We waited a long, long time to wake up to this. The San Jose Sharks won the Western Conference title last night and come Monday at 5 p.m. will play in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, after years of frustration and derision at the hands of media members, are going to play in the Stanley Cup Final. Long derided for what they hadn't done rather than praised for what they have, Jumbo and Patty finally have an opportunity to silence their critics.
Long billed as the future of the franchise, Logan Couture tallied three points and scored the dagger while first-year captain Joe Pavelski got things started on the right note with his early goal.
Many times during this playoff run I've been asked what's different about these Sharks? What's changed for Thornton and Marleau?
With a smile I've been able to answer every single time: Not a damn thing. These guys have poured their hearts and souls into this franchise, even when it wasn't easy and even when nobody could have blamed them for jumping ship. They stuck around because they care about this team, they care about each other and they care about this fanbase.
The Shark Tank rocked and rolled all night Wednesday. From the moment the puck dropped, to Pavelski's game-opener all the way to Joel Ward's game winner I've never heard the building so loud. As someone who took a liking to the Sharks early, but didn't fully jump on board until seven years ago, I can only imagine what this feels like for the diehard that have waited 25 long years for this.
To the fans that have stuck around through all of this, through the playoff heartache and last year's frustration: Thank you. We wouldn't be here without you.
To the broadcasters, front office staff and concession workers who have given years of their lives to this organization: Thank you.
To Dan Rusanowsky and Randy Hahn, who have been with this franchise since its infancy and given us the soundtrack to all the Sharks' biggest moments: Thank you.
To the players — from Pavelski to Tommy Wingels, thank you for bringing Sharks fans what we've been begging for year after year: a shot at the Stanley Cup.
And to Thornton and Marleau, the players who have taken the brunt of the criticism from fans and media alike, thank you. This means so much more knowing that you both get an opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup this summer. Thank you for putting up with us when we weren't grateful enough and thank you for sticking around despite the off-ice drama that comes with unfulfilled dreams.
Lastly, to everyone reading this: Thank you. This has been an incredible ride and I'm so thankful to go on it with all of you. Let's enjoy this today. The real work begins on Monday.
San Jose is going to the Stanley Cup Final.