Let me tell ya something about multiple overtime games when you’re emotionally involved with one of the teams. Somewhere with around five minutes left in the second OT, you make a deal with yourself. You won’t say it out loud of course, but deep within you know that you’ve crossed the threshold where you really don’t care who wins (exempt if elimination is on the table). Sure, you still want your team to score, and try and will every chance into the net even though you know that was actually just a dump-in. But you’re OK with them losing too, so long as it ends. It is the bargaining phase of the marathon playoff game.
It is a direct contrast to what goes on in the NBA, and specifically the game the Florida Panthers-Carolina Hurricanes Game 1 went up against — the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets. After Game 1 and leading into Game 2, it was all about how the Lakers varied their defense against Nikola Jokic and what they might do off of that in Game 2 and what the Nuggets would do to counter, and how they would keep Anthony Davis out of the paint if he wasn’t guarding Jokic and basically an intricate discussion of X’s and O’s.
The Cats and Canes went through all that by the end of the 3rd period, because that’s not how hockey works. And these two teams are kind of mirroring each other anyway, with mobile defenses and offenses predicated on getting their nippy forwards up the ass of said defenses, causing turnovers, shoveling the puck to the net, ruckus. They’ve already stonewalled each other, as evidenced by the four overtimes.
What it’s like to be at a multiple OT game
If you’ve never been to one of these games that don’t end, let me take you through it. With about eight minutes left in the first overtime, you’re already hungover because beer sales within the arena stopped at least an hour ago. If you’re a D-gen like me, your chest is a little sore from the extra cigarette break you weren’t planning on, and you’re basically running on stress and adrenaline. The crowd is still loud and engaged, but there’s a greater desperation to it because most everyone knows it won’t carry over totally through a fourth intermission. It’s akin to trying to make it to the next rest stop when the light has already gone on and you really have to go to the bathroom. By the way, you also really have to go to the bathroom.
With the beginning of the second overtime, not only are you disappointed with every shot that doesn’t go in simply because you still want the win, but you secretly loathe every player who misses the net for allowing this to go on. Even the opposing ones. This grows exponentially as the clock begins to tick, and somewhere in the third OT, you’re cursing the children of the d-man who just sent an open look to the glass five feet wide of the net and swearing vengeance upon his ancestors. Just let me go home, you’re thinking. As you get nearer the end of the third OT, you’re not even sure you have a home anymore, or where it might be, or what’s contained within, and you’re pretty sure in the next section over there’s a blind guy singing about the life you used to have. No one can see him but you.
When the third overtime starts, you’re basically watching yourself watch the game, and everything moves in slow motion. The players are actually moving in slow motion because they’re so exhausted, but every lean forward or rise out of your seat feels like someone else is doing it. It’s like you’re watching yourself in motion smoothing. You can no longer go to the bathroom because you’ve been drained of bodily fluid, and any trip there between overtimes is more for the group therapy session. You’re also sure this will be the last time you feel the warmth of a human close to you, assuming that isn’t just some college kid pissing on your leg. Which at this point, what’s the difference?
With 10 to go in the sixth period you’re a complete shell, hollowed out inside, a husk of a human. The game has lost all meaning, it’s quite possible your life has followed suit, and you smell like anarchy — the product of wearing a hockey jersey deep into the spring. This is truly the aura of hockey, a true stink shrouded in the loss of purpose surrounded by others who have lost touch with humanity.
Whenever the goal finally goes in, there is the slightest jolt of life, merely enough to get you home, a survivor’s instinct. You can’t really understand what it means for the game or the series or for either team, you’re just reacting to noise. Like when you see a pack of people running you start running. There’s a group instinct.
You wake up the next morning (afternoon), your head hurts, you still smell, and your quads and hamstrings feel like they’re filled with cement and now they are swearing vengeance on your ancestors. You chug a Gatorade, only 75 percent of which actually makes it to your mouth. Then you start to put the pieces of your life back together.
After all, Game 2 is tomorrow.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate.