by Julia Kerrigan
There is truly nothing I love more than a good under-dog turned miracle story. Nothing. My friends gave me one on monday. As a rec hockey team of mixed abilities they had trouble winning games at the beginning. Their goalie, having never skated but with extensive road hockey experience, wore vintage pads from the 70’s. We know it was out of financial necessity but like to say he’s a hipster goalie. Other team members include a young man who played hockey in the states and Europe… as his job. There were a smattering of boys who played varying levels of hockey growing up and a few who had never put on skates, even though they are exceptional athletes in their own sports.
The first few games we watched, just two of us girls doing accounting homework by the rink, were late at night, on Mondays and often frigidly cold. We would bring a box of Timbits for the boys so they had a little something after playing hard but often losing by some margin. They tied one game before getting relegated to the division below. This is when the magic happened!
Watching the boys come into their own, compete, win was exceptional. Even in playoff games the guys who hadn’t skated had ice time, were passed to, were out there just as much as the other team members. Playoffs were something else. Not only did a good number of our classmates come out to cheer the boys on against the second years of our program but so did some of our professors. The air was electric and the game often more exciting than some NHL ones I have been to.
The last game, just a few nights ago, was unreal. Our boys were older, fewer and less obnoxious than the younger undergrads. They were one up most of the game, we would catch up, tie then they would score. Our gritty boys coming back time and time again. Our unexpected goal tender owning the crease. Near the end of the game they were one goal down, it was 5 on 3 as a result of a few penalties taken (I stock some of it up to the fact that our boys could grow moustaches and looked like real men on the ice instead of scrawny boys). They pulled the goalie in the last minute and all I could think of was that game in the first series of the 2004 playoffs, Flames vs Cauncks. I just remember the Flames were up one and there were 10 seconds left in the game… then 5… and then the Canucks scored. That was the moment I learned that it is never too late, that the game’s not over until the buzzer sounds. So in the last 20 seconds of third period with 2 players less on the ice and no goalie in net our boys scored. I am not 100% sure I have ever screamed so loud..
Still down 2 players for almost a minute of the 5 minute overtime I literally couldn’t watch. It’s hard enough watching a team of underdogs when it’s 5 on 5 but 3 on 5… impossible. So as I watched the clock and not the ice suddenly something caught the corner of my eye. It was one of our moustached men, hurtling towards the other team’s net and in another moment of sheer belief the puck was off his stick, in the net, and like nothing else everyone was on their feet, hugging, screaming, laughing.
You see it on TV, gritty, tired teams. Teams of men and women who play hard mostly on the strength of their hearts who win the big game. It is all throwing helmets and gloves, hugging, moments of pure friendship and joy out on the ice because though deep down they know they could win they didn’t necessarily know they would win. It was amazing to see my friends like this. Just so ecstatic. I was moved.
Going for a beer after the game made it even more clear. The guys were just so stoked. Some had won bigger games, some had never won something like this at all. They all mentioned it was something that they wouldn’t forget. Something that would define their time in the MBA program. I get that. I feel the same way. When we started watching them play, weeks and underdressed for freezing arenas ago, I just wanted to watch a game I enjoyed and support my friends. Monday night. I felt part of something. As cheesy as it sounds, this is what this program, and life are about. It made no sense to sit there late on a Monday night in the cold. It may have made little sense but god, it was just so fun.
So that’s it. Our boys are champions. From the start of the season to now it is unbelievable to see how far they have come. To see underdogs win big, as big as you can in Div 2 Rec hockey (yeah, that comes with a trophy).