Playoffs are upon us again. And this is without question my favorite part of the hockey season. I explained why here. And talked about it again here (along with a bit of a rant as to why it’s so much harder to play sports at the minor level). But the point is, after 8 seasons of watching Dave play pro, and watching him play in college before that, and watching hockey with my dad for decades before that, sometimes during the regular season I feel like yelling “I GET IT.” Enough already. But playoffs, oh playoffs. Nothing like the threat of the season ending to suddenly give me the desire for it to continue.
Dave likes to choose an anthem for playoffs. A song he is fond of that gets him pumped up. In the past this has ranged from Eminem to Pearl Jam, but this year he went with Florence…this man, I tell you. I love him. It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back…
This year Dave’s team are a bit of a Cinderella story. Last year they didn’t make the playoffs, and in the 80+ year history of the team they have made playoffs once and have never, ever made it to the final. So while watching them in the semi-finals last week was exciting for me, it was truly epic for the long-time fans of this team. The Icebucks (yes, for real) decided to make it interesting by losing the first 2 games in a best-of-five series. The next 3 games were all ‘must-win’, not the ideal situation. And yet somehow…
The drama of the last game was intense. Yutaka Fukufuji, our goalie, a league MVP and Japanese hockey celebrity, was injured when Dave was pushed on top of him 20 seconds into the game. Our back-up goalie , the young and untested Kohei Ono, came in for the most important game of the season…and certainly of his life. We started the 3rd period with a 4-1 lead only to see it drop to 4-2 twenty seconds later. When the bad guys scored again to make it 4-3 I can guarantee that the butthole of every fan in that place puckered up. When, with 3 seconds left, there was suddenly a rebound loose right in front of our net and one of the bad guys charged in an attempt to score the tying goal I nearly fainted. And then that merciful buzzer sounded. I counted 10 new gray hairs after that game.
The end result was that the Icebucks WON the game and will go on to the finals.
Dave scored a goal that afternoon, and probably could barely hear the roar of the crowd but for his own whoops of joy at helping the cause. How lucky he is to know such a feeling, as I’m sure I never will. Goalie Yutaka Fukufuji rallied like the fighter he is and came back to finish the game with a flourish (ie: charging out of the goal like a bull to make a save in the final moments) but I have always loved an underdog, so I can’t get the chanting of ‘ONO KOHEI’ out of my head…
Here’s to the Icebucks, unlikely heroes but heroes all the same.
And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark, at the end of my rope
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope