All at once, twenty thousand fans rose in their seats. I scrambled for a view, leaning left and right amongst heads taller than mine. I’m so stuffed with pizza and fried dough I can hardly stand, but I find a sightline and hold onto my chair. The ice had been packed for over three periods, but now it stood empty. All that remained were the two goalies at their posts and a single puck, waiting on the faceoff dot. Yet the sky blue shine of center ice was then broken by a single black and gold uniform, skating to and from the bench in calm anticipation. Suddenly, the arena was filled by the booming voice of the announcer.
“NEXT IN THE SHOOTOUT: NUMBER SIXTY-THREE, BRAAD MARCHAND!”
A whistle blew. He grabbed the puck at center ice. I held my breath, and the constant droning of the packed arena seemed to disappear. Although I knew it was impossible, I thought I could hear skates, clashing against the ice. He had been moving toward the goalie for what felt like minutes. Not swerving, or trying to fake the goalie. Just skating, puck on stick, eyes on goal. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, and my arms had tensed with nervous apprehension. Without warning, his stick snapped. I saw the puck fly low and straight. The goalie fell, bringing his massive leg pads together on the ground. The slack of the net snapped. For a moment I thought he must have missed.
Then I’m bludgeoned by the sensory assault of celebration, with blaring horns and flashing red lights. I’m blinded by the spotlights above the rink, darting around the Garden. I’m deafened from the thunderous goal song, that was somehow loud enough to drown out the roaring cheers. The engrossed crowd had burst into a violent sea of black and gold, with jumping spectators and flailing jerseys.
After the cheering had ceased and both teams had gone down the tunnel, I got up. My legs had been numbed, and my back felt stiff from the rigid seats. The deadlock of the past three hours had finally been broken; I joined the swarm of fans returning to their home, tired, yet thrilled.