About a month ago, my Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens in a thrilling seven game series. The Caps choked. I know it. They know it. The American people know it. From that moment on, I didn’t have a “dog in the fight” so to speak. I love hockey too much not to follow the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not having a team to root for, in some way, made it both easier and harder to watch them, at the same time. But not having a team to root for, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a team to root against.
I’ve made it no secret that I hate everything Pittsburgh. So therefore, the Penguins were easy to pick as a team, especially since they held the Stanley Cup trophy, that I wanted out. Quickly. Now the ironic part, was that the Penguins drew the Canadiens. For seven games, I grew to hate the names on the backs of the Hab’s sweaters as they came back from a 3-1 deficit, to oust my Caps. Now, through my hatred for the Penguins, I was forced to root for Montreal. Not all that hard to be honest. The beating of my Caps aside, the Canadiens were a #8 seed that was really a #4 seed at heart. They’re a good hockey team, and after the Caps’ series ended, rooting for them wasn’t all that hard.
The other team that I have expressed my hatred over, is of course, the Philadelphia Flyers. I hate the city. I hate their fans. I hate their sports teams. I especially hate the Flyers. Part of it is born out of my hatred for the Hershey Bears. As a former Baltimore Skipjacks fan, I HATE the Hershey Bears. The ‘Jacks chief rival for their entire existence during the course of my life, the Bears can lose every game, and I would laugh at them. Fate has made them my Capitals’ farm team. Doesn’t matter. I watched enough AHL hockey growing up that no matter how much I love the Caps, I will never root for the Bears. Out of that hatred, and that of my father’s of course, I HATE the Flyers. Hating the city of Philly is easy. Hating the Flyers is even easier.
So when they went down 3 games to 0 against the Boston Bruins, I was loving life. I figured the Flyers would be easily dispatched, and the Bruins would have to sit and wait out the end of the Penguins-Canadiens series. But of course, as it is with most of my sports fandom….it’s never that simple. While the Canadiens beat the Penguins in 7 games, the Flyers staged a comeback not seen in the NHL playoffs since 1975. They took 3 straight from the Bruins to force Game 7. And of course, those rat finks won to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
And of course, Philthy beat Montreal to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. They were to take on the Chicago Blackhawks, who defeated my odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, the San Jose Sharks. And let me make this clear…I was pulling for the Sharks. I’ve pulled for the Sharks since their entry into the NHL in 1991. Over the past few years, they have formed one of the potent attacks in the Western Conference, and I truly thought, they would dispatch the younger, more inexperienced Chicago Blackhawks. Once again, I was wrong.
Chicago won. Therefore, they became my favorite team in The Dance. As a member of the NHL’s “Original Six”, the Blackhawks had not won the Cup since 1961. That alone was enough to root them on…but more importantly…they were playing the Flyers. The hated Flyers. They got off to a good start, opening with a 2 games to 0 lead. But then of course, the Flyers tied the series at 2. Chicago picked up a 7-4 Game 5 win to take a 3-2 lead.
Then came Game 6. A VERY good hockey game. I hate giving Philly credit, but they played one heck of a game. The game ended regulation in a 3-3 tie. Then came, in my opinion, one of the greatest finishes in Stanley Cup history.
With 4:06 gone in the first OT period, Patrick Kane took a pass from Brian Campbell and shot from a nearly impossible angle, that beat Flyer goalie Micheal Leighton for the game winning score.
It was over. Chicago could celebrate the end of the longest Stanley Cup championship drought in the NHL. And to make it that much better, at the expense of the Philadelphia Flyers, and their awful fans. Seeing the shocked, upset faces of the Philty fans was priceless. And I loved every minute of it.
The only thing that would have made it better, would be if my Caps had won the Cup. Seeing the Great 8 skate around the Verizon Center with Lord Stanley’s cup is something that I hope to witness over the course of the next few seasons. But in all honesty, knowing that Danny Brierre won’t be hoisting the cup…is almost as good.
Thank You Chicago, you saved my summer.