A lot of you may be stressing the hell out today because your team is playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight.
Others of you may have hitched a ride with a team for the Finals after having yours bumped off along the way either before or during the playoffs. It’s OK, I’m not here to rat you out or tell the others in your fanbase that you may have given up the team colors in favor of the “prettier” horse that came along.
That’s not my job to rat you out and besides, you’ve got to live with yourself anyhow. Enjoy the anguish of living a lie should that be your course of action.
What I’m here to do is try to share with you what it is to live in the hell of having the next game be your last, when you’re that close to taking home the prize that your team is dying to reach. I’m here to tell you that if you want to live life as a hockey fan in a brilliant kind of tortured hell there’s one thing you have to do:
Become a college hockey fan.
I’m not joking and hell, if you want examples of that already, take a look at the stories from my Back To School tour of excellence back in March and April.
OK so you don’t want to check it out, fine. Here’s what the teams in tonight’s final have to look forward to (click to enlarge):
Thrill of Victory:
Agony of Defeat:
Those are shots from the conclusion of this year’s National Championship game that saw Boston University defeat Miami University in overtime. Yeah, ouch.
Pretty simple, I know, but seeing it is another thing entirely and let’s face it, Penguins fans have tasted defeat in the Finals once, just last year. Detroit fans, at least the more modern variety, got a piece of it back in 1995 at the hands of Jacques Lemaire’s ruiners of 1990s hockey, the New Jersey Devils.
I can tell you first hand, however, that living and dying by your team is mentally and physically exhausting and having a hand in it with the college team of your upbringing or graduation can make even the most even-keeled of folks become raving lunatics.
For me, my roots are based in Division III college hockey, graduating from Oswego State in 2002. Working games from the press box while in college doesn’t allow you to fully give into your fandom, after all, there’s no cheerleading in the press box.
In 2003, Oswego State reached the Frozen Four for Division III and you better believe I was there with friends to witness this in Northfield, Vermont. Oswego was the newcomer to the party in dealing with local favorites Norwich and Middlebury (both in Vermont) as well as St. Norbert’s College from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Oswego drew Middlebury in the semifinals and trounced them “surprisingly” 6-0 and met the hosts from Norwich in the Finals.
There’s no more nervewracking of a setting than being there in person, on hostile ground no-less, hoping to see your team win the big prize. That afternoon we would leave Kreitzberg Arena to the sounds of the place going bonkers as the Cadets would beat the Lakers 2-1. A long, humbled and quiet car ride would follow as we headed back to the Albany area.
Four years later, Oswego would be back in the NCAA tournament and would open up at home against Norwich and exact a revenge of sorts for the 2003 loss beating the Cadets 3-0, this time on Oswego’s home ice. A date in the Frozen Four was set again, this time in Superior, Wisconsin.
There would be no road trip, there would be only reliance on the Internet broadcast of the semifinals against St. Norbert’s and then praying they win that so I could watch them on CSTV in the Finals.
This is where I leave things off to our media successors at Oswego State campus TV WTOP-10 to show you how this played out. I can tell you this right now, every time I watch this my adrenaline races and I break out into a cold sweat.
(ed. note: YouTube is being a bit buggy lately so be patient and come on back again to see the video.)
After Garren Reisweber scored that OVERTIME GAME-WINNING GOAL, I leapt out of the chair, did a lap around the house, then ran outside leaping into the snowbanks via backflip.
I’ve never done a backflip before, and I’ve never dared try one since but it’s true, adrenaline can make you do super-human things.
That said, your team is on the road looking for their first championship and the road to get there goes through overtime in the semifinals and in the finals, it’s a wonder myself or any other Oswego State hockey alum survived.
But I did and I’m alive to pass this on to those of you who will be locked down into Game 7 tonight to let you know that win or lose, you’re still going to be there to fight again.
Neither Detroit nor Pittsburgh are going anywhere bad after this season. Folks want to write the Red Wings off and say that their demise is imminent.
Pittsburgh has already proven that they’ll be able to stick around by making it back again this year, especially after dropping their dead-weight of an albatross named Michel Therrien.
If your team loses, yeah it’s going to sting like a son of a bitch and it’s going to eat you up for a while. You probably won’t want to look at anything hockey for some time after that and you can’t be blamed for it.
But if you come back from it and you hunger for more and you develop that war wound with your team, and believe me losing in a game where it’s all or nothing is a cannon blast to the midsection in the Civil War, the reward is worth the wait.
Game 7 wins and losses weed out who belongs and who doesn’t and if for some sick psychotic reason you want to give yourself a better chance at experiencing this sensation of living on the brink with a team you know and love and adore… Sign up for college hockey. Pick a team and go along for the ride.
If you went to college that has a team, even better, you’re already in the family. All you have to do then is start caring about them. Don’t have a team yet? Snoop around, adopt one, adopt a local team if you’ve got one. Remember though, you’re adopting them not to half-ass your attention to them you want to accept them into your life because you’re a maniacal hockey fan and you seek more and you have wanton disregard for your sanity.
Detroit fans I probably don’t have to tell about college hockey given that Michigan alone has University of Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State all contained within their borders.
Joe Louis Arena plays host to the annual Great Lakes Invitational pitting Michigan, MSU and Michigan Tech against a fourth team to be named later. RPI joins them this upcoming season. Yes, consider that foreshadowing for what may come in December.
For Pittsburgh fans and those of you actually in the Iron City or close by, you’ve got a couple of teams within reach of you: Robert Morris University and Mercyhurst College. Robert Morris plays in Pittsburgh itself while Mercyhurst is located to the north in Erie. There is a bonus to becoming a Mercyhurst supporter though:
Your team wears the colors of the Hartford Whalers. I can see no other reason than that to want to become a fan of Mercyhurst. If you’re into the women’s college hockey scene, Mercyhurst’s squad is one of the better ones in the country. Double your pleasure Pennsylvania.
I know that this post offers in no way any kind of comfort or solace for those looking to find a way to get through tonight’s game and I’m only serving to be more of an enabler of further stress, hair loss, anxiety and short fuses but I just want you all to be able to join me in that club.
Some say “misery loves company” but in this case it’s more like the asylum seeks more patients.
You’re hockey fans after all, be proud of your insanity.