Sports Memories And Playoff Hockey

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I was a lucky child.  I grew up around sports in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I was privileged to watch the amazing 49ers teams of the 80’s and to have a great father take me to Oakland Athletics games three or four times a month to watch my heroes of the day.  Guys like Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dennis Eckersley, and Dave Stewart were plastered all over my wall and filled shoeboxes in my closet and drawers…Ok, I lied.  I had nothing hanging on my walls because my mother didn’t want to ruin the paint.  But I promise I had a lot of baseball cards!   I lived in a town that hosted a ton of undeniably great athletes, and no doubt, the dramatic games and victories that naturally come with that kind of talent. 

One would expect that seeing such great players and games, living through the 1989 earthquake that interrupted the Battle by the Bay World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, would lead to some unforgettable sports memories.  I do indeed have some truly amazing memories that I still hold dearly from my childhood in the Bay Area.  BUT… I have one sports memory that trumps all of those great childhood memories. 

April 11, 2004 was one of the greatest days in my life, let alone as a sports fan.  After following a sub-par, but always exciting hockey team for 5 years, I had finally watched the Predators eek out the 8th seed in the 2004 playoff race.  Lucky us!  We got to play the #1 seeded Red Wings, who all Preds fans had grown to HATE…and fear.  In retrospect, the scariest thing about the Wings back then was the fact that Chris Chelios was only 41 years old.  We had lost the first two games of the series in Detroit, but big deal.  They say that until you beat the other team in their arena, it is anyone’s series to win.  This was game 3.  This was the night we were going to prove to the world that we belonged in the NHL and deserved our spot in the playoffs.

It was a Sunday, so I had all day to look forward to the game.  We got downtown early, watched some of the zany pre-game festivities, and took our seats in the 300 level of the arena.  The lights finally dimmed and the arena erupted.  Bam-Bam sticks were banging, people were cheering, pom-pom strings were being detached in the thousands as people violently whipped them around.  It was truly amazing.  I felt adrenaline pumping like never before…and I hadn’t even bought an $8 beer yet!   A co-worker of mine and long time Wings fan had told me before the game that the playoff hockey environment was like nothing else.  He had hit the nail on the head. 

Do you remember this, Preds Fans?  LISTEN TO THE NOISE!!!

The crowd continued to be ridiculously loud for the duration of the game.  We ended up winning the game 3-1, but we could have lost for all I cared.  Just being in the building and feeling the intense energy that goes along with an NHL playoff game was enough to vault it to the top of my best ever sports moments.  The Preds won the next home game and then dropped the final 2 games of the series, sending them home for the longest offseason of most of their careers.  The 2004-2005 lockout was a real bummer, wasn’t it?  But, if it wasn’t for the lockout, would we have the awesome trapezoid area?  Ask yourselves that.

This is my greatest sports memory.  What was yours?        

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