I don’t know how to start talking about that day, but once I get there I know exactly what to say. Eventually some of my thoughts will fade, a few of those memories will shift a bit over time, and I may even forget the year it all went down, but that date isn’t ever going to go away.
February 22nd will always mean this to me.
Everyone has their own take on what happened, so I will save you the trouble of hearing mine. I’ll link to this one last time and leave it at that; I still believe every word of it. What struck me about today is that I wasn’t alone in thinking about the anniversary. I brought it up to someone who was there with me and we were just shocked that it had been a year already. Everything was so vivid, it felt like we just saw it days ago.
Then we started talking. The playoffs, free agency, the frantic conversations when Kevin Lowe tried to steal Vanek. Planning the mini pack for this year and how the season had played out as of yet. It was as if suddenly it was a new year all over again, we were recapping the twelve months since The Chris Neil Incident like it was a timestamp of sorts on our hockey lives.
After a while we stopped talking hockey and just started… talking. A lot had happened in the last twelve months for the both of us, and somehow the aniversary of that game signified an important change in our lives. Girlfriends, new jobs, friends and family all suddenly came up. People had changed and moved on while some aquaintances had stayed exactly the same. We laughed about the stupid things we did since that night and realized that, on some levels, nothing had changed at all.
What got to me then and still gets to me at this moment is that we both looked at that game the exact same way. It was the best game either of us ever saw in person, one of the most important events of our lives, and something neither of us will ever, ever forget. That game flat out changed our lives.
How important are sports when they act as a callender for your own life? Do you remember what year you went to so-and-so’s house for Thanksgiving or do you remember the Vikings destroying the Cowboys during dinner? Do you have future dates memorized or do you know that March 7th is a Friday because you are going to the Capitals game on the 5th? I know my mental day planner revolved around sports, so I guess it’s only logical that this day represents so much to me.
On New Year’s Eve we didn’t talk about “the year that was”. In fact, we don’t talk about serious things often. But somehow February 22nd was something worth reminicing about. In this sporting world of instant history and super-hype, that game still stands above all others as the best. Sabres v. Senators 2/22/07 stands the test of time, and I think it will continue to do so.
So while Ottawa prevailed in five, Chris Drury is a Ranger, and hundreds of games have been played since; the feelings from that night are still there and they are not going away. That Thursday night will always be the Chris Neil Incident to me, the night that season became more then just about hockey. Because if there’s one thing we all know it’s this:
You always defend your captain.