On the eve of what is probably the biggest game of this franchise's existence, while taking out some stress on hapless pylons in NHL 11, I came to the realization that tomorrow was the last game of the 2010-2011 NHL season. No more games to look forward to. No more cursing at your favourite whipping boy for bobbling the puck at the blueline on the powerplay, or for flying in and circling the net only to lose the puck at the half boards, or for making one too many passes and giving up a wonderful scoring chance. No more beers slamming down on the table in disgust or joy. No more late-ish nights (for us east coasters or those even further east) where you lie in bed trying to drift off, but can't because the excitement of the game still lingers. No more hockey for 3 months.
While the draft and free agency help pass the time between seasons and are incredibly important for the success of a team, they don't really scratch that itch. Looking at draft profiles and capgeek rosters is a good proxy for hockey (and honestly can be fun and does wonders building your excitement for next season), but just as the term rosterbation alludes to, it isn't as satisfying as the real thing. Yes, the summer is a wonderful time of the year for many things; one the sports I have dedicated most of my life to, rowing, is at its best during the warm months.
And yes, NHL seasons are like the rise of the sun; they will always be there to greet us when the temperatures start to drop (barring any stupid lockouts) in the fall. Yet as we head into the sunset of another season I have to stop and wonder: how did the end come up on me so fast this year? In the playoffs we spend so much of the time between and during games wanting to win that we almost forget to enjoy the game before our eyes. Yes, of course we all enjoy a game when our team is winning, but it is much harder to get that same feeling during a playoff loss or close game, and it is especially hard to enjoy a nail-biting 7th and deciding game, such as we face tomorrow.
We want our team to win, we want them to move on to the next round, and the next, and to win the Cup and be able to experience the utter elation that comes with it. We look ahead to the next game, and the next, wanting that end goal to come, but in the process blowing through some of the most wonderfully exciting hockey games of the year without realizing it. I know others do not watch hockey after their team is eliminated, but I find I enjoy games the most without the emotional investment. I find it's sometimes easier to appreciate the game of hockey itself, the game that I absolutely love, when my heart strings aren't being tugged every which way by the team I support no matter what. Some of the best games I have watched this year have been those without the Canucks involved: Game 7s between Boston and Montreal, Philly and Buffalo, San Jose and Detroit, Boston and Tampa - but I would hazard a guess that some games the Canucks have played have been equally, or more, exciting along the way. I just can't appreciate it as much.
And now, as we all prepare ourselves for massive heart attacks and either incredible joy or empty defeat, we also prepare ourselves for the last game of this NHL season. I don't know if we can enjoy it, but we sure as hell should try to.