For the island nations of the southwest Indian Ocean, the cyclone season nears its conclusion. As you likely know (certainly from recent tragedy suffered in this nation on account of Mother Nature's wrath), storms are named in alphabetical order, using names submitted in advance of the season's commencement. This cyclone season hasn't, and probably won't, make it to "O," but Cyclone Ovechkin made landfall in Chinatown on Friday night with torrent of red rain, a sound and fury that raised the spirits of Caps Nation and battered the Ranger fleet. The emotion displayed, the intensity of being in the eye of the maelstrom amidst the delirious fans at Centre Verizón forged memories I will cherish for a good long while.
For sure, it was not just Alex Ovechkin who shone on that night, and set the stage for what we blissfully observed yesterday afternoon. But he unquestionably remains the driving, growing force of Les Capitals, who these days act as if they will not be denied victory by anyone. By any means necessary.
Game 5 was a poignant reminder of why we go to the games. Travel, spend perhaps hundreds on tickets and overpriced concessions. Innovations in HDTV coverage for sure make for a greater home viewing experience by several orders of magnitude. And your living room sofa is comfy, I presume. But the feeling of being in such a unified, ridiculously charged crowd, is indescribable. As Ovie dismantled the Blueshirts defense and willed himself to score that fourth goal, we fans willed our team to victory, en masse, every man, woman, and child (save for the perilously few infidels wearing blue) united, with our full throats, hearts, souls. We would not be denied.
In response to questioning about the John Tortorella meltdown that night, the Rangers head coach allowing his apparently tissue-paper thin defenses, his composure, to be broken down in the face of verbal taunting, The Great Eight said:
Good job by our fans. Our fans are one more player for us. They do what they have to do for us.
As a reward, we stood, awe-struck, when Alex forced the puck through Henrik Lundqvist for what was essentially that game-clinching tally. As if we were one of the Wright brothers transported through time to witness first-hand a Concorde exploding off of the Tarmac.
Of course, what really set the house on fire was watching Matt Bradley roof a backhand past Lundqvist, who at that point still seemed otherworldly. A guy like Ovechkin is off the charts, but we can dare to imagine ourselves, in our boyhood fantasies, in Bradley's skates. The unsung hero, performing a miracle, the unthinkable. I can't remember him ever scoring on a backhand, not to mention earning the first star in a playoff game to save the team from extinction. Keep livin' the Canadian Dream, Brads.
While being in the thicket of crimson (and scarlet), such a multitude expending such reckless energy, it was far from a place of anxiety or danger. It was a potent mixture of unbridled joy, pride, and defiance stirring in a bubbling cauldron. But this was not the chaotic, tumultuous, claustrophobia-inducing crowds of, say, the streets of Bombay. The combination of new fans excited by the brilliance of our Big Four and long time, long-suffering, fans starving and parched, desperate for glory, makes for a fine live viewing environment. This was a place where strangers screamed with glee together, high-fived and hugged.
It is written, alright.
Forget the supposed electricity of MSG, a "real hockey arena." One where vendors roam the concourse to sell Dr. Seuss-style hats and sticks of cotton candy that tower over the heads of the assembled, obstructing the views of even prime ticket holders. Where "fans" rise, leave or return to their seats at a whim, without regard to what transpires on the ice below. Where those same "fans" discuss their portfolios or, worse, baseball, while attending a riveting hockey game. The cyclone that is Caps Nation right now, the vibe at 7th and F Street, simply cannot be beat.
Tomorrow, let that storm crash down all over again, and wash away the Rangers for good.