Sidney Crosby’s return to NHL action after his ten-month long sick leave due to a concussion was one of those larger-than-life moments. Especially with the way he capped his comeback with a four-point performance. It was one of those highly anticipated games that forced European TV networks to quickly change the schedule, and pick up the Penguins-Islanders games instead of whatever else they had had in mind. (Sorry about that all you local Finnish/Swedish boys).
It may not have been a true once-in-a-lifetime moment, but it sure was a memorable event. There are only so many truly unforgettable moments anyway, and what makes those few truly great is the fact that they are just that: moments.
Paul Henderson’s goal. Crosby’s Olympic game-winner. Kovalchuk’s wrist shot at the Worlds in Quebec. Teemu Selänne hoisting the Cup. Tommy Salo’s goof up at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
A game, a whole game, is a little more difficult to capture, but even that can be turned into a moment that will stay with you. Like, “Where were you when you heard about Miracle on Ice?”
Or in my case, “where were you when you heard that Belarus had beaten Sweden at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City?”
For me, that Belarus’s game-winning goal wasn’t a Moment. I’ve seen it many, many times, I’ve heard the players talk about it, I’ve seen the parody stamps, and I’ve read the newspaper stories, but I don’t have a where-were-you-when-Vladimir-Kopat-beat-Tommy-Salo moment.
See, back then, in the winter of 2002, I was so confident, so sure that Sweden was going to beat Belarus, that I didn’t even watch the game.
I wasn’t writing about the tournament, anyway, so when Wife told me she had tickets to a movie and asked me if I wanted to go, I didn’t even flinch but said, “sure”. Back then she wasn’t Wife yet, she was Girlfriend, so maybe that played into it, too. You know how it is. “It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life, that’s the power of love.”
So a movie it was. But not just any old movie.
The Sound of Music.
The sing-along version.
There I was, happily barking at Rolf, the evil Nazi, and wondering how you solve a problem like Maria. Not even “Ray, a drop of golden sun” in “Do-Re-Mi” made me think of Ray Bourque or Ray Ferraro. The hills were alive, and so was I.
At half time, I turned on my cell phone to see if I had got any messages. Text messages, that is. I was leaning against the stage like Joe Cool, when the first message got in. As I read that one, my phone vibrated a second time, then again.
“Ha ha ha, chicken Swedes lost to €#%% Belarus, eat that, Sundin,” read the first one. As did the second one, from the same Finnish buddy.
My legs started to shake. All blood rushed from my arms.
“What’s wrong?” Girlfriend asked me.
“They … they lost the game,” I said. Girlfriend looked at me dumbfounded.
“Unbelievable. Unreal. Can’t be true. But, I mean, Sundin … and Forsberg…” I mumbled.
I read the next message. That one had the score. All the messages were from my friends in Finland, some echoing the sentiments of the first (two) message(s), others just asking me what I thought about the Miracle in Salt Lake.
Beads of sweat were running down my temples as I sat down in my chair, and started to text back to my friends. Girlfriend (now Wife) looked at me in disbelief.
“It’s just a hockey game, you know,” she said. “Got any popcorn left?”
I gave her the bucket, and just stared ahead.
My legs were shaking, but not because Sweden had lost. My legs were shaking because I had missed a Huge Moment, and that made me angry. To this day, whenever I hear or read about that tournament, I think of Julie Andrews.
In the second act, I really let Rolf, the evil Nazi, have it, whenever he showed up on the screen. “ROLF! ROLF! ROLF!” I barked at him. But “Me” wasn’t a name I called myself.
That name was “idiot.”