Four years ago, June 7, 2004, I was dressed up in a shirt & tie for eighth grade graduation. The ceremony is somewhat of a blur, but after seems like it was just yesterday.
After I took pictures with some of my family, I asked my mom what time it was. "7:40," I remember her saying. No after party for me. There was something that I just couldn't miss at home.
After what seemed like a hell of a long ride down the block (no kidding) we got home. I got into the room with the nice TV and turned it on, the score was still 0-0. Good.
Game Seven, Stanley Cup Finals, Calgary vs. Tampa Bay. This was really important to me; I had started following Tampa earlier in the year. On a powerplay, Ruslan Fedotenko cashed in on a rebound: 1-0 Tampa Bay.
It was a while before the next goal was scored, again by Fedotenko. Vincent Lecavalier dangled around four Flames players to get the puck to him, and he didn't waste the opportunity. Wicked wrister to the top right corner. For the first time in my life I felt purely ecstatic; I couldn't help yelling like my dad does sometimes. 2-0 Tampa Bay.
Calgary got a powerplay in the middle of the third period, and Craig Conroy scored on a nice shot from the point. 2-1 Tampa Bay. As the game slowly moved on, Nikolai Khabibulin made one of the most incredible saves I have ever seen, and it was then I knew the Lightning were going to win.
A super kick save on the first shot from the right wing sent the puck directly to Jordan Leopold who sent it right back. Khabby moved across the entire net and made the save. I felt pure adrenaline until the play was whistled when he finally got a hold of it to freeze it. Again I felt that ecstatic felling, but no yelling this time. Only five minutes to go.
The game was moving slowly again. I began to feel more and more excited as the minutes went by. With about a minute left, Andrew Ference dealt a somewhat cheap hit to Martin St. Louis, my favorite player, and got two minutes for charging.
As Marty got up, I saw the two cuts and the blood running down his face. He had been my favorite player, but seeing that happen and then seeing him come out on his next shift, like nothing happened, he became my role model. Pure guts, determination, and the will to win no matter what, not to mention taking a big hit for his team.
With less then thirty seconds left, Craig Conroy was rushing out of his zone with the puck and Dave Andreychuk tripped him and got a penalty. What terrible irony. Dave had played in the NHL twenty-two years without winning a Stanley Cup, and now he would watch the game end from the penalty box. Not to mention that he got the penalty with twenty-seconds left in the game—creepy. The next twenty-two seconds were amazing. I felt myself becoming happier as the win drew nearer...5, 4, 3, 2, 1,...it's over. Tampa Bay has won the Stanley Cup!
For the third time of the night I felt purely ecstatic. The teams shook hands. The Conn Smythe award (MVP of the playoffs) was presented to Brad Richards. He deserved it. Seven game winning goals is challenging to get in an eighty-two game season, let alone a sixteen game playoff.
Then the moment everyone was waiting for. Gary Bettman called Dave Andreychuk over to get the Stanley Cup for his team, since he is their captain. He skated over, shook hands with Bettman, clasped the bowl on top and the rim on the bottom and lifted it high over his head to hundreds of flashing cameras. He also added a kiss, some players do that.
What happened next, I will never forget: Dave jumped up and down with the Cup like a young child at Disney World. Seeing his pure joy combined with mine, I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear.