It's a unique phenomenon and it's the sorta thing hockey fans have a love/hate relationship with. Game Seven. You can't wait. Yet you can. You must. You wouldn't miss it for the world, yet you dread it. It's angst of the highest order. Here's the introduction from Paul Kukla's NHL.com essay on the subject:
Why us? If you are a fan of Phoenix, Detroit, Washington or Montreal, you may be asking that question right about now. On the other hand, you may have thought your team did not have a chance to win their series and you're happy to see a Game 7, where anything can happen.
It's guaranteed that a fluke goal, a questionable penalty call, a bad line change, a funny bounce or an "off" night from a key player will come into play in a Game 7, plus every second of the game will be magnified by 10.
If you are a Coyotes or Red Wings fan, you have been dealing with Game 7 nerves since Sunday afternoon, and I am sure both positive and negative thoughts have raced through your mind. If you are a Capitals or Canadiens fan, those thoughts are hitting you right about now.
You are or soon will be finding it difficult to think straight. You continue to look at your watch; time moves so slowly when waiting for a Game 7. You find it difficult to sleep, but if you do nod off for a few hours, you will be awakened by a great or bad goal playing in your head. You will look around, realize you are dreaming but know it will soon be real.
All y'all know the Beloved Wings are playing Game Seven tonite... but we aren't the only ones. There are TWO Game Sevens on tap, the Wings play tonight and the Caps play Montreal tomorrow. Two teams will advance to the second round and two teams will hit the golf course. So... there are about a million... give or take a couple o' thousand... rabid hockey fans in four cities with a severe case of nerves. It's probably worse in Montreal and Dee-troit, as both cities are home to Original Six teams and both have legions of long-standing fans. Phoenix and Washington... being relative new to the hockey world... much less so. Still and even, fans are fans and I can imagine the angst is no less traumatizing in the desert or inside the Beltway.
I quoted Mitch Albom yesterday and I'm gonna re-run a column of his I posted during the 2006 playoffs. I was a relatively new blogger back then and didn't include a link to Mitch's piece. No, I violated the Fair Use doctrine and posted the whole damned thing. And I will do so again today. Forgive me, Mitch.
Mitch Albom, in today's Detroit Free Press:
You are down in the basement. You are pacing before the TV set. You want to watch. You don't watch to watch.
"Are you coming up for breakfast?" your wife says.
"DON'T FREAK ME OUT!" you scream.
Edgy? Of course you're edgy. You're a hockey fan, you've waited two years for the playoffs to return, you were sure the Red Wings had the best team in the NHL -- the records said so -- yet tonight, you could be watching their last game of the season.
Who isn't edgy?
"Honey, haven't we been through this before?" your wife asks.
"DON'T FREAK ME OUT!" you scream.
Before? Of course we've been through it before. Favored Detroit team turns into underdog. Our scorers suddenly stop scoring. Someone else's goalie is better than our goalie. Steve Yzerman gets hurt.
Before? We've been through it before. That's why we know what to expect.
"Shouldn't you be getting to work?" your wife asks.
"DON'T FREAK ME OUT!" you scream.
Work? Why work? All they'll do at work is talk about the hockey game. Do you think they can win? Do you think they can bounce back? Is it Manny Legace's fault? Is it Pavel Datsyuk's fault?
Work? By this point at work, you were supposed to hope somebody knew somebody who had tickets for the second round.
Now, you don't believe the Wings will MAKE the second round.
Unless they do.
A history of hot goaltenders
During lunch, your wife calls to check up.
"How's your day going?" she says.
"STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!" you scream.
You have enough questions. You can't handle more questions. You've overdosed on "What happened to our play around the net?" or "Why are we getting outworked?" or "Why did we ever think Legace was a playoff goaltender?" Questions? You have enough questions. You are haunted by the biggest question of them all: "Why does this keep happening?"
After all, you say, it's not as if this is a new experience. Red Wings playoff collapses are as interchangeable as Lego blocks. If it's not Edmonton in 2006, it's Calgary in 2004, or Anaheim in 2003, or Los Angeles in 2001.
If it's not "I Never Heard Of That Goalie" Dwayne Roloson this year, it's "I Never Heard Of That Goalie" Miikka Kiprusoff two years ago, or "I Never Heard Of That Goalie" Jean-Sebastien Giguere the year before that.
If it's not Yzerman out with a back injury, it's Yzerman out with an eye injury, or Yzerman out with a knee injury. If it's not the speedy Datsyuk not scoring when needed it's the speedy Sergei Fedorov not scoring when needed. If it's not Legace letting us down, it's Curtis Joseph letting us down, or Chris Osgood letting us down.
"Well," your wife says, over the phone, "I guess I'll see you tonight."
"STOP PRESSURING ME!" you scream.
A history of long games
It's torture, isn't it? It's truly torture. The game approaches not as a game but as a guillotine blade. Will it fall? Do I want to watch? Is it better to just keep my eyes closed and pray? As the opening face-off comes, you pace around the basement like a nervous cat.
"Do you want some coffee down there, honey?" your wife asks.
"I HAVE ENOUGH COFFEE THANK YOU VERY MUCH!" you scream.
Coffee? You have coffee. You have Diet Coke. You have, in case of emergency, a pack of NoDoz. After all, don't these deciding playoff games always go to overtime? Didn't the last game against Calgary go to overtime? Didn't the last game against Anaheim go to overtime? Didn't the last game against L.A. go to overtime?
Then again, the Wings lost all three of those games.
Maybe it won't go to overtime.
But maybe it will.
Maybe you want to watch, maybe you don't. Maybe the Wings will find their character. Maybe they won't. Maybe this will truly be the end for Yzerman. Maybe it won't.
You pace. You wait. You circle the TV like a feral animal. You are tense. You are angry. You are torn between your affection for this hockey team and your disgust at how it can underachieve in the playoffs.
Your bloodstream fills with coffee. Your fingernails are nibbled. Your eyes are bloodshot. You are coiled into a tight ball of nerves.
"Sweetheart," your wife says, "maybe you shouldn't watch hockey anymore?"
"WHAT?" you scream. "AND GIVE ALL THIS UP?"
The puck drops in about five minutes... I may, or may not, live through this.
We lost that game in 2006, by the way, and it wasn't a Game Seven... it was just an elimination game and we were eliminated. Here's hoping things are different tonight.