Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What Joy Looks Like

you know those old Peppermint Patty commercials where the sugar-starved protagonist eats the little chocolate covered disc and is immediately transported from wherever they are to the top of a wintry mountain scene that cools their brain? that's what recalling the game Monday night is like for me, except instead of a puck of chemically-created mint mush covered in waxy chocolate, it's a hockey puck that makes me feel like that. 4 hockey pucks to be exact - the two goals scored by Aaron Ward and Frank The Tank, the empty netter by Justin Williams that blew the roof off the place with a few seconds to go (people weeping, embracing total strangers, i lost my rally towel to the rafters), and the stop Cam Ward made on Pisani with 4 minutes to go. the 'Canes came out and literally knocked the Oil on their ass from minute one, they blocked shots (revealed later that Kevyn Adams broke his wrist in two places blocking a shot by Pronger in the 1st), the forecheck was relentless and they hit and hit again, sitting down Torres, Pisani, Pronger, it was a thing of beauty after the nightmare that was Game 6. the 'Canes were again the team that finished the reg. season with 112 points, dispatched every favored opponent in the post-season, and their reward was the freaking Stanley Cup. sometimes when i'm replaying the game in my brain i have to make sure it all really went down like that... Red and Black Hockey has a lo-fi video clip that comes close as it can to conveying the pandemonium at the end of the game.

i haven't even considered trying to post about Game 7 until now because every time i think about it just want to think about it, not try to write about it. the surreal combination of exhilaration, relief, joy is hard to describe (though folks are doing a good job over here and here, though most including CasonBlog have already doggedly moved on to the draft - this saturday - and offseason moves) was the best and most intense thing i've ever seen in sports, and that includes college basketball nailbiters, world series games, this was just something different. i've been trying to figure out what makes it so different, better even than what i thought was the best thing in sports (NCAA college b-ball); i mean, my general feeling about professional sports over the years, which has only become more entrenched and cynical even as i continue to watch baseball and of course hockey, is that these guys are mercenaries. but it's impossible to come away with that feeling after following a team like these Hurricanes through the grind of a season and a post-season that's a third as long as the regular...maybe it's because no one playing hockey grows up thinking they're going to be a superstar like Kobe Bryant; it's just not a dream that's there in hockey. maybe it's because they still often come from small towns, mostly in Canada, not a nation known for it's ego or, um, swagger... maybe it's because the sport itself is humbing and brutal, i don't know, but i never thought that a professional sporting event or team could inspire such a powerful emotional response or attachment... i still can't explain it.

(*note: i have of course been reduced to hurling obscenities at the teevee during a yankees or knicks game, and rooted hard for anyone playing against the Lakers or Michael Jordan, but this different)

anyway, Rod Brind'Amour's violently joyous hoisting of the cup was something no one there will forget, and it amazes me that this is the least popular professional spectator sport in the country. can't explain that either though "ESPN" and "OLN" are a couple reasons i suppose... i'm not promising this is the last post on the 'Canes this year, as i could be walking on fluffly RBC-Center-shaped clouds for awhile now, and in fact what on earth will i write about other than this anyway? but i'm sure i'll move on to more, what's it called, music-y things soon enough.


Blogger John said...

I dug it. Glad you had a good time and shared some insight about it with us.

12:28 AM  
Blogger federob said...

Check out this onion article.

6:51 PM  
Blogger federob said...

Been a fan for a long time and it is sweet to see you are into the best sport, not just for the games but the people in the game, the awesome talent and humble attitudes and traditions.
Got a question for you. Have you always been into hockey? or did aquiring the Cannes turn you into one? The reason I ask is that I grew up in Michigan and have played my whole life. Hockeytown has a great history, as you know, and great legends of the game, it is pretty much ingrained in my self. Now I live in Oregon where pepole dont even know what Icing is, it takes effort to educate the people that the game is so great.
It is good to read that you "get it" and the presentation of the CUP bring tears to my eyes regardless of the victor. When Detroit won their cup after years of dought, I was balling like a baby when Stevie Y hoisted it to the fans. I get what you tried to communicate in your post, and know what you mean about you cant really describe the feeling.

In case you didnt know: (Cup trivia)
most players wont dare touch the Cup until they actually win it, most wont let their kids touch it if they are planning on getting to the big leagues.

When team captins that win the Eastern/Western conference trophies to get to the finals, wont usually touch the trophy or skate it, they usually shake the commisioners hand and high tail it away for the "second rate" trophy. Considerd bad luck.

The other cool thing is that each player get 24 hours to do what ever they want with the cup. Those are usually pretty stories. From taking to your hometown, to taking it fishing with your dad, or bathing your newborn. It's sweet.
How do you get the cup handler job?

take care and go to the parade.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

well i first got into hockey around 1980 during the Olympics which i watched every game of on TV, and then in 81 when we first got cable -- ESPN had no contracts with anyone except the NHL and i watched hockey all the time, it was all that was on! well that and oz rules football, which is also great.

anyway then we moved to NC and college bball took over, and as far as hockey went i'd pretty much just watch the playoffs.

i went to a Flames game on tour one time, that was great, and some minor league (Raleigh IceCaps) games around here until the canes moved here. i never went to a game in greensboro but followed the team and was psyched when they finally made the playoffs in 01 and then went to games in 02 including a bunch of playoffs games and one finals game they lost to Detroit (not the 3-OT game tho).

had ticket package since then!

it rules.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Congrats again Mac! I know that feeling well. One of the happiest days of my life was when the Rangers won in '94. I vividly remember the last few minutes thinking..."I think they're gonna do it! There going to win the Cup!!" When Mess hoisted the cup over his head I practically broke down.

Now it looks like the Rangers might have a chance in a few years. It was a tough 10 years when my Rangers were playing like crap. But one of the great things about hockey and TRUE hockey fans. We love hockey, if out team sucks, we stick with them and we still watch the games.

Glad the Canes did it and it was great to see Brind'Amore finally win. I love to watch the long time greats win one after so long. I can't even imagine how good that must feel.


12:05 AM  
Blogger blake said...

Congrats, Mac. As a diehard Superchunk/Portastatic/sports fan, I've enjoyed reading your recent entries. Closest my team (Kings)came was in '93. 'Twas exciting stuff, even for one spoiled by the success of the Dodgers and your Lakers! Anyway, congratulations on the win and the new album (great stuff, as always).

12:48 AM  
Blogger Banj said...

I watched this series with interest. Having not kept up with the Canes for a couple of years (not last year of course) I wasn't sure what they were doing until about a month ago. Here in Dallas we just completely walked away from any sort of contention. It was disappointing, but i love the game in general, so tried to keep up. Congrats to all the Carolina fans. Job very well done!!

1:13 PM  
Blogger Jonh Neo said...

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1:46 PM  

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