less. Now, the worst type of defeat a fan can endure would be front and center for the rest of my life.
As I wrote here then, it’s not like this was the first time one of my teams had let me down and it surely is not the last. I have well-honed coping skills. And having just about everyone I know celebrating shouldn’t be a bad thing should it? Why can’t they be happy? At least that’s what I tried to tell myself. Then the next year, why wouldn’t the Bruins rebound to win the cup? I mean really. That was a double-whammy and almost sent me over the edge. What did was having Flyer cornerstones Richards and Carter being traded to LA so they could promptly win the cup their first season there. You can’t make this stuff up!
What I carried after that was a nice combination of bitterness, anger and jealousy. Hidden, of course, but deep down it was there. Ben Eager?! From near the blue line?! Why me?
I was one of the few hockey fans that wasn’t that bothered by the strike. If the Flyers aren’t playing they can’t disappoint me now can they? That and the fact that they will never win with the crazy Russian goalie had me disengaged, well as much as I can be, from the beginning.
From that beginning there was only one story in hockey and that was the streaking Blackhawks.
It was such a big story that it took over my home. Where I sleep!
My kids were all over everything Hawks. It was fun to watch. So fun that we timed the nights I was home from work around watching the games together. And when I wasn’t home, I tried to text them after a big play or ask them about the game when they came home from school the next day. Blackhawks garb was a popular choice to wear to school almost every other day.
I wrote here a couple of months ago about how cool it was to take my son to his first hockey game during the streak. For him especially, it really started to hit home.
During the playoffs, which it seemed I worked at the bar almost every game, my wife would text me that she was “worried” about our son as she watched him while he watched the game. For someone who has been around me for 20 years that’s quite a statement, but something on his part I could totally relate to. For him it had become so important. I really don’t think I’m a bad parent when I say that I don’t have a problem with that.
For me, this Hawks season brought back a lot of memories for me of how it was when my team was on the top of the hockey world. It’s fun when that happens. It’s especially so when you are able to share it. My family memories of watching Flyers games as a kid are as fond as any I have.
And in the, it-doesn’t–fall-far department, it’s happening in my house much like it did forty years ago.
After the Hawks second cup win, I had a much different reaction. I couldn’t wait to text the wife to see how the kids were, although I already knew. What a cool moment. I only wish I was there to see it.
I had to settle for the next morning when we all woke up. They were so geeked out. Our day required that I had to go downtown for a work meeting and, for once, the kids were excited to go with me.
“Are we going to see the Stanley Cup daddy?”
I don’t think so kiddie-O’s but if it’s near we’ll look for it. It was soon after that I heard on the radio where it was - 2 blocks from where I work. I made a bee-line but it was gone when we got there. Man was I disappointed. I really wanted to see it. This from a guy who 3 years ago could care less. If I see it I want to see it after MY team earns it, otherwise, whatever.
Later that night, still downtown, after dinner I was told that the cup was around the corner in a Hubbard Street bar. Game on!! Let’s go kids, we’re outta here. After race-walking 2 blocks we could see the crowds. And the police. Getting closer and closer, we finally were right in front. Is that Kaner leaning out the window? Judging from the smiles on my daughters faces, yes it is.
Wait. What’s that commotion? Why it’s the reason we’re here. Stanley! In all his shiny glory.
It went by fast, but we all got to see it. Even if just a glimpse, it was a great family moment. The vibe in the car on the way home was one I won’t soon forget and hopefully will remember when someone spills Gatorade on a carpet or goes over their data plan.
But it was there and then I decided that I wanted to do something that would add to the excitement and live in the memories of the kids.
The next day when I came downtown I was waiting to buy championship shirts and hats for the kids at the Sports Authority on La Salle Street when I saw something that caught my eye: An inflatable Stanley Cup. That’s it!
That night when I got home, Stanley was pumped full of air and then he was placed on a table with care. Underneath were 3 neat, identical (you learn) piles of championship goodies. When the kids came down in the morning it was their new holiday: Hawk-mas.
By the time I got downstairs, everything was being worn, Stanley was being paraded and the kids were negotiating who would get their “day” with him first. Then I got some big hugs.
I know that you can’t mention either one of these cups without referencing the other, but thanks to my little ones that won’t bother me anymore.
All it took was seeing the joy in their eyes.
Daddy’s moved on.