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Published: 6/3/2008

Playoff hockey not for the weak-willed

Until Monday night, I had watched one professional hockey game in my life, when I went to a St. Louis Blues game in college. No offense to the sport, but I never followed it and don't know much about it.

But I'm a sucker for championship celebrations, whether it's Little League or conference title games. That's why I tuned in periodically to the Stanley Cup Final Game 5 last night to check on what was happening. Halfway through the third period, I kept my TV on NBC, sacrificing what would turn out to be a rare Indians win so I could see happy Detroit Red Wings who I wouldn't be able to name if it wasn't for their names on their jerseys drink from the Cup.

The minutes and seconds flew by and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally pulled their goalie, something I assumed would soon result in a Red Wings goal that would ice the game. A goal came, with less than a minute before Detroit planned to go crazy, but it was Pittsburgh's Max Talbot doing the scoring. On to overtime.

I decided to make a real commitment. As great as it would have been to see the celebration that came so close to happening after three periods, the excitement and happiness would surely be multiplied if the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup on a sudden-death goal in overtime. So when the first overtime started, I settled in. And that's when I realized: I couldn't avert my eyes for even a second.

There was no way I was going to sacrifice sleep and then miss the actual winning goal, the point of my staying up close to 1 a.m. Having so little hockey knowledge, I didn't know there were so few breaks in the action. I started getting a headache from staring at the TV. Not to mention trying to follow the puck.

The Wings took so many shots! I started to get the feeling they weren't going to win when they had so many chances and just weren't scoring. Also, I found it funny that the announcers kept mentioning how tired the players must be. Athletes are often tired at the end of competitions, especially extended ones. It's their job to be in tremendous physical condition so they can withstand it.

As I watched, I realized I didn't even know how many players are on a hockey team. I can talk for hours or days about football, basketball and baseball, but have a lot to learn about hockey. I learned a lot about penalties in the three overtimes I watched, since several were called. When the Penguins scored, I have to admit I felt relief, because it seemed it could go a few more overtimes easily. The game was so intense.

Today I've talked to my coworker, my boyfriend, and my dad about that game. None of them are hockey fans. All of them stayed up late to watch that game. At some point or another, I think we'll all be watching on Wednesday.



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