It's been awhile since you've heard from me. Maybe more on why after the season is over, but please forgive me ahead of time as this post will be all over the map.
Today, while driving back from the morning skate, after seeing all the seats (every one of them) covered with white thundersticks, after talking to Mike Yeo, Nate Prosser and Jon DiSalvatore, I realized why I love covering playoff hockey so much. No matter the circumstances that surround the series, these guys, the players, coaches, front office, PR staff, even the league PR staff, are working hard toward one goal. And that is to make this a fun, memorable and successful event for everyone involved.
If you are a fan, you want to see hockey. Great, great playoff hockey.
If you are a coach, you want your players to play their game and give it their unrelenting best.
If you are a player, you want the guy next to you to do everything he can do FOR you.
If you are a reporter, you want good notes and for God sakes, no triple OT games.
If you sell tickets, you want to see the rink filled to the brim and know that Sunday you gave up was well worth it.
If you are in PR, you want everything to go just how you planned it; no surprises either way.
The Aeros are right; this is a special team. And no matter what happens tonight or Thursday, the will be able to still say that long after the trophy goes to a new team next Spring.
Win, and they make history ... it's been a very long time since a team rallied to win the last two games of the Calder Cup Finals. Lose, and you know what? Hats off to Robin Lehner, who quite frankly deserves the MVP of this series so far. In fact, you can make an argument that Lehner deserves that no matter what the Sens do, save for an 8-1 game in Game 7.
At the morning skate this morning, the Aeros were the same as usual. Up-beat, loose and they skated hard through a high-tempo practice with a lot of laughter, cheers and "alrights" ... it's fun that they don't take themselves too seriously. The team in 2009? Remember them? They were fun to watch, but for the most part, it was like going to a board meeting every time after the game.
Today, I loved watching that dump and chase drill, and I really like watching the faceoff exercise, where the center takes several draws in rapid succession. Even at the end, when Josh Tordjman was taking one-timers from Wiseman and Sydor, the team was still having fun as they were heading back to the locker.
(the faceoff drill)
When we were done with our interviews today, Colton Gilles, DiSalvatore, Earl and others were giving each other the business about day-to-day stuff and other things SO not associated with the biggest game of their lives.
It was just so nice to see that, and they all commented on the inspiring letters and pictures fans have sent in to have taped to the walls outside the dressing room. Every one of the players can't wait to get out there tonight, to see the fans with 10,000 thundersticks.
(pictures and letters, right outside the locker)
Brutally honest time ...
I am so nervous for them, and yet I still cannot wait for tonight. I am unbiased and will not cheer, but (deep down) I really do hope the Aeros force a Game 7 with a convincing win. I want to see how all of this comes together. I want to see this unique group of guys, who will never again all play together beyond Thursday night, do something so magical that you cannot go a day over the summer break without thinking about it.
When I get to the rink tonight, I want to hear the fans scream, and I want to hear that goal horn four, five or even six times. I want to see the guys hug each other at the end and skate over to rookie goalie Matt Hackett and tap his pads for a job well done. That is what I want to see. More importantly, that is what I want YOU to see.
I know all their hard work over the course of the season is well worth every second no matter what happens. But I want to see them rewarded for it, so we can do this all over again in 48 hours.
(There are two thundersticks on every seat)