From the very moment the last seconds ticked off the clock during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and after the thought of "OMG, they're going to pull it off again!" was overshadowed by the reality of all those close shots missing the net, I began to miss hockey! Don't get me wrong, I am very thankful that the post-season lasted as long as it did and I LOVED every minute of it (even though we all know it would've been much sweeter with a different ending), but in the back of my mind the thought of the season coming to an end lurked.
The end of the season is not something I look forward to. Not only do I miss hockey, but it's the fear of uncertainty that free agency brings. It's my least favorite part of being a huge hockey fan (or football fan for that matter) -- losing players and changing the dynamics of a team (I still miss Joey Porter AND his big mouth!). So, another thought that was never far from my mind was the fact that, after this season, the PENS will never be the same again no matter what happens and the fact that they will never have another chance to win the Stanley Cup with this same group of guys is very real. On rare moments during the first 3 rounds of the playoffs and especially during the SCF when the PENS lost a game or weren't playing to the best of their ability, I often asked my husband, "Don't they realize they'll never be playing with this group of guys again? Isn't someone mentioning this in the locker room?!" He assured me that the veterans were taking care of business during those important occasions.
Now all of these thoughts that I unsuccessfully tried to push into the deepest corners of my mind become reality on July 1st and what leads up to that point will be a nightmare of rumors that leaves a knot the size of Chris Osgood's head in the pit of the stomachs of all true PENS fans.
I knew that this season was special and that the team had a chemistry you don't often see. It made PENS hockey that much more amazing to watch. Watching a lot of the interviews with the guys, and seeing them or reading about how they interact with each other off the ice made you want to hang out with them just once. THAT'S special. And the veterans, the way they guided the young ones through the ranks of the playoffs and SCF - Sydor telling them not to panic on the bench; Hossa's description of getting goosebumps every time they skated onto the ice and heard the roar of the fans; and did you catch that picture (if not, it's below) of Gary Roberts with his gloved hand on top of Fleury's head and leaning over while MAF hung his head in disappointment -- you just know GR said something wise!) - again I say THAT's special!