Culbreath: OverdrawnWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 12, I was pressed into some after-hours duty monitoring the massive thunderstorm that passed through the area. And, while I was doing that (all the while traipsing my way across social media), I kept getting grief from my friends for not watching the epic triple overtime battle between Boston and Chicago in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
See, back in 2008, I managed to get a press credential for the Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh. And while I wasn’t able to make the first few games, I finally made it up to Joe Louis Arena for Game 5, where the Wings had the 3-1 lead in the series, and could have won the cup that night. Instead, we got another triple OT thriller that was equal parts exciting and draining.
Picture it if you will: Wings have the 3-2 lead, and the Pens are scrambling after losing the early 2-0 lead. And while the crowd in the Joe had broken into chants of “We want the cup!”, I’m sitting in the auxiliary press box, which is simply one of the corners of the top level cordoned off for us press folk. They provided tables, but I’m pretty sure they all knew we were just coming to watch a free hockey game. Water and popcorn was provided for us.
The game looked well in hand with a minute left, until Maxime Talbot got the puck from Marian Hossa and put it past Chris Osgood to send the game into overtime. The crowd deflated, but only momentarily, because winning Lord Stanley’s Cup in OT is just going to make it that much more epic… right?
First OT, nada. Pittsburgh would get a power play opportunity after Henrik Zetterberg was called for goaltender interference, but couldn’t convert. The auxiliary press box had run out of popcorn. The second extra frame was more interesting, as the Wings would get the man advantage after Peter Sykora was called for hooking, but they couldn’t convert either. At this point, the press box had run out of water, and I’m calling back to the station to let them know I’m not going to be in on time the next morning. Midway through the third OT, Pittsburgh would convert with the extra man, Sykora snapping one past Ozzie to send the game back to Pittsburgh.
It was bizarre, at the time, because as I walked back to my car (in downtown Detroit, at 2 in the morning), I was actually pretty salty about the whole situation. Looking back on it later, I’m actually embarrassed at how angry I was that I had to stay and witness a triple-overtime thriller that could have possibly ended with a Stanley Cup presentation. (Not to mention, I didn’t pay for a ticket, gas or concessions). At some point around the fourth intermission, my brain snapped. I thought about the walk back to the station vehicle, the drive back to the Clear Channel Death Star in Downtown Toledo, which would be followed by the drive back to El Casa de Shaggy. It put me off in a big way and that shouldn’t be the case. There’s nothing like playoff hockey, and even doubly so when those games go to sudden-death overtime.
I think I found my answer in the 2009 playoffs, when I went back to Joe Louis Arena for a first round playoff series game between Detroit and Columbus. Again, on media credentials, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was secretly rooting for the CBJ. (Of course, that support was fruitless, as the Jackets were swept in the series.) Having a rooting interest certainly helped, though I couldn’t imagine the nightmarish mood swings of watching your team in sudden death OT with the Trophy To End All Other Trophies just sitting in the locker room, waiting for you. A whole lotta depressed Wings fans walked out of the arena that night (Oh, they got better. Wings won the series in the next game.)
So when Game 1 of this year’s Cup finals threatened to become Game 1a and 1b, I didn’t mind being distracted by severe weather coverage instead (imagine the poor NBC affiliate in Chicago that had to make a call on which to air. Yikes.) Part of me thinks I would have gone back to that annoyed place in my head like in 2008. And I think another part of me was actually afraid of having to face that again.
My guess, considering how evenly matched Chicago and Boston are, is that we’ll have plenty more overtime periods in this series to face that demon.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director at 1370 WSPD.