I grew up in the States. After my college years, I started spending more time in Canada. Then, about 18 years ago, I started spending much of each winter in Whistler. When I say, I grew up in the States, I should clarify by stating I grew up in Palo Alto, California. Yes, California, Land of the Fruits and Nuts. I swam, skateboarded, surfed, hiked, climbed and skied.
When I was 16, I laced up my first pair of skates and found I was completely inept. A rough deal for a 16 year-old athlete. In the days of my Nordic racing, we used a nearby 400-meter rink for pre-season training. Speed skates resemble skate skis more than hockey skates.
That’s it for my ice time.
And I’ve come to love hockey.
More than that, I’ve come to love the Canadian attitude toward hockey.
Late this spring, when the national debates conflicted with the first games of the hockey play-offs, they changed the debates, not the hockey game. A clear recognition that in the horse and cart world of national politics, changing the horse will not make too much difference. On the other hand, who makes the Stanley Cup will be determined by the games in the play-offs.
That has import.
If there ever was any doubt of the tension, finesse and excitement of hockey, last night’s first game of the Cup finals put that to rest. Back and forth, non-scoring, power-play after power-play, the game was fast, clean and went into the final minutes with no score from either the Boston Bruins or the Vancouver Canucks.
With only a few seconds left in the game, the Canucks picked up the puck at the blue line and passed across the ice to Hansen on the right. He skated in on Bruins’s goal angling in from the outside right. The Bruin’s goalie, Tim Thomas, moved a few feet forward from the net to meet him and close down the angle. With a flick of his wrist, Hansen passed across to Raffie Torres skating on the left and Torres slipped the puck into the now open left side of the net.
Picture perfect. No slop. Easy pass. Crisp, clean goal.
And with 18 seconds still left in the game.
Almost 60 minutes of play and it all comes down to the last few seconds.
Now that’s a sport. Every minute counts. Every second counts. And the last minute counts in spades.