Yesterday Joe Lewis Arena was the site of our first epic overtime game this spring.
It’s funny what makes a good overtime game. In a hockey game’s first sixty minutes we want one thing: goals. Pundits call a game boring if it lacks scoring, and in the past decade we’ve seen changes made exclusively to make goals more frequent. We hate the trap and larger equipment for goaltenders, but we love 50 and 60 goal scorers.
But that all changes in overtime. What we want is for a game to last forever. Give us three overtimes. Five. Seven. Make the game last until it’s tomorrow and the little children in the stands fall asleep. As fans we suddenly go from wanting big goals to wanting big saves and tension. It’s quite a change, and one that only takes place at a certain point in the game.
Overtime hockey is so thrilling because it never stops. No TV timeouts mean the action is constant; shift after shift or do or die hockey. Yet as the clock ticks and overtimes pile up we really start to think about the game we are watching. In overtime we as fans get time to really think about the game we are watching. Who we want to score, what kind of goal we want to see. We get time to wonder who deserves it more.
Unless you’re a fan of a team involved, in which case you are always four seconds from a heart attack. That’s the other great thing about overtime hockey: every single second matters. Every shot, save, and line change can be the difference. A simple chip up the boards can change a game, change a series, or end a season. The “sudden death” isn’t an exaggeration, people have died under pressure less intense.
And then it happens. Usually a deflection or something unexpected, but sooner or later a puck goes in and a team piles off the benches. It’s almost never pretty, but it counts just the same. It’s the beauty of the sport: anyone can be a hero if things bounce just right.
Yesterday Todd Marchant got to be a hero. It wasn’t a spectacular play and it may never be remembered as a great hockey moment, but the look on his face says it all. His Ducks have already knocked off the top seed in the playoffs, and they needed a big goal to keep pace with the defending Stanley Cup Champions. After 40 extra minutes of heart-thumping hockey, a role player from Buffalo, New York succeeded where guys like Getzlaf, Hossa, and Datsyuk could not.
These are the moments we watch hockey for. A third line center making the most important play of the season for a team unlikely to be there to begin with. A guy who made sure to say hi to his four children and promise them he’s coming home soon. We search the sports world for genuine emotion and something to take value from, but let’s start with that right there. What a moment.
What I love about this photo is not the celebration, but what Scott Niedermayer is doing. In the midst of all that chaos, he’s making sure to get that puck for Marchant. That’s such a cool moment, and something that we often don’t notice about these things. The entire team is excited about the win, but Scott wants to make sure Marchant has something to remember it by when it’s all said and done.
In the end it will just be a puck in the trophy case, but Todd Marchant, a guy with five goals all season, sent the Ducks home tied.