Saturday, May 22, 2004.
As a sports fan, there are certain inevitable truths that however unfounded they may be, I hold near and dear to my heart. One of them is the Flyers would not lose that series against Calgary. There was just no way. That was the year. That was the team. I know it. I'll always know it. Even if I never got a chance to see it.
We all know what happened that day. There is no need to run through the events. The overly drawn out narrative of Dave Andreychuk. The cruel torturous hope provided by Kim Johnsson. We all know how it ended. And it's too depressing to think about.
Yet I can't help but dwell on it. So what if the Phillies, who I love just as much as the Flyers, won a World Series since then. So what if after the direct kick to the junk the Panthers gave the Eagles in January 2004, they would finally make the Super Bowl one year later? So what if the Flyers have gotten over the Eastern Conference Finals hurdle?
That feeling of lost opportunity from 2004. Primeau. Gagne. Roenick. Kapanen. LeClair. Recchi. Markov. Johnsson. Radivojevic.
I could go on. Those were the guys. That was the team. The over-achievements of the 2010 team, as fun as they were to watch and celebrate in, do not and cannot replace the emptiness of 2004. They can't take back the tears I cried. They can't replace the nights I spent thinking "what if.....what if......."
Friday, May 27, 2011.
It's been seven years since the Tampa Bay Lightning won that Stanley Cup. It's been 2561 days since that infamous Game 7. I've grown from adolescent to adult in that time. I was just finishing middle school then. I am a year away from finishing college now. I am a different person now then I was then. But that hole in my heart created by that game is still there.
Despite winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, this is the first year since then the Lightning have won a playoff series since then. Their only two playoff appearances since Andreychuk lifted the Cup were both as bottom seeds. The Lightning bowed out in the first round both times while barely making any noise both times. Now, after 6 years of having never tasted a playoff victory, this year, the Lightning find themselves in the very place they were 2561 days ago. Game seven. Eastern Conference Finals.
The opponent may not be the Flyers. In fact, it is the team that eliminated the Flyers from this year's playoffs. But that means very little for me. If I can't have that feeling of victory, then the next best thing is to put the hole in my heart into the heart of the Lightning fans. The same fanbase that bombarded a team's PR agency with death threats over a poster. The same fanbase that has allowed their arena to feel like Prudential Center during playoff games with the amount of Bruin fans there. The same fanbase that threw projectiles onto the ice after a win that only forced a road Game 7. If there is anyone that deserves to feel what I am feeling, it is them. For what their team did to me seven years ago. For the way they have conducted themselves this series.
Some Flyers fans want the Lightning to win a Stanley Cup for Simon Gagne. Me, I do not want Gagne anywhere near that Cup. For all the fear of the moronic collective's reaction to two superstar goalies in the Stanley Cup, imagine the reaction to Gagne in the Stanley Cup. Idiotic hindsight will want Homer's neck on a guillotine. It is nothing personal against Gagne, but him winning the Stanley Cup this year with Tampa will be the biggest slap in the face to the Flyers. Fuck Simon Gagne. Fuck the Lightning. Fuck Lightning fans.
I've been waiting for this moment for seven years now. Only half of the equation may be there now, but I can still hope for the result I wanted then. I'll never get 2004 back, but Tampa can feel the pain of losing to a largely unlikeable team in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. The pain of being one game short of the Stanley Cup Finals. The pain of knowing their team with a ton of Heart that never gave up was one game short of a sweet victory and a chance at a Stanley Cup.
The thought may never cross his mind, but for one night, in this Flyers fan's mind, Dennis Seidenberg stands alone as a man amongst men in Boston. His objective tonight: To carry the torch for the 2003-2004 Flyers. To help his team eliminate the Lightning. For Seidenberg, it's a rare second chance. For the Boston Bruins as a whole, it is a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990.
The Flyers organization may not have a shot at victory in this year's playoffs, but living vicariously through the Boston Bruins, I have a chance to feel something almost as fulfilling: Revenge. Sweet revenge.