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The Championship Hockey Game
It was five minutes until our team would hit the ice to play the championship game in what was expected to be an all-out war. I remember the pre-game jitters being immense. The locker room was still and quiet. By the looks in everyone’s eyes, you could tell that they were all ready to play, and that they knew what was to come. Coach walked in.
“Are you ready to play, boys?” he had asked.
“Yes, coach!” we yelled back.
“Well then let’s go kill these guys!” he screamed.
Out the locker room and out on to the white, shiny, cold ice surface we went. I remember taking those first couple of strides and hearing the cut of the blade ripping through the ice. I remember myself skating around for warm-ups visualizing the game that lay ahead of me. It was quite a feeling.
Once the warm-ups ended, it was time to drop the puck for the opening face-off. With a few last words of encouragement from our coach, my line went out to the center-ice face-off dot and lined up for the face-off.
“Tic.” The puck had been dropped. Right away, our team came up with the puck. Remembering what our coach had been saying all year, our defenseman got over the red line and dumped the puck into the other team’s zone so that we could fore-check them and wear them down. I remember being the first one to get to the puck and then passing it out in front to a wide-open teammate. Seeing as the goalie had hardly any time to react, and my teammate was at pointblank range, it was an easy goal. Our team celebrated and cheered loudly. Not only had my line scored the first goal of the game, but we had also set the tone for the rest of the game. Having said that, the score would remain a 1-0 game until there was 1 minute to go in the 3rd period. The other team then scored to tie the game at 1-1.
With a little under 1 minute to go in the 3rd period, both teams were content to just take the game into a 5 minute OT. We were all tired, having played 5 games in the past 2 days previous to that game.
The overtime went by fairly quickly and was shockingly uneventful. Once again, I think that both teams were content to go into a shootout.
As we sat on the bench, I remember our coach putting together a shootout lineup for, what we thought at the time, was going to be a shootout. The reason I say, “what we thought was going to be a shootout,” is because instead of the referee putting the puck at center ice for the shootout, he signaled for a face-off. Now if the referee was signaling for a face-off then what was going to happen? We soon found out that we were to play a 2 on 2 until a team scored, because the game was running a little bit late. This still doesn’t make any sense to me today because I would think that a shootout would take less time than a 2 on 2 due the fact that in a shootout you have a higher percentage to score.
Anyway, our coach told us to ignore it and just play the 2 on 2. So we did. Right off the bat, I got the puck and went down on my off wing side (opposite of forehand side) and fired a snapshot. It traveled over the goalie’s glove and shoulder and “dinged” off the crossbar and went out of play. I skated to the bench, disgusted with my luck.
“Maybe if I wasn’t born on Friday the13th, that puck would have gone in,” I said to myself.
As I watched the next shift from the bench I wondered what it would’ve been like if the puck were to go just an inch lower. Would the goalie have saved it? Or would it have gone into the back of the net and I have been the hero? I would be ashamed of myself if the other team was to win the game, because I knew that by scoring that goal I could’ve won it for my team. But in front of my very own eyes, that’s exactly what had just happened.
While I had thought about what would’ve happened if the puck had been shot just an inch lower, the puck in the real game took a bad bounce off of the boards. It went on to the stick of a player on their team in front of the net. Since our goalie was not expecting the bad bounce, the other team had an effortless game-winning goal. I still remember to this day how it felt to be defeated knowing that you could’ve done something to change the outcome. It was pure agony.
When we were shaking hands with the other team, I couldn’t even look at their faces and tell them “good game”. When we were accepting our 2nd place trophy as a team, I was one of the few who stayed back and didn’t go up with the team to get it. I guess that at the time I felt that second place was like last place because of the fact that I knew that I could have scored that goal for my team. All the rest of that day I was teary-eyed and angry. But even to this very day, I still wonder what would’ve happened if the puck that I shot would have gone just one inch lower.