For the first 22 years of my life, I didn’t “get” sports. I’d always been semi-interested in hockey, and when I was younger, I occasionally watched football and baseball. The former was mostly because my friends were into it. The latter because my parents were. Aside from that, I never paid much attention to professional sports. It wasn’t until a fateful day at work in early 2008 that I began to take notice of hockey.
On May 4th, 2008, the Sharks and Dallas Stars were facing off. I listened to the game on the radio at work as I had listened to every other game since the beginning of the playoffs. I’d been following the Sharks all year, albeit not terribly closely. It wasn’t until the playoffs that I had really started paying attention. Every game in the Sharks/Stars series had been a coin flip, and on that particular night the Sharks found themselves in a serious hole. The Stars only needed one more win to eliminate the Sharks. The game went into quadruple overtime.
Let that sink in for a moment. The teams played over two full games worth of hockey in one night. I’d never seen anything like it before.
I somehow managed to finish all of my work, despite only leaving my office (which I am rarely ever in) during commercial breaks and breaks between periods. My shift ended right as the third overtime period was starting. I hung around work for at least half an hour, afraid that I may miss the deciding goal. Eventually there was a break before the fourth overtime and I dashed to the bar across the street. I made it just in time to watch Brian Campbell slip up a few minutes into the period and trip Loui Eriksson.
A power play. Robidas faked; the defender bought it. A feed to Morrow. No. No! Jesus! Jesus Christ! Nabokov saw it didn’t he?! He must’ve! There’s no way it can end lik-
The red light flashed. The crowd in Dallas went crazy. The season was over in a flash.
It was heart breaking, but that’s how hockey goes. I’d felt every emotion possible during the course of that game; rage at Campbell for tripping Eriksson, disappointment at being eliminated, jubilation at the apparent goal by Clowe that was called off, astonishment at Nabokov’s stellar glove save in the 6th period, trepidation every time the Stars had the puck, adrenaline when the Sharks were on the attack, astonishment that the players could still play after six periods, and pure naked fear every time the Stars had a scoring chance.
As soon as the winning goal was scored, most of the people at the bar left. I stayed behind and ordered another 7&7. I quietly sipped it by myself during the postgame interviews. I kept waiting. Waiting for someone to come and say that it wasn’t over. A mistake was made. There’s no way we lost. We had come too far. We were so close.
No one came. There was no mistake. It was over. I finished and left the bar. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I semi-drunkenly began the long walk home. What was this I was feeling? Sadness? Disappointment? An indescribable, crushing feeling deep inside. Just…just because of a sports team?! How? Why? I didn’t understand at the time, but I knew that I would never forget that game. I knew I would never forget that terrible feeling. I knew that I would never forget the Sharks.
And I knew that some day, the Sharks would win. And that crushing feeling that I felt then would be replaced by utter jubilation.
Since then, game after game, hockey has continued to amaze and entertain me. Happiness with every goal and save, and sadness with every loss and every mistake. In just a few short years, I’ve seen plenty of fantastic games. I know that in the future, I’ll see plenty more.