(photo: Dinur Blum)
The sting of a loss. One game is doable, you get over it and move on. A string of losses allows the funk, the doubt, to set in and you start to question if it’s something you can overcome. When you’ve lost more games in your season than you’ve won, sitting below the .500 mark, every game becomes a test of your mettle. Sometimes the puck luck just isn’t in the cards.
There are teams who know the painful path of loss intimately. The Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs understand consecutive losses in a row and what it means to be in the basement, playoff hopes vanishing even before the All-Star Break hits. Some teams, like the Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames are climbing the stairs, no longer bottom dwellers but actual contenders in the playoff picture. Other teams have been spoiled. Who can remember when the Detroit Red Wings didn’t make the playoffs? Exactly.
It’s been one of those years. One where you know in your gut that your team just isn’t good enough. Glimmers of the team that could are there, but like a mirage, the closer you look the more the team just isn’t what it seems.
This season has not been kind to Northern California hockey fans. It has been torture on the heart. At the NHL level, the San Jose Sharks, after having an epic collapse in the the 2014 Playoffs to the team that shall remain nameless, have pretty much sealed their fate for this year’s playoff race; they won’t be in it. The math just doesn’t work out. Eleven years of consecutive playoff appearances comes to an end for Team Teal and the golf clubs will come out early just like the warm weather did this year.
The Stockton Thunder, Northern California’s only ECHL minor league hockey team, lost their bid for the playoff race a few weeks ago and will finish the season in all likelihood, in last place. I could count on one hand the number of times I witnessed the Thunder win at home this season. The team that has called the Central Valley home for the past ten years is leaving too, to be replaced with the Stockton Heat, AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames for next season. It’s a disappointing end to a team that has been such a powerhouse in years past.
What do you do when your team doesn’t win? When they don’t make it into bonus hockey territory? The natural reaction is to tear the team apart. It’s the time of the year when every hockey fan becomes a GM and a Coach. Should have. Could have. Didn’t. Do you not renew your season tickets to show your disdain? As hockey fans we may have flashes of anger but ultimately, we keep going back. In the end, regardless of how the team plays, the love for the game runs deep, even after a 10-2 loss. Our passion for the puck is inconsolable. The ice runs thick in our veins.
So if the season comes to an early end, you could always hit the links along with your favorite team.