I missed the Monday Night Miracle.
I can't remember the exact details of how my sentence went down, other than Mom sent me to bed prematurely, and by morning I was sure I'd never forgive her. The Blues were down hopelessly in that game, they were about to be eliminated from the Campbell Conference finals, I would be crying -- oh, just go to bed already so you're not a crabby mess in the morning.
When I woke up the next day to learn what happened, I was at once elated that the Blues were still alive -- and devastated that I missed the experience of what should have easily been the best live moment of a young sports fan's life.
That morning I huffed and hawed and moaned and declared: "Never again. I'm never leaving an NHL playoff game for bed again. Cross my heart 'n hope to die."
That silly youthful statement of purpose later evolved into a different pledge: Never leave a playoff OT game in progress, because you never know if you're about to miss an epic -- and even if it's not epically long, it's epically fascinating. It doesn't matter if you have school, an exam, work, a funeral -- whatever the next day brings, those OT moments steal portions of your brain and take up permanent residence where no other memory can replace them.
So it was that I saw the Islanders' four-OT Game 7 Easter Epic, which ended on an exhausted Pat LaFontaine's desperate spinaround slapshot through traffic, to eliminate a frozen Bob Mason and his Washington Capitals. So it was that I caught basically every longest NHL game that has happened since WWII:
- Petr Nedved stunning Washington (them again!) in the final minute of the fourth OT in 1996? I was bouncing around in my bedroom, laced with adrenaline from the rush that carried through the next day.
- Keith Primeau over Pittsburgh in the fifth OT in 2000? I had a final in the morning; I don't remember what subject the final was in, but I damn sure remember Primeau's tank-empty celebration.
- Petr Sykora doing it for Anaheim over Dallas in 2003 -- I had the early shift and didn't go to bed that night. Don't know if my boss noticed, don't think that I cared.
- Last year's Brendan Morrow killer of San Jose was just one more chapter in a book of rushes only the NHL playoffs can provide.
And those are just teams I don't really even care about. Imagine when it's the kid's favorite team.
Now, I'm not a parent -- I just steal my nephews and nieces until I've sugar-loaded them in proper preparation for return to their parents. I know there's bed time and proper development and diet and science and the all-important "Oh, he'll be a mess in the morning." Heck, my stubborn addiction to spring-time hockey may explain why I'm a night owl now.
But if your kid is hooked on hockey at this point and you are frequenting this site, I have a feeling he's never going to shake it. So let him hang in there, fall asleep by your side if necessary. Because the thrill of playoff OT's constant give-and-take, its repeated brushes with death -- it's like no other spectator sport experience.
I remember every one, and I don't remember the exam or work or hangover or hissy fit I threw the next day. I just remember that rush of watching it happen.
So with the Blues having to hit the West Coast for round 1 of these playoffs, I'm just saying: If he's living and dying with each play, think twice before you ship the kid to bed. However the game ends, there's a good chance he'll never forget it.