I Have a Friend Who Is Missing

Cup'pa JoeDay 1 orphaned from our team — it’s the toughest day of the calendar year. We’re like nomads of sport, a clan of wanderers searching in vain for some engagement with our team. It rang true and sour and somber for me Thursday morning in a way it never had before. I rode Metro to and from the office, and on both trips the cars I rode and others I saw pass through the system were disconcertingly, disspiritingly free of our team’s color, after so many months of flowering there in red. I was, suddenly, a commuter in a city without color. 

And that made me feel like we were, suddenly, a city just like all the others, when for so many months we were one so distinguished from all the others.

Those trains, most especially on game days, had become so clogged with red this season they resembled well tended gardens of carnations . . . of crazies. Thursday morning I found myself missing them, and missing that sight. Friday morning it will seem slightly less a moment of mourning, just slightly, and in two weeks’ time I suppose I will be wholly immersed in the normalcy of the offseason. In other words, pining for puck. But in a weird way I liked this ache I harbored on day one. It’s good to care so.   

It’s interesting how on a day like Thursday we have no appetite whatsoever for the allures of spring. I didn’t want to lunch outside or split from work early and smack a bucket of golf balls. Instead I wanted, very very badly, to feel the refrigerated chill of an ice rink again. 

One of our readers yesterday shared with us a Twitter message he came across that he thought best summed up our present condition: “Caring about a team can really suck.”

Poignant, that.  

Thursday hadn’t quite arrived before I heard from the Hershey Bears, in two separate messages of most welcomed exhortation: Get your butt up here and cover some more puck, was the gist of the outreach, a most welcomed comfort call. Allow me for the one hundred and fifteenth instance to remind you of how lucky we are to call them partners. The Bears are playing deep in the postseason — they’ve reached the American League’s Eastern conference finals for the third time in the past four years — because that’s just what the Bears do.

I will leave for Hershey late tomorrow morning, check into my lodging, and take in games one and two against the Providence Bruins Saturday and Sunday. I’d have made the trip without the urging of my friends in that organization, but this weekend especially seeing them and absorbing that extraordinary Giant Center atmosphere will prove a particularly helpful tonic. It’ll be a chunk of great puck that means something to me, but also it will be an engagement with the game that bridges me ever so closer to fall camp. Yes, I am already thinking of that.

Incidentally, there are some tickets remaining for both of this weekend’s games, and if you visit the Bears’ web site, you can learn of an extraordinary promotion: staying the weekend at the famous Hershey Lodge for just $89 a night! That is a deal of deals. I’ve stayed there; it’s a gorgeous piece of property.

If it feels like a great friend is gone from our daily company now, welcome in another this weekend if you can’t travel but your schedule allows: the Bears’ John Walton is one click away from joining you in your home on Saturday night and delivering hockey vibrantly back into your life. I get to join JW on the Bears’ broadcast during the first intermission Saturday night. I’m pretty sure John is going to ask me to offer up some manner of reflection on the Capitals’ season. Even this week it won’t be difficult for me to bring a merry message.  

I’m jazzed for this visit North — it’ll afford me my first view of John Carlson in action. I can’t wait to see him play. I can’t wait to talk to him. He’s not your typical CHL spring signee wearing a sweater and stepping out on the ice for 5 or 7 minutes of guarded participation, but rather patrolling the Bears’ blueline as a top-four difference-maker. I want to see for myself what all his buzz is about. Can it really be the case that he looks so polished right now that he can be plausibly forecasted to meaningfully help the Caps as early as next autumn?      

I’ll also pay particular attention to some of my favorite prospects this weekend: Andrew Gordon, Oskar Osala, Mathieu Perreault, Chris Bourque and of course Michal Neuvirth. Our other goalie shut out Wilkes Barre-Scranton in both elimination games Hershey confronted in round two!

But mostly I’ll just be grateful to spend a few hours this weekend with a much-needed friend again. Two great friends are better than one.  

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5 Responses to I Have a Friend Who Is Missing

  1. Brian says:

    And we will look forward to your coverage of our team up here in Hershey. For those coming to the game, there is a tweetup being planned. Check out http://twitter.com/hersheybears for info.

  2. Flying Cloud says:

    Thanks for your hopeful words about our sprouts up on the farm, I’m hoping they win, and look forward to your commentary. Perhaps some of our Caps will attend as well. If so, please thank them for a fabulous season.
    I find the letdown is much worse today. Yesterday we were all stunned and speculating about what went wrong, but today I’m somewhat tearful actually, which I hope will wear off as the day goes on or it could prove to be embarrassing. The term, “exit interviews,” has an ominous ring to it. Or less like a ring, more like a whopping great thud. We are accustomed to seeing the boys about the place rather a lot, and already every sidewalk, hall and restaurant looks empty. I will miss them. They were cheerful and inspiring. Especially my hero, Fedorov, who even at his age was on pace for more than 50 points in the regular season and was such an influence — Horrid to think of him gone! I cannot stand it.
    While the rest of our team is reconstituted, I expect to spend the summer mending a broken heart, in a state of high anxiety, made more acute by the dreaded family vacation. Need coping mechanisms! Bears not enough! Other suggestions welcome.

  3. Eric says:

    It’s not pro-hockey but there is always the Labatt Blue USA Hockey Adult tourney in Laurel this weekend. My team is Bring Beer. We’re asking all of our friends and family to wear green to our games at 8p tonight, 11a Saturday morning and 8:45p Saturday evening. GO BRING BEER!

  4. NS2NOVA says:

    Wife and I will be there tomorrow night to cheer on the baby Caps.

  5. Truehockeymom says:

    Game 7 hurt more than that 4-overtime nedved’s goal. It’s like your lover disappeared without saying good bye. I too will be in Hershey on Sunday. Thanks for your coverage.

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