(Okay, okay, I know. It's not actually Monday anymore, but I got in late last night, so cut me a little slack and pretend.)
Part two of the co-captains mini-series:
Chris Drury - The 7.7 Second Goal
No contest. This is not only my favorite moment of Drury, but also of the entire season, and possibly of my hockey fan career. (Granted it only encompasses about a year, but still.)
Allow me to set the scene a little: It's May 4th, and I'm on my way home from Minnesota for the summer. I'm at the tail end of the most hellish week of finals imaginable, one that required I spend fourteen hours a day cramped in a tiny design studio, constructing miniature set pieces out of toothpicks and foam core. Over the course of three days I managed to grab a grand total of eight hours of sleep, and in any minute not spent sleeping, eating, or frantically hot-gluing, I could be found running around trying to pack and store all of my stuff in preparation for the trip back to Buffalo. Even once I get home, I still won't be done, since a Monday deadline gives me just under three days to research and write a ten-page paper. I am, in a word, exhausted. And even worse, I'm hockey-deprived. Due to my hectic schedule, I was only able to catch Game 2 of the Rangers series, and I unknowingly scheduled my flight on the night of Game 5.
I pass out on the plane ride, despite my playoffs-related stress, and find myself suddenly in Buffalo at around 9:00pm. As people switch on their cell phones, all they ask about is the game, and the score spreads through the cabin in a wave. Even as I speed-dial my sister to let her know I'm in, I overhear the guy next to me repeating, "Zero-zero going into the third?" to his phone, seemingly for my benefit. My sister, listening to the radio in the car, corroborates, and I find myself sharing anxious glances with people I don't know in the slightest as we all move toward baggage claim. Through the churning in my stomach--series tied, game scoreless, one period to go--I feel a thrill. This is precisely why I drove myself nuts by booking my flight days before I needed to: to share the playoffs with like-minded strangers, fans as crazy as I am to invest so much in a game.
I meet my sister at the curb, and after a warm but quick hug, she helps me with my bags and tells me it's still tied at zero. It's about a forty minute drive back to our house, and we have a go at catching up, but we're only half-listening to each other, our main focus on the radio. Halfway home, the Rangers score, and we shut up for good. We're stung; we weren't expecting this. As the precious few seconds of the remaining regulation tick down, we can feel our playoff hopes disappearing with them. The Rangers ice the puck with sixteen seconds left, and my sister whispers, "It's over." I want to say, "But Drury's on the ice," but instead I just lean forward into the dashboard, anxious and silent as they set up for the face-off. I'm thinking, this can't happen, it can't really end like this.
And, of course, it doesn't. I don't even bother trying to process the words of the play-by-play, because I know that if, when we score, Rick Jeanneret will lose his mind, and that's all I need to listen for. As the patented RJ wail of "SCOOOOOOOORES" fills the car, my sister and I turn to each other, mouths gaping in disbelief. We erupt into screams, connect a couple of frantic high fives, start pounding on the seats, windows, anything we can get our hands on. We quiet down just long enough to hear Jeanneret yell "CHRIS DRUUUUURY, who else? Who else?" and I feel vindicated, proud. That's my captain. My sister lays on the horn so hard the car in front of us pulls over onto the shoulder. They're obviously not listening to the game. We fly the rest of the way home, and I feel lighter than I've felt in the past month. There's still the overtime period to go, but I don't have any doubts. We're not going to lose this game. Not now. When we pull in the driveway, OT has already started, so I run in the house, give cursory greetings to my parents, and park myself in front of the TV. It's not long before I can celebrate properly the win I already knew was coming. Max Afinogenov belly flops at center ice, and my household shares hugs and high fives. It's the best welcome home present I could ever ask for.
The funny part is, it's not until the next morning when I hit up YouTube that I actually get to see the game-tying goal. It is a thing of beauty. It looks (even in retrospect) like destiny. From Drury's stick, the puck finds its way through Thomas Vanek's legs, around Henrik Lunqvist, and somehow, impossibly eluding two defenders, into a tiny sliver of open net. It's truly magical. And as I'm writing this, I'm discovering, to great delight, that my love for this goal goes above and beyond anything to do with the guy who scored it. Yes, it's quintessential Drury, the kind of moment he's famous for creating, and that's certainly part of the reason I loved it initially. But it's not his moment. Ultimately, no matter what sweater he wears now, that moment belongs to us, to Buffalo, to the people who jumped out of their seats in HSBC, or on top of each other in the plaza outside. It belongs to me, in desperate need of a pick-me-up, a reason to scream my way home from the airport. And that's good to know. It's good to know that, despite a tiny twinge of heartbreak, this video still plasters a smile on my face. Because this goal is about the pure, unadulterated elation, not the guy who caused it. Still, in that moment, I could not have loved Chris Drury more.
Okay, there. I got it off my chest. Briere, Drury, you will be remembered, you will be missed. Now get out of my life for a little while and let me heal.