Monday, September 6, 2010

127.) Anything Goes

Soundtrack Song - Cake, Going the Distance

Sweat dripped down my face. A bead started at my hair line and ran a jagged course down my forehead before dodging my eyebrow. It burned my eyes, but there was no point in dragging a towel across my face to wipe away the sweat. In a matter of seconds, I’d just be sweaty again. Sweaty and achy and tired.

Overtime. Game six had ended in double overtime—and the Habs had been the lucky team to score. We couldn’t let that happen again. The Canadiens had stolen a game six win from us, and we could not afford a repeat of that. There are few things in life that feel worse than losing the Stanley Cup on home ice. It’s a feeling of disappointment that penetrates every cell and atom of your body, because not only do you feel horrible for losing the greatest trophy in all of sports... but you lose it in front of thousands of your fans, but also in front of your family and loved ones.

Anything goes in a sudden death overtime, a fact that is magnified when you’re playing for the ultimate prize. Our hearts were pounding from nervousness and restlessness more than physical exertion, so anxious to sway the outcome our way. We were able to score three straight goals to tie up the game and get this opportunity to win, but one little mistake on my part or my teammates’ could lead to a goal by our opponents.

I was, and always will be, the type of person who understood how every decision an individual makes—as well as the people around them makes, too—affects the future. Every second I spent working out and training prepared me for this moment. The desserts I passed up in favor of fruit and healthy snacks. The nights I stayed home and slept instead of going out for drinks with the guys to celebrate the wins. All to build me up to best equipped to handle this present situation.

In the locker room, I shucked off my jersey and pads so I could stretch and roll my joints. I wolfed down a banana as McLellan offered a few words of strategy. Blake, as captain, stood and gave a little speech about how far we had come to reach this point. “When we starting playing this season,” he started, glancing at me, “no matter where, we all started with the potential to be in this position. You were a part of a team that had a one in thirty chance of being champions. When we made it into the playoffs, we were a team with better odds: one in sixteen. With each successive round, we got closer and closer to this very opportunity of winning the Cup. One in eight. One in four. Now, we have a fifty-fifty shot.

“When we skate out on that ice again, we skate out with a clean slate. How we got here doesn’t matter anymore, because we are finally here, and here is overtime of game seven of the Stanley Cup motherfuckin’ Finals. Every move counts. So play smart out there, because every shot and clean pass increases our chances of winning. I have got confidence in our team. I know that we have what it takes to win. All we have to do now is show everyone else what I know here,” he said, pointing to his head.

A few other guys spoke, like the alternates Boyle and Thornton. Blake gave me a look, silently asking if I wanted to say anything. As a 2009 champ and the most recent Cup winner in the room—especially when that series went seven games, too—it might have made sense for me to say something as well. However, nothing immediately came to me, so I shook my head. I could best help by being focused and determined out on the ice, first and foremost.

I slipped my pads back over my head and likewise did the same with my jersey. My helmet and gloves followed suit as I geared up and prepared myself for heading back out to play. As we headed out to the runway, I looked around at my teammates in teal. I was so proud of them, of us. It felt like I had been here from day one and that I fit in with this group of men with sharks across their chests. We took to the ice with resolute ferocity.

My eyes never left that black disc of frozen, vulcanized rubber. If I were on the bench or on the ice, I was completely focused on following the puck. Several times, the puck went too deeply into our zone than I cared to see, but for the most part, my teammates and I were in full-on attack mode, pressing against the opposition with shot after shot. For ten minutes, we peppered Halak with shots as often as the puck hit our sticks. Canadiens were going down to block shots in an effort to help out their goalie. We helped out Nabby by keeping the puck from crossing the blue line as much as possible.

Gill iced the puck, so we poured over the boards as quickly as possible. They were tired, and we wanted to use that to our advantage. Heatley, Thornton, Marleau, Boyle, and I hurried down to our offensive zone, forcing the exhausted Habs to likewise hustle into place to take the face off. I played a minute long shift before I raised my hand and skated to the bench. We tried to keep the shifts as short as possible to make sure we were fresh and ready.

“Come on, Manny,” I hollered from the bench, cheering on my fellow Sharks as they tried their hardest. We were giving them all we had; however, I knew that that would only last for so long. At some point, our tanks would be empty. We could only run on adrenaline for so long before that would wane, giving Montréal a chance to stop playing defense and get to their own method of attack.

It was a beautiful shot from the point. Bowlby pulled back and let it rip. Halak raised his glove and clipped it, changing the angle of the shot. The puck wobbled in the air, hanging there for a moment before it flipped backward behind him and passed the goal line. The twine of the net fluttered as the puck finally reached our intended target. The red light went off and chaos erupted all around us.

