Though I desperately miss having the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs, there really isn’t anything better than postseason hockey. Watching the Vegas – Colorado series has been such an enjoyable series to watch, and the end-to-end, fast paced game, especially the unpredictable element of game five makes playoff hockey what it is: impossible to predict.
While other sports seem to have a more obvious element to outcomes, hockey still feels like the outlier. Look at the Toronto.- Montreal series. Heck, look at Montreal. They all looked all but dead after game four versus Toronto and now they’re a series away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Should they do the unthinkable and knock off Vegas, imagine the bedlam in Montreal.
That same bedlam was seen in New York after the Islanders dispatched the Bruins Wednesday evening. And that speaks to another great part of fandom in hockey: the payoff for never losing faith in your team.
Fans’ Faith Rewarded in the Playoffs
Excuse the quick divergence from hockey for a moment, but one of my happiest sports moments as a Detroit fan was in 2006 when Magglio Ordonez launched the walk off homer in Game 4 of the ALCS. My brother and I grew up TIgers fans in Chicago–not an easy ordeal.
One of my scant memories of the Tigers success as a kid was watching the thrilling 1-0 gem Frank Tanana threw against the Blue Jays to clinch the AL East in 1987. After that crickets. In fact, until the Tigers winning season in 2006, it was a brutal 13 year stretch without a winning season.
2003 was a horrific ordeal as a fan–right up there with the 2019-20 Red Wings season. There was very little to enjoy. So when the 2006 Tigers took off and culminated it with Ordonez’s walkoff homer, it was faith rewarded. (Never mind the disaster that was the 2006 World Series).
Similarly, I felt the same way when the Red Wings broke through in 1997 after years of disappointment. Again living in Chicago, it was brutal being around Blackhawks fans. They were more than happy to remind me of the Cup drought every year the Wings were bounced. But the vindication after Yzerman hoisted the silver chalice on home ice in ’97 was amazing–a powerful testament to sticking with a team through thick and thin.
The NHL playoffs are a grind, but when a team hoists Lord Stanley and takes the lap around the ice with it, fans relish it because for them, too, it’s a sign of faith restored. Ask any long suffering fan about it. St. Louis in 2019. Washington in 2018. Chicago in 2010. Detroit in 1997.
And yes, I know just how damn low it feels when the team bows out. Especially amidst high expectations.
But there’s nothing like it when they finally climb the mountain and win it all.
I look forward to the day when my stomach flip flops and my heart skips beats as I wait for the puck to drop in a Red Wings playoff game. Because as soon as that puck drops, it’s anyone’s guess as to who’s going to win it all.