If you’ve ever played a sport competitively, at any level really, you’ve experienced some form of heartbreak. It’s just the nature of sports – they don’t always go your way, as great a player as you may be. In the wake of those devastating losses you find yourself with very few options – quit, which you’re not doing because…seriously? – or pick yourself up off the canvas and get back to punching or being punched, whichever.
The Boston Bruins led 3-1 in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on the road…and lost in triple OT. That’s, as Jim Nantz would say, a nut-punch like no other. (Disclaimer: that quote may be slightly off.)
But they play again tomorrow, and they’re going to have to watch video and assess what went wrong and right, they’re going to have to go to morning skate day of, and they’re going to have to nap, shower, put the suit on and start over again.
But when you show up to the rink for that first time after you’ve had your junk punted into your stomach, you badly need the game to get under way to snap the quiet tension in the dressing room. All you see is guys quietly hanging suits, all you hear is the ripping of tape and the hum of one lone wheel grinding against steel.
One of the greatest parts about being on a successful team throughout the season is the ability to talk and laugh free of judgement. You’re doing well so you’re obviously not taking the game too lightly, and don’t fix what ain’t broke, so “Nice f*****g suit Sully. My god, what is this, this 80s? Do you need me to lend you some money?” And off you go to game prep, doing everything as you normally would.
When you lose a lot, teammates and coaches are always looking for something to blame, so heaven forbid you laugh, you unfocused dissident. And heaven forbid you laugh at the rink before a game coming off a loss, because what, this is funny to you?
The Bruins have too much experience, and the team has been together for too long to get down on a guy for being loose before the game, but it’s not just post-loss tension that makes things quiet, especially in playoffs.
There’s the gravity of the moment, there’s the realization of how important not falling behind 2-0 is, and there’s the anxiety about the fact that the goddman minute hand has been stuck there for 30 minutes, IS THE ZAMBONI OFF YET??? You have so much pent up…just, everything – thoughts, energy, passion – that you really need to get to puck drop. Pre-game after a huge team loss is the tantric sex of sporting moments.
I don’t believe it makes one lick of a difference whether your team is quiet or loud in the dressing room before a big game. I don’t think dead silence means the team is going to come out flat, and I don’t believe a raucous group is going to come out and own. You let players prepare how they’d like to prepare and trust that they’re professionals and can take care of what they need to personally to bring it come game time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a painful 150 minutes from arrival to the end of the anthem. For the Bruins, quietly taping sticks and treating injuries, those minutes will feel like hours.