Confession time: I’m a liar.
Of course, we’re all are liars to some extent. “No, honey, those pants definitely do NOT accentuate your thunder thighs!” “Ohh, I’m SO sorry I can’t come to your baby shower! We’re, uh, out of town that weekend.”
They’re the white lies we tell each other to save face, or avoid unnecessary hurt feelings, or to get us out of having to coo over baby wipe warmers and diaper cakes.
And then there are the lies we tell ourselves. And this time of year, even though the Playoffs are glorious, full of excitement and amazing hockey and passion, I find my head to be full of lies.
Now, Red Wings fans may not be aware of this, but some teams actually DON’T make the playoffs every year. In fact, some go MANY years without making the playoffs.
I know! Crazy, right? Not like it’s hard or anything.
But still, it’s true. In fact, last weekend, almost half the fans in the league watched the last game they’ll really and truly care about until October rolls around again.
Meanwhile, we are faced with hockey’s high holy season, where injuries become mysterious, rivalries get more contentious, and riot fires burn a little brighter. Everything is awesome and terrifying. Every detail of every shift – shots, blocks, saves, passes – all take on amplified importance.
I remember distinctly (and uncomfortably) how loudly my heart beat in my chest during the Aeros’ playoff run last year. You could probably see it through my shirt.
Every goal that got them closer to winning, every win that got them closer to advancing, every advance that got them closer to the Finals, was like a crescendo building in my nervous system. At one point, I actually did figure out where the nearest defibrillator to my seat on press row was. I was certain I’d need it.
It was exhausting and thrilling and all-consuming for nearly 2 months straight. I’m STILL tired from it. No joke.
So the little lie I’m telling myself right now is that playoffs are stressful and stress is tiring and I’m already kinda tired, so… meh, it’s okay that the Wild have melted their ice for the year. And it’s okay if the Aeros lose hold of their own extremely tenuous grip on an AHL playoff spot (which is coming down to the last game of the season this afternoon).
While all those Nashville fans and Flyers fans and the rest of them spend their days suppressing nervous energy, and their nights chewing their fingernails to bloody nubs and screaming at the TV, I will be super chill.
I can just pick my favorite teams, root for them, and because it’s the best hockey all year long, it will be just as fun and satisfying without all that pesky stress, right? Right?!
I knew I was lying to myself when one of the Wild’s equipment guys, Matt Benz, tweeted this picture earlier in the week:
I don’t care what kind of abuse your team dished out over 82 games, this is a happy sight for exactly nobody when it’s still early April. And when it’s the third or, say, ninth year in a row.
But we forge ahead anyway, “because it’s the cup.” We pick our allegiances among the contestants vying for our temporary affection and muster as much “pure love of hockey, I don’t care who’s playing” feverishness as we can.
But too often, at least for me, that plan fails. I thought I was really going to get into the Sharks/Blues series and that I’d be clearly, vigorously rooting for the Blues. They’re a great story this season and not wholly unlikeable. Plus, the only time I root for the Sharks is when they’re playing the Canucks.
Also, Brian Elliott looks like this:
Go Blues, right?
But alas, without any real connection to either team, it’s a total sister kisser. I’m not saying the hockey is bad, I just can’t muster any giveadamn about who wins.
So far, my only sincere taste of playoff excitement has come from my deep, unabated loathing of the Vancouver Canucks. That, plus a moderate fondness for the Kings has had me staying up too late, shrieking at the TV, a few times this week.
I sincerely, SINCERELY hope the Kings win this series.
BUT, in all honesty, I’m not living or dying for it. For none of these games am I pumping my fists and giddy with adrenaline, or sick to my stomach wondering how my team will crawl out of the hole it’s in. And that’s what I’m missing, despite what I tell myself about how much fun playoffs still can be without having my team in it.
So those of you with a dog in the fight, enjoy the hell out of that feeling like your heart will burst with every goal, for or against. Enjoy being on your knees in the middle of your living room, begging the hockey gods for a miracle, whether that miracle comes or not.
Savor the thrill of victory, if you are so blessed. Otherwise, appreciate that the agony of defeat came only because you got there in the first place. Embrace the temporary insanity of giving up a piece of your heart and soul, for better or worse, to this sport we love.