Isn’t technology a wonderful thing? It seems as if some of our friends want to meet at Wine Wednesday at Barnard-Griffin and the puck drop for the 1st game of Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks is at the same time. Back in the good old days one might have had to make a choice, now we can have our wine and drink it too, so to speak, and friends, and hockey. K, promised to have the game on in the background for us which tipped the scales in B-Gs favor and B&V promised to show up. Leaving nothing to chance, the DVR is set for 5 minutes prior to the advertised time for the start and for 90 minutes after the estimated time for the game to be over. I can stop being anxious and conflicted.
T&K have beaten us there and are sitting outside on the patio with glasses of Fume’ Blanc going and salads. I position myself at the table in order to keep one eye on the start of the final component of the most grueling playoff series in sport. Eight teams have started in the East and eight for the West. That means the teams have gone through three other physically, mentally, and emotionally draining series in order to get to this final. If you don’t believe that fact, just look at the bruised faces, blackened eyes, stitched up bloody cuts, gap toothed from missing teeth, bearded fellows on either bench. And those guys are the healthy ones. What a physical toll is exacted to play this game.
Boston went to game 7 in the first series with Toronto and was 82 seconds from elimination and somehow managed to score three goals in those final few moments then one more six minutes into overtime to advance. Terms like “sitting on pins and needles” or “sweating bullets” hardly captured what was going on from my perspective. The next two rounds weren’t nearly as excruciating and all that matters now is Boston is in the finals.
V&I order a bottle of Pinot Gris, a chicken panini sandwich, and bowl of soup from Nathan and conversation at the table is fun and lively. I swivel my eyes to the game being played out on one of the TVs suspended from the wall in the corner. It is not the game I want to see. Instead of the black and gold of Boston and black, white, and red of Chicago, it is the red on white of Carolina Hurricanes and the white on red of Detroit Red Wings? That can’t be right! While I would be hard pressed to debate against the merits of “any hockey is better than no hockey” no one could ever convince me a Stanley Cup Finals from 2002 is worth watching over one that is just starting this evening. T&K would try valiantly; we are sure, but to no avail. Especially since the series just getting underway this evening contains two of the Original Six teams, and my team as well.
Besides the usual B&V “Clink”, all of us at the table “Clink” to the start of “The 2013 Chase of Lord Stanley’s Cup” then D&V arrive providing a brief distraction. However, I can’t wait any longer and I excuse myself to go find K and see about a promise made. I am laughing as K is struggling between two remotes, not being able to find the game and saying something about technology being a wonderful thing. Magnanimously, I let her off the hook. I can’t be too hard on her – the J she chose just returned from a trip to Boston where he thoughtfully picked up a playoff t-shirt for me.
As I sit down back at the table the K-that-chose-T, T, and V all offer to check the score on their “smartypants” phones. I decline. I am a technology guy without one of those for some odd reason and even if I did have one, I still wouldn’t check the score. I have discipline. I want to watch the game unfold under my close visual supervision. Besides, with DVR equipment V&II can watch a three hour hockey game in less than two hours, fast-forwarding past the commercials, various stoppages of play like icing, and the announcers at the intermissions. Technology is a wonderful thing. Even though tomorrow is a work day, I am confident V&I can watch the game in its entirety and not offend friends by bailing early.
We all take our time with dinner and the Pinot Gris pairs well with the sandwich ingredients of chicken, white cheddar, and bok choy and the Cougar Gold Cheddar, potatoes, and carrots in the soup. Chilled to 48 degrees, the wine is refreshing, perfectly suited to sitting outside enjoying good times and good company. We are cracking jokes and pretending (or not, then again who really knows for sure with D) to make plans for a road-trip for D and me to pick-up a car he is supposedly buying in Omaha. Neither D nor I can figure out between us and I doubt anyone else can for that matter, who is the straight man and who delivers the punch lines. We definitely play off each other. In the not-to-distant-future a movie titled, “Elmer and Lewis” is coming to a theater near you and is destined to be the next classic “Guy Movie.” If the car is the car D says that it is, it will not be driven off a cliff, however. There are just some things neither of us will do for any amount of money. We do have principles; however misguided some might think they are.
Dinner and merriment comes to a close and with a promise to not be on our best behavior V&I bid adieu, make our way to “The Beautiful Green House,” and the hockey game previously programmed to record.
Once in the house no emails, the Twitterverse, other social media, or news sites are checked for fear of spoiling the end result. A quick glance at the DVR reveals recording is in progress. That means the game is still on although it should be nearing the end by now. A quick pour of another glass of Pinot Gris, one bottle at the wine bar split between five individuals unquestionably did not go very far. Mental note to self, “Obviously this has become Vs new favorite. Should go to the fridge and see how many more she has stashed in there.” No time for distractions now though, the game is being played out and most assuredly V&I want to witness all the action.
