When your team gets eliminated from the playoffs (or just doesn’t make the playoffs), an emotional healing process is necessary to get over the pain. As we get down to the final two, here are some of the steps every NHL fan goes through when his or her team is done for the season. And yes, all the classic stages of grief are included.
Denial and isolation: The first stage of grief is also the first stage of a hockey loss. As soon as the clock ticks to 0:00, a certain sinking feeling sets in. Did that really just happen? Are we really done for the year? WE REALLY LOST TO THAT TEAM?! You may choose to go directly into bed to avoid contact with anyone else. Or you may chose to go directly to your liquor cabinet. Either way, any human contact is not appreciated.
Anger (towards your team): Right after the denial stage comes the anger. Anger is a two-part process. First, you might think something along the lines of “how could they do this to me?!” while running through all the times they could have changed the outcome. Missed opportunities, giveaways, penalties, etc. “I can’t believe Tuukka didn’t make that save. I COULD HAVE MADE THAT SAVE.”
Anger (towards other teams and fans of other teams): Now, maybe you’ve convinced yourself your team did everything they could to win (or maybe not). Either way, though, you have a lot of built up contempt for other teams who are still in the run for the Cup. Including their fans. While the grieving process may only last a few days or weeks, this anger towards the team that eliminated you will last at least a full season. AKA, until you have a new team to hate.
Bargaining: “Dear Hockey Gods, I promise to never complain about penalties and/or the refs again if you go back in time and make the Ducks beat the Kings.”
Depression: At this point you’re over being angry and you’ve realized that the Hockey Gods cannot actually go back in time and change the outcome of your loss. The sadness sets in. Depending on your devotion to your team, your sadness can vary anywhere from a “slightly bummed” to an actual feeling of depression. Tears may be shed, mass amounts of ice cream may be consumed, school or work may be missed. All are acceptable ways to deal with the sadness, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Acceptance: Now, you’ve finally begun to accept that your team is no longer in the race. You might even pick a new team to pretend to root for just to make watching the next rounds more fun. Watching hockey is finally starting to become fun again. Life is starting to finally go back to normal.
Hope for next year: So you’ve finally accepted that this season is over and now you’re looking forward to a bright future. While the rest of the Cup run is going on (and for months after) you’re refreshing websites to see if there have been any big moves for your team. Checking cap space, free agents, and trade rumors will undoubtedly take over a big chunk of your time until the season opener.