Everything that happened after that was an absolute blur and felt like an out-of-body experience. Most of the crowd leapt to their feet and cheered. Everyone in teal jumped off the bench and clamored over the boards to celebrate as the guys on the ice threw their sticks, gloves, and helmets up in the air. We all crashed together in one large group hug, screaming and yelling.

First, I made sure to congratulate Blake on his game-winning goal and thank him for everything he had done for me that season to help me help the team to get to this point. Without his and Brandy’s hospitality, I wouldn’t have felt like I fit in, and if I hadn’t have felt comfortable here, then my trade might not have been a success.

Next, I had to thank Husky for all he had done as my new partner. We had roomed together and worked together to build chemistry that had translated well on the ice. If I had been paired with any other defenseman, I wasn’t sure that I would have meshed well enough to be as effective as I had been.

And then, it was time to celebrate with the friends I had made on the team: Vlasic, Couture, McGinn, Mitchell, and Setoguchi. They were good guys. At first, it hadn’t been easy to fit in with them. I felt like an old man on the team rather than one of the young guys because my priorities had been so vastly different. But we had overcome all of that as we bonded with the passing of time. They had even helped plan my birthday surprise from Jo—which was something only the best of friends would do.

We lined up for the handshakes. Every face was a blur as I told them all that they played a good series. As soon they had skated away, the chaos began. Carpets were being rolled out onto the ice. I got handed a 2010 San José Sharks Stanley Cup Champions hat, and I threw on backwards. People were already wearing shirts, which I had no idea how that had happened so fast. It felt like Blake had scored the goal just seconds ago. I was completely unaware about all that behind the scenes stuff, since Emmert brought me over to be interviewed by one of the local sports newscasters. I took my place in front of the camera and did my best to pay attention to the questions I was asked and ignore the mirth around me. It was so hard though. I was congratulated and asked how it felt to win after being transplanted to San José, how it felt this year compared to last year.

How could I possibly explain that this year felt great? Last year was filled with sad relief. I had been excited to win last season—of course—but it felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders and I got the monkey off my back. I had won and fulfilled my promise. But this year, it wasn’t like that. I just felt happiness. Excitement. My answers were short because I was speechless.

Luckily, I was saved from a long, involved interview, when Gary Bettman came out to award the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup. Marleau got MVP, which was justly deserved since he lead everyone in playoff scoring, with fifteen goals and fourteen assists for a total of twenty-nine points.

Next, Blake picked up the Cup and held it high over his head, roaring with satisfaction and achievement. We all went nuts, screaming our heads off. Each of us were itching for our turn to hold it up and show it off. He passed it off first to the alternates, and then Nabby finally had a turn with it. He had been surrounded by doubt and skepticism; it seemed like everyone was questioning whether or not he had the ability to be a Cup-winning goalie. Well, he showed them all.

I had my turn again, and it felt just as amazing as ever to hoist that impressive trophy over my head. I felt Luc with me, just like I had last year. He was proud of me, and I knew that if he could talk to me right now, he’d be ribbing me for how nervous I had been about this and the trade, which now felt like it was meant to happen. It was only at this point that I felt like myself again, like I was back in my body. Whole again. My muscles ached, but the trophy felt like nothing; I could have held it up like this forever. I brought the Cup to my lips and kissed it, easily able to find the place where my name was already etched upon the silver.

I passed the Cup along, and my empty hands were next filled by a champagne bottle. I wasn’t even sure who handed it to me or where it came from. I opened it, placed my thumb over the top, and shook like crazy. I sprayed the guys around me, dousing them with champagne. When the pressure was low, I took a swig. It was sweet and bubbly, and only the second time ever I had tasted champagne.

Families were starting to come out down on the ice, and I searched their faces for Mom’s and Jo’s. I saw Mom first, so I hugged her tightly and kissed her cheeks.

“Merci, Maman,” I said in her ear. I had to thank her. No matter what had happened when I was little, she was still the woman who had sacrificed her life to keep me safe and provide me with everything I needed to be successful. “For everything.”

“Congratulations, my son,” she replied, cupping my face in her hands. I had to lean down so she could reach me. “I am so proud of you for everything you’ve done this season. For the man you’ve become. I’m so proud to be your mother.”

When she let go, I immediately turned to find Jo. She had hung back a little bit but stepped forward when she saw that my attention had been switched to her. Jo slipped a little on the ice when she stepped off the carpet, but I reached for her. I wouldn’t let her fall. My arms wrapped around her middle and picked her up off the ground as I spun around on my skates.

