It’s June 2, 2008 and the time is closing in on one in the morning (so make that June 3). My family room is packed with people—myself, my two brothers, all three neighbor kids, and my mom (Dad is either in bed already or sitting quietly behind all the couches watching us watch the game). It’s intermission between the second and third overtimes. One neighbor, Ben, is lying on the floor, sprawled out on his stomach with his face buried in the carpet, and moaning loudly, “I want to go to bed! I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL IN SIX HOURS!”
I want to cry as the neighbors head back next door to go to bed. Not because the Detroit Red Wings had lost the game in triple overtime to win the Stanley Cup on home ice, but because my overnight college orientation is the day/night of Game Six.
It’s June 4, 2008 and I am sitting in the Oakland Center at Oakland University in my orientation group made up of people I do not know and honestly don’t really care about because Game Six is in several hours and I’m too nervous to be super friendly.
And all I can think of is my oldest brother saying, “Why the heck would you do an overnight orientation when you’re not even going to live on campus?! And why would you do it in early June when there’s always hockey?!” Plus, both brothers were going to our friend’s house to watch the game in his movie theater room with the 126-inch screen and recliner seats and large quantities of Mountain Dew.
I brought my cassette player with me to orientation. Not because I’m cool and vintage and a hipster, but it gets FM radio, so I can listen to the game on 97.1. I am fully prepared to be anti-social and sit in a corner, listening to the game.
But it’s okay! I don’t need it! The head of our group gives us a schedule of activities and there’s a “dance party” that starts at eight that night and she assures us that there will be a television on with the game. “I don’t know how many people will be watching it,” she says, and I try not to roll my eyes.
It’s puck drop, 8:20pm. I’m sitting in Wilson Hall, the dorms, on a couch with three other guys, all of us focusing all of our attention on the television that’s tuned to a blurry CBC.
“You know Crosby’s leading the playoff points,” one of the guys says.
“Yeah, he’s got 26 points,” I reply, not even caring that he had been talking to one of his friends. “But Zetterberg’s got 25, so it’s a close race.”
He turns on the couch and stares at me. “Wow, you know that?!” he asks as if I’m Jean Grey or Charles Xavier and just told him his deepest, darkest secret.
“Uh, yeah,” I say, and we turn back to the game.
The Red Wings are on the power play just over four minutes into the game, Darryl Sydor going to the box for interference. And that’s when Brian Rafalski scores on the power play from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Me and the three guys on the couch jump up and scream and high five each other.
On the commercial break, my friend Katy and I run across campus to the Oakland Center, run past the dance party in the games room, and find open seats in front of the television where about sixty people are crowded around to watch the game.
During the first intermission, Katy and I chat with the people around us. When she leaves to go to the bathroom, a guy takes her seat and starts talking to me, completely unaware that I’m not looking at him and watching the game with utter concentration.
I am the only person that screams for Valtteri Filppula’s goal in the second period, because I am apparently the only person paying attention. The guy who’s been sitting in Katy’s spot makes some comment along the lines of, “Wow, you really like hockey,” and finally gets the hint that when you’re asking me where I went to school and what I like and I’m answering by not looking away from the potential Cup-winning game and giving you two word answers means I’d rather watch hockey than be hit on by you. The guy finally moves on to some other girl a couple rows back and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Osgood makes some ridiculously good saves in the second period and I tell someone close to me, “I would marry Chris Osgood if I could.”
The guy gives me a weird look. “Uh, isn’t he already married? Like, with kids and everything?”
Evgeni Malkin scores with five minutes to go in the second period to cut the Red Wings’ lead in half. Everyone in the Oakland Center groans.
It’s the third period, eight minutes to go. Zetterberg had scored five minutes before to take another two-goal lead. The “dance party” is starting to wind down. One of the moderators of the dance party heads toward the television and exclaims loudly, “There’s a TV back in your dorm area, people! Go there to watch the game, you can’t stay here.”
And she turns the game off as the Red Wings are fighting in the neutral zone.
I think I scream in outrage. So I grab Katy by the arm and we run as fast as we can back to Wilson Hall, three other girls trailing behind us. And we are all laughing because there is no one else booking it back to watch the game.
We make it to the other TV with three minutes to go in the third period. The open area is packed with people. Marian Hossa scores on the power play for Pittsburgh with a minute and a half to go and the room goes silent. And in those last few seconds when Hossa nearly scores again to take the game to overtime, everyone is screaming in fear, then celebration. There are hugs and high fives and more screams and tears and I call my brothers and scream into the phone and they scream back and it’s the best feeling in the world.
The same lady who turned off the television in the Oakland Center is threatening to do the same thing here. “Okay, they won! You can go to bed now!”
She is met with shouts and jeers. “They haven’t even brought out the Stanley Cup!” everyone screams, me probably screaming the loudest because she already made me miss five minutes of gameplay.
“Okay, okay, fine!” she relents.
The entire room boos Gary Bettman’s appearance on the television and cheers when Nicklas Lidstrom finally gets to raise the Cup above his head, the first European captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup. We have a half hour of watching the celebration before the relentless mod turns off the television and tells us to go to our rooms. I end up listening to 97.1 on my cassette player as I sit in my bed, reveling in the celebration of my hockey team and the sheer joy exuberating from them through my headphones.
I do not sleep that night. I sign up for classes the next morning running on two hours of sleep. How do you shut off your brain when all it wants to do is celebrate the greatest achievement in sports?