As I am getting all the settings tweaked I flash back to our first “real” date. It was the annual New Year’s Eve hockey game between the Americans and the arch-enemy Spokane Chiefs. She was hooked after the first period, lucky for me, lucky for her, lucky for us.
All systems are “GO” now. The National Anthem has been vigorously sung and the crowd cheering all the while. “That must be a Chicago thing” I say offhandedly. V nods her agreement. The puck is dropped and “Game On.”
The first period of the game is fast paced, full of up-and-down the ice action, hitting up against the glass and out on open ice. It is everything that makes playoff hockey the game that it is, even including V hitting my leg or punching my arm during the particularly intense segments. I think to myself, “If I was forward thinking I would have pinched the other arm last week after driving the black Corvette. V is smacking that exact spot.” Sometimes the fans of hockey get pounded too. The train of thought continues, “If Gregory Campbell finished the last remaining minute of his shift with a broken leg, I can tough this out. Man up.”
The horn sounds the end of the period. Looking over at V I saw “Sorry Liam, Mike M, Keith, Mike E, and Eddie. We don’t need to hear the commentary. We just saw what happened out there.” and I fast forward through the announcers and studio hosts and on with the second period. The second period exhibits all the aspects of the first and with the horn sounding the end I look at the DVR and it is still recording. “Uh-Oh.” I say and press the fast forward. We weren’t interested in hearing those announcers during the first intermission and we certainly aren’t now. The game is evenly played and I am nervous. The third period has started and even though some of the referee’s calls can and have been disputed there is no disputing the red record light is still on the DVR. The teams are evenly matched, and I am nervous, and my sport intuition is telling me, “Overtime.” Shots ring off the crossbars and sideposts of both the Chicago and Boston goals. With each mad scramble in front of the goal mouth and ensuing groans from us the clairvoyance becomes reality. The horn sounds, “Ladies and Gentlemen, We are going to overtime.”
The dog is sitting on the carpet between us and the television burning holes in “His Humans” with his laser beam eyes, hoping beyond hope someone will let him out. He is a creature of habit. He knows when it is dinner time and nature calls at the appointed time each and every night. A person could set their watch by him. I push pause on the remote and get up with the dual goal of relieving his tension and mine.
All three of us settled back on the couch and the first overtime period is underway now. The period is rife with squandered chances and misspent opportunities. The horn sounds and it is now on to the second overtime period. I fast forward to the puck drop and somewhere during all the action of the period we have “caught up” and cannot use the fast forward any longer. As if I would have skipped to the end. The second overtime is completed without a victor being decided. I exclaim, “Oh Man! If I am this wore out think about the players.” V nods her agreement. The third period starts, V&I are both spent but not giving up. It is now an hour and a half past bed time and the dog is looking at us like “You guys are nuts, you know you still have to go to work tomorrow, right?” – It is Game One going into triple overtime of the Stanley Cup Finals and we must endure.
Period three of overtime is underway with the skating not nearly as fluid or passes as crisp as they have been earlier and play is getting very ragged. I look over at V and with insight born of experience I say, “It is times like these, the very ragged play that you are seeing right now, that goals are scored.” Not ten seconds later just like that, Chicago scores and this first game, the fifth longest in NHL playoff history, is over. United Center – The Madhouse on Madison is loud, the Bruins hurriedly skate to the dressing room, and the Blackhawks skate over to the goalie. V looks at me sadly, knowing I am not happy.
As I am turning off the television, satellite receiver, and the audio gear I look at her and say, “The sun will invariably come up tomorrow. All the Bruins have to do is win one in Chicago. There is another game Saturday evening, right? There are other things going on in our lives too; the new Superman exclusive showing tomorrow night that you somehow managed to get tickets for, the vineyard talk out at Fidelitas on Friday, and taking my mom shopping on Saturday during the day, the list just goes on and on, doesn’t it? Father’s Day is this weekend and our first game of the Tri-Cities Dust Devils season too.” The Dust Devils are the single “A” affiliate of the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball franchise that V&I have a seven game package for.
I wearily add as I am closing the gate to the dog’s bed, “Besides the rumor of new romance going on out there at Fidelitas, I hear we are going to taste through three Cabernet Sauvignon clones; 2, 6, and 8, the first off Charlie’s estate during the vineyard talk. That’ll be exciting.” With the alarm ringing off at 4:00AM it is going to be a very short night.