Losing The Stanley Cup

People talk a lot about what it feels like to win the Stanley Cup. It’s the moment every hockey player dreams of since childhood. After years of hard work and a grueling playoff run, you finally get to skate around the ice with that coveted trophy over your head.

Of course, only one team can win. That leaves the other team, their opponents who have also worked hard their entire lives and fought through the same grueling playoff run, defeated and heartbroken.

Never is this disappointment more evident than in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. Losing in game seven is as close as you can possibly come to winning the Cup without actually winning the Cup. You’re so close to victory that you can taste it and yet you come up one win short.

“The toughest part is not knowing what it would be like to win. You are so close,” said Dave Babych who was with the Canucks when they lost to the New York Rangers in seven games in 1994. “If you give it your all, and you come up short, what will it take to win?”

“There are times when I start thinking about it and I still feel bad.”

Losing in the Stanley Cup Final is a very public defeat. They say that politicians who lose elections equate the feeling to “like death.”

“For them, it’s a real come down, psychologically . . . People can become really depressed — thoughts of suicide and that kind of thing. It goes that far,” Leblanc said.

A paper written in 2005 titled “Death at the Polls” conducted by McMaster University researchers explored how the “abrupt, involuntary exit” can be looked at as a form of social death.

“They lose publicly. It’s like getting smashed in the teeth in front of a lot of people,” said co-author William Shaffir, a sociology professor at McMaster.

Losing in the Stanley Cup Final seems very similar. It’s a sudden, abrupt defeat that happens in front of the world. As former Liberal MP Joe Jordan said about political loss, “It’s hero to zero in 24 hours.”

Tonight one team will feel that heartbreak.

These are professional athletes. They’re paid large salaries to play a game that many of us would play for free. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pour their hearts and their souls into the sport. They want that Stanley Cup badly. Tonight, one group of players will have that dream unfold for them. The other group will watch as their opponents celebrate, knowing they may never be in the situation again. They may never be this close to the Cup again.

Marian Hossa, who defied the odds and played in the Stanley Cup Final three straight times with three different teams, knows both ends of the spectrum well. After losing in 2009 with the Red Wings, Hossa said “it could go both ways, just one goal makes a difference. You score one more and you celebrate. Sometimes, that’s life and you just have to move on. It’s a great life experience.”

When he won the Cup the next year, Hossa was elated.

“I’m so glad, what a relief. Third time’s the lucky charm. I won it and I got a Stanley Cup and … what a feeling. This is unbelievable,” said Hossa.

That’s the difference between the winner and the loser. The winner says “this is unbelievable” while the loser says “that’s life.”