Periodic Table of Hockey

by Ryan

With 3:20 left in the third period, Erik Johnson tries to get too fancy with the puck. Sidney Crosby picks it up and turns on the jets, and by the time he hits the opposite blue line he’s all alone on Ryan Miller.

Or so we thought. As Crosby begins to dangle and Ryan Miller goes low, Patrick Kane swoops in and disrupts Crosby’s attempt to score. The puck doesn’t lift, bouncing off the butt of Miller’s stick and away from the net.

I took a deep breath and typed the following text message: “Have to get one now.”

And then they did.

Now I am no soothsayer, nor a prophet from another time. In fact I wouldn’t even call that much of a prediction. Rather, I was simply following the ebb and flow of the game as closely as possible. Canada had the lead and the chance to end it, but they missed. It was a swing in the game, one that good teams and good players pounce on when they are given the chance. And so just under two minutes later Patrick Kane puts the puck on Luongo, and Zach Parise shows it to the back of the net.

Act, and react.

To retell that story I went back and watched the last four minutes of the third. I thought I knew when the breakaway happened (I did, to the second actually…) but I wanted to be sure. I also wanted to see it again, just to confirm what I felt and saw as the clock wound down and reality played out.

As I watched the End Game unfold I couldn’t shake the feelings that rushed through me the first time I saw it. In fact what shocked me the most is that over 12 hours later I felt the same tension and nerves I did when it unfolded live.

I knew the results, I knew exactly how I would feel crushed and very briefly hate everything in due time, but it didn’t matter. The anxiety was palpable, the emotion was real, and the pre-dawn stillness of my living room felt just as tense as the chaos I watched in so long ago.

It was in that stillness, with the clock stopped at 24.4 seconds left and me looking on in disbelief, that I realized why I loved sports, why I loved hockey so much. It’s not the tension or the anxiety or any of the stress; it’s that moment back with 3:20 left in the third period. It’s not predicting or knowing what will happen, but feeling it, being so involved in the game itself that you simply cannot function otherwise.

Transfixed, enthralled, mystified; they all fit the bill. It is not absolute knowledge but rather an obsession with the mysteries of the game, the unanswered questions that leave you grasping blindly for answers in the seats high above the ice. In those brief moments of complete surrender, a faint reply may bring you closer to and that much hungrier for the truth.

Losing yourself in the nuances of a touch pass, the art of the shot block or watching a player give everything in those final seconds is what loving hockey is all about. Just a brief snapshot of that… feeling of feeling, for lack of a better term, is enough to keep you enthralled for years. You only need to feel it once to be hooked for good, and watching that sequence once again reminded me of that truth.

After the clock hit zero and the teams went to the dressing rooms, I turned off the television. I knew what was to come, but I knew that feeling all too well. There are no mysteries left in losing, and that’s not why I went back to watch in the first place.

There are so many questions left to answer, but as the dead of night surrenders to the morning I realize that none of those answers can hang around your neck.

2 Comments

  1. Well-written, Ryan.

  2. Thanks, Ryan.

    That was beautiful.