FANS CAUGHT IN GRIP OF STANLEY CUP FEVER

You are calm. You are serene. You are a perfectly mature adult who is not the least bit worried that tonight could mark the quick death of a once promising hockey season. Not at all.

“Coffee?” asks your spouse.

“COFFEY? WHAT ABOUT COFFEY? DON’T TELL ME HE GOT HURT! THAT’S ALL WE NEED! HOW DID HE GET HURT? BLAST IT! CURSES! RATS! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!”

Your spouse runs upstairs. Must be having a bad day.

Not you. You are fine. You are at peace. You go to work, enter your office, nod at your colleagues.

One of them says, “How’s things?”

“HOWE’S THINGS? WHICH THINGS? IT’S HIS BACK AGAIN, RIGHT? HE CAN’T PLAY TONIGHT? HOWE’S OUT? GREAT! THAT’S ALL WE NEED! BLAST IT! DAG-NAB IT! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?”

Your colleagues scatter. Some dive under the desk. Must have lost a contact lens, you figure.

Oh, well. Just another day for you. Never mind that the Wings play the Sharks in Game 6 of the playoffs tonight, that they are down to their last gasp — and it’s only the first round.

Never mind that should they lose, the next possible playoff game of any kind in this city would be baseball in October, and, given the Tigers, we’re talking October 2003.

So what? You are completely unmoved. Couldn’t care less. You sit at your desk and, quite by accident, take a piece of paper, draw a picture of a shark and begin to stab it over and over. Symptoms are familiar

Oh, once upon a time, you let this hockey team get to you. Like last season, when the Wings exited the playoffs in the first round, and you swore
— what was it, exactly? — that you would eat camel droppings before you’d go to another game?

Or 1992, when they needed seven games to squeak past the first round, then were swept in four by the hated Blackhawks? And you swore you would — what was it again? — learn the lyrics to The Osmond Brothers Greatest Hits before you’d watch another playoff?

Remember 1991, another first-round exit, to St. Louis, when you didn’t speak for the entire summer? Or 1990, when they missed the playoffs altogether
— even though missing the hockey playoffs is like missing the Atlantic Ocean in a boat?

Remember? You walked around the house in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling, “All is doomed. Prepare for the end. Bring a change of pads, just in case.”

That was then. This is now.

Your boss pokes his head in.

“All’s good?” he says.

“OSGOOD?” you say. “DON’T EVEN MENTION OSGOOD! TWO STINKIN’ SHOTS, AND HE LETS THEM BOTH IN! THIS KID CAN’T EVEN SHAVE, AND WE’RE DEPENDING ON HIM TO SAVE OUR NECKS? I HATE THIS! I HATE THIS! DANG IT! CURSES! OH, THE HORROR! WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE?”

Your boss leaves quickly, calls the front desk for security.

Must have lots on his mind.

You take out a yardstick, hold it with both hands and whack it into the imaginary face of Sergei Makarov. No cure in sight

Now, admittedly, you thought this season might be different. The Wings had a new coach, Scotty Bowman, who had actually won the Stanley Cup six times. They had Fedorov, Yzerman, Primeau, Sheppard — the most explosive offense in the game. And, of course, they no longer had goalie Tim Cheveldae who, after last year’s playoffs, you affectionately referred to as “Satan.”

But you’ve changed. Reformed. After the first game of this series against San Jose — which the Wings lost, at home — something clicked. Went numb. Suddenly you were beyond anger or rage. You were . . . calm.

To be honest, even you are puzzled as to how little hockey seems to matter.

Ah, well. Must be part of growing up. On your way home from work, you flick on the radio. A politician is talking about an election.

“The chase is on . . .”

“STEVE CHIASSON?” you say.

“. . . for a wiser man . . .”

“YZERMAN?”

“. . . In the words of President Kennedy . . .”

“SHELDON KENNEDY?”

“. . . America’s goal . . .”

“GOAL? GOAL? NOT ANOTHER GOAL! WHO SCORED? THEY SCORED? NO! NO! CURSES! NUTS! TAKE ME NOW, LORD! I’M READY! WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE?

You swerve the wheel and cause an 80-car collision. The Lodge is backed up for miles. I-94 is at a standstill. As you drive away, hundreds of people scream at you and shake their fists.

“This city really needs to calm down,” you tell yourself. “These hockey playoffs are making everybody crazy.”

You drive home, make a sandwich, and congratulate yourself on your newfound calm. And as you flick on the TV, quite by accident to the station that telecasts the game, you wonder exactly when it was that Sheldon Kennedy became President.

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