So yeah, I watched that Boston-Toronto game last night. A lot of people did. Not just hockey fans, but people I know who never watch hockey. My mother called me during that third period, right after Bergeron’s tying goal, to ask why this was such a big deal. Apparently, even with her limited access to social media, her computer was blowing up. I had text messages from people I haven’t spoken to in months. I spent about three hours just reading Twitter. Last night was an event. It doesn’t matter where your allegiances lie. Sometimes you just have to recognize when something is important to a lot of people.
And this was an event not just because of the already much-bandied fact that no team had ever come back from a three goal deficit in the third period in the history of the playoffs. To me the takeaway is that I sometimes forget that that team is not a team like our team. Our team, like most teams, is tied to our city, is tied to local pride, is tied to community, and is tied to our desire to distinguish ourselves from that team. But that team…they’re about people’s fathers, you know? Other than maybe a few of the other original six teams, they’re different. Not special. Not better. But different.
As I read Twitter last night, I saw the sort of stunned reaction as events unfolded turn to something resembling empathy. Can you imagine if that happened to us? How would that feel? About twenty minutes later that empathy transformed, predictably, into gleeful schadenfreude, then, weirdly, into blame: Toronto fans deserve this, somehow. Because some dude made a shitty sign; because they’re mean to us at our home games; because they cheered for Anaheim in the Final; because they’re everywhere.
I don’t know–maybe they do deserve this. But I’m reading the various blogs and recaps this morning and I don’t feel like rubbing it in. This is a team that missed the playoffs for eight years, were killed over the Kessel trade, and now, when they finally make the playoffs, raise hopes to insane levels only to open the door to the most crushing, excruciating letdown any sports fan could ever feel. Maybe that’s just sports, and we should dog pile on because, yeah, they’d probably do the same to us.
But I have to admit: it might have been fun to see something resembling success in the biggest hockey market in the world.
Ottawa is my team, and Toronto is always going to be Enemy Number One, at least until we actually beat them in the playoffs and exorcise those demons a little bit. But this morning I’m feeling a bit of empathy here. They played a good series. A gutsy series. They won two games in a row to force a game seven against Boston, and then dominated in Boston for 45 minutes against a team that has owned the entire division’s ass all season long, including ours. There will be plenty of time to shove the meltdown in their fans’ faces later. But for now, at least, I want to say: good series, guys. You’ll bounce back.