She squealed and put her around my shoulders, holding on and hugging me. “Kris,” she giggled. I stopped and set her back down. Her hands stayed on my shoulders, grabbing fistfuls of my jersey. She wasn’t crying now, but I could see the streaks on her cheeks that belied streams of tears. “You won! Congratulations! I know this was a wild season, and you still made the best of it and came out on top. I’m so crazy proud of you.”

I kissed her beautiful smile. “We did it, Joey.”

“No, babe. You did it,” she told me, her fingers trying to find purchase on my bulky shoulder pads. Jo looked me square in the eye. “You are the one who played your heart out every game, no matter what. It’s amazing, Kris, what you’ve done to get here.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.” I kissed her again, this time more deeply than before. I kept one hand at the small of her back to keep her from slipping and falling again, and my other hand was tangled in her hair and at the base of her head to keep her mouth against mine.

After a few moments, Jo pulled back and licked her lips as she examined my face carefully. “You taste like champagne.”

Couture skated by with his own bottle of champagne, spraying and coating us with sweet foam before he moved on and soaked someone else, too. “It’s gonna be worse in the locker room,” I warned her. “Things get crazy here on in.”

“Can I get a hat, too?”

I smiled at her simplicity. With utter chaos going on around us, my teammates celebrating as well as thousands of people still loitering in the stands, she cared about getting a hat. “I’m sure you can, because I bet there’s plenty.”

“Cool.” She hugged me again, having to adjust her usual grip to accommodate my pads and new, taller height. “So, what do we do now?”

Laughing and grabbing her hands, I gladly explained, “What do you think? We celebrate!”

13 comments:

  1. Awwww! You took me right there Jay, I feel sweaty, exhausted, happy and almost tearful.

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  2. yayyy (:
    kris is a repeat champ!
    amaaaazing!
    i wonder if they're gonna have celebratory sex. haha. hint hint (:

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  3. PLEASE DONT END THIS STORY JUST YET !!!!! PLS PLS PLS

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  4. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Jo and the hat! Priceless and so Jo. I love it.

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  6. Awesome chapter!
    Now for the celebratory sex...
    This was amazing - I loved the tension in the first half and the relief that came once the sharks won :)

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  7. Great choice of song Jay! I think I read the whole chapter in that same tone as the song.... You are great about putting just the right music to your words. and your words were perfect! I'm proud to be one of your biggest fans!

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  8. now they can go to hawaii happy!!

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  9. WOOHOO, SharkswonSharkswon! Loved this chapter, and the angst and joy were both so well written. Kudos to you!

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  10. YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!




    So, so, so well written, especially that she wanted a hat?! So, so, so, just Jo.

    The writing was so intense and descriptive and just so realistic and awesome as we have been spoiled with for 127 chapters now. I am so anxious to see what comes from this, Hawaii and the celebration and the day with the Cup.

    But, like, winning doesn't make Marcel and Samantha and all the other drama go away. What about that stuff? And when will Jo tell Kris her plan to move schools because I don't think he's aware of that intention yet. And will Kris being staying a Shark (sounds like he should).

    BAHHHH. I read something like this and I'm just like, this is so magical. Then, selfishly, I want more.

    CELEBRATION SEX!? haha.

    Love, love, love.

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  11. Wow reading these last two chapters was like watching the game. I was nervous, worried, happy (insert a dozen other emotions here). I would have been pacing like I usually do except... well I had to read it. But the feelings were the same. Reading about a fictional game should not make my heart race and my eyes fill with tears ready to fall, just waiting to see if they will be happy or sad ones.

    Well done Jay!

    Now some celebration sex, then some I'm sorry for making you wait so long sex, some Hawaii is so beautiful sex, well you get the idea ;-D

    Back to fictional-real life, is Kris still a RFA? Seems like the Sharks should have offered him a contract before now. I mean he's a 23yr old, offensive defenseman with a right handed shot and 2 Stanley Cups. Not a lot of those out there. Plus, let's face it, he ups your teams hotness factor and that never hurt ticket sales. They might end up having to meet a BIG offer sheet. I want him to have a contract so they aleast know where they need to move to this summer (not a hotel room) and Jo can get enrolled in school.

    Then what to do about Marcel? I would push for meeting him over the summer. That would give Kris time to process all the new info without the stress of hockey to deal with at the same time. But I think Kris would be happy not to deal with at all. Maybe he's had enough upheaval in his life for now.

    Wonderful as always! Thank you.

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  12. Never stop updating this story. Ktnx.

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