Posted 4:23 PM ET | Comments 3
The despair grows even more intense on the east bank of the Hudson River. Another year closer to death, another year with nothing to show for the commitment. Once again, we have been deemed unsuitable, the untouchables of hockey's caste system; not for having the least success but for creating the most heartbreak. While the road to the playoffs is far from over, 22 grueling battles away to be exact, the true colors of the red-white-and-blueshirts have come shining through, and with it evaporates another year of false hope.
I come not to regale you with tragic poetry, but to put perspective into the disappointment, to sew silver into the dark underside of our personal storm cloud. For though we have heard it before and wince at the endless repetition of these four words, all is not lost.
Success breeds expectation, while falling short of expectation leads to an array of negative feelings. The key to avoiding such unwanted emotion is to temper the expectation itself and stop the aforementioned equation before it begins. Then, the positives build and possibly outweigh the negatives on the great scale of human perception.
We knew we were not complete, not built to compete at the highest level reserved for champions. Flashes of greatness, yes, but nothing sustained. We took solace in the adage that Rome was indeed not built in one day, and that the skyscrapers built from the top down would only topple in the slightest of breezes.
But then we were lured in by the apple of Adam, a level of consistency not seen in decades on any tree in this Garden. A string of 3 losses did not appear between October and January, and we not only took the bait but swallowed the hook as well. All the while knowing in the depths of our troubled, weary hearts that sustainable it was not. But like all good fanatics, we pulled the wool over our eyes all too gladly and allowed ourselves to enjoy the ride while it lasted, until the gap in the bridge was all but upon us.
It is time to crawl out. Not to give up, for nothing is ever final in this topsy-turvy competition. Even after the puck crosses the line for the final time, the masses still wait for the light and signal through the celebration and chaos. But at the very least, take comfort in hope. Hope that would lie dormant for decades, its last appearance when the great Messier walked the halls and showtime would be every time with Mike Richter.
But now it is back, with new names and new faces. Some have already gained the experience to lead: Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal, Lundqvist. Others have shown promise out of the gate: Stepan, Zuccarello, Sauer, McDonagh. And yet more help is only moving closer with each sunset of each passing day. Perhaps a mercenary is needed, perhaps two or three. Maybe they arrive in time, maybe too late, maybe they come wounded and ruined, and maybe they come never at all. It may not be enough, it is impossible to know, but for 29 of 30 year long campaigns, it is never enough.
But in this sport, once the first hunk of vulcanized rubber hits the frozen pond, all preseason papers fall into the fire. And all you can ever want is a chance, a little bit of hope for a little bit of skill and a lot of luck. So we go out again, battered and bruised, only moving on in hopes of a better tomorrow, all the while knowing that tomorrow may never come.
In the greatest words of the great Herb Brooks, the one who beat the odds, led his written off team to what has been called nothing less than a miracle: