It is January 5, 2018. The weather outside is -34C (-30F), which means it is so cold that my phone is slow and laggy. I live in a city where the air actively tries to hurt you for 4-6 months. I also have a raging hangover that seemingly cannot be vanquished no matter how much Advil and poutine I throw at it. However, it was totally worth it because the Sharks rolled into Toronto on their annual visit last night.
So, join me in a trip down memory lane for the second annual Sharks-Leafs game diary. Similar to last year, these are my thoughts and feelings during last night’s game, having consumed my share of adult beverages. Disclaimer—they are very reactionary, as once inside enemy lines, everything is more dramatic. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
Two hours to puck drop: My best friend Ben, noted Leafs fan, has arrived in the 6ix. We grab some beers, turn on The Office, and descend into chirping each other. My main tactic is to remind him that this is the seventh game in as many years that we have gone to and the Sharks have remained undefeated in all seven. His main tactic is to say “Auston Matthews,” “William Nylander,” and “13 Cups” over and over. He has a point. This is the first year I have felt truly scared, but nevertheless, I dig in and fire back. The night has begun in the best possible way.
40 minutes to puck drop: Our Uber driver is having none of our shit. He will not indulge our questions and actually turns up the volume a bit on the radio. Vasu, we gave you four stars—because we aren’t monsters.
20 minutes to puck drop: These a-holes put Patrick Marleau on the ticket. I am outraged. We head straight for the closest beer counter.
Ten minutes to puck drop: $37 FOR TWO LARGE BEERS?!?!?!? I forgot the Air Canada Centre (ACC) had insane prices. I also notice there are wayyyyyy less Sharks fans this year. Noticeably less. It is semi off-putting, as it means I am more susceptible to trash talking. I mentally prepare my best comebacks. I am locked in, bring it on leafs Nation.
Five minutes to puck drop: We locate our seats. They were fairly expensive, but we are about ten rows from the ice. Definitely worth it. I also take note of the surroundings. There are three Sharks faithful in our section. There’s a 20-something dude in a Marleau jersey behind me. We make eye contact and give each other the look that said we have each other’s back. There is also an approximately 10-year-old kid two rows in front. He is wearing a jersey with his own name on it. That is a big jersey foul, little man. He did put number 13 on it though, a known sniper’s number. I like the bravado. I have respect for ya kid.
Five minutes to puck drop: They announce the starting lineup, naming Marleau last. I boo him. I didn’t want to, but I am hurt inside and I didn’t know what else to do. I lashed out. I am not proud, but it felt good. I needed that. It’s like in Love, Actually, when the Walking Dead guy pretends to be a caroler to tell his best friend’s wife, using giant cue cards, that he loves her. She gives him a quick platonic kiss in thanks. He then says “Enough. It’s over.” That’s how I feel now. I got my boo in. Enough, it’s over. I hope you are happy, Patrick. Goodbye, my sweet prince.
Puck Drop: During the Canadian national anthem, the ACC staff pass a gigantic Leafs flag over one side of the lower bowl and a gigantic Canada flag over the other side. We get to be under the Canada flag! Super exciting and cool. Starts the game off in a unique way for us. A quick jersey scan reveals a Setoguchi, lots of Thorntons and Marleaus, Couture has a solid showing, one Nabby, three DeMelos sitting beside each other (I have lots of questions), and one Clowe. I wore my Nolan jersey because I am superstitious.
FIRST PERIOD (time indicated is what remains in the period)
20:00: Kadri, don’t do it man. It’s not worth it.
19:58: WOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWW THIS IS WILD!!!! The ACC is electric right now.
16:10: No earthly idea how Jones saved that shot. I then decide to tweet at friend of the blog/pod Steve Fishman (@SFish415, go follow him) “I have a full Joner tonight buddy.” Jones seems locked in. I like it.
16:10: Penalty kills are way more intense in person. This is nerve racking.
15:02: Take a seat, Rielly. Breaking the rules, you goon.
14:56: Why does Burns always shoot? Why?
12:21: It would be great if there were not so many odd-man rushes. It is frustrating. Also, would like to reiterate my full Joner tonight.
11:45: Vlasic, you sweet, sweet man—you are not a good shooter. This is also not shocking.
10:46: A Leaf got injured! Who is it? Roman Polak? Dammit, Polak getting injured is actually an advantage for the Leafs. Also Roman, you cost the Sharks the 2016 Stanley Cup by turning in your best orange pylon performance.
9:04: More Leafs goonery.
9:04: The man behind me made a “Thornton is just angry tonight because they make the playoffs every year and lose” joke. Excuse me sir, the Leafs haven’t won the Cup since 1967. They haven’t won a playoff series since like 2004. So shut it.
6:57: This power play is anemic. Come on. Do something.
5:03: The kid next to Ben is absolutely giving me the gears right now. He is wearing a Matthews shirsey. He knows how to chirp. Can I chirp a 12-year-old kid? I’ve never contemplated this before.
3:04: The child and Ben have bonded. I am alone in this world now.
1:51: Oh no. Oh no Labanc got his ankles broken. RIP Kev dog.
1:23: FML. You’d think the Sharks would try harder against the Leafs top line. Also, upon reflection, that was a great tip.
0:30: The same man now said, “Thornton is a good passer.” Thanks tips, way to break that news. Why don’t you put it in an email and CC everyone? Make sure everyone got it.
First period summary: That was a period of old-fashioned hockey. So many emotions packed into one period. Also, I went to pee during the break and the man next to me at the urinal had both his hands on his hips. What kind of form is that? Come on, man.
18:14: Hit the damn net, boys.
17:20: Man, these shots have to start hitting the net. Also, I thought there was a Sharks power play. I may be slightly inebriated.
15:00: Leafs kid beside Ben opens some Twizzlers. They smell delicious. I want to ask him for one, but he is the enemy. I have to be strong.
14:49: Thuggery by the Leafs.
12:30: So the Canada vs. Czech Republic WJC game started part way through the game. My friends light up my phone indicating it is 1-0 Czechs. Not good.
12:24: Yeah DeMelo, I am sure you’re a good guy, but can we dress Tim Heed?
12:24: Ben says to me “Can you hold the popcorn?” I take it. He continues, “I need my hands free when the Leafs score. I need them to high five.” I can’t believe I fell for this. Get your head in the game, Kyle.
10:24: The plot was foiled by the Sharks’ PK, good job, guys.
8:42: That’s a four-minute penalty. Just bench Burns. Whatever man. They gave this guy eight million dollars per year.
8:10: Matthews is very fast.
7:43: The man in front and to the left says he coached Connor Brown and Connor McDavid. A Trumpian-like claim.
7:20: Burns still has two more minutes. Thanks, Brent.
7:20: Also, can Jones seal up that five-hole? Lordy drawers. My Joner has definitely gone away.
6:23: Chris Tierney, playmaker he may not be.
3:57: 1-1 Canada Czech Republic! Sam Steel you beauty!
3:57: The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors comes over the PA. A classic hockey jam and literally everyone in the ACC knows the words.
1:42: Frederik Andersen is the worst goalie I have ever seen. How do you pass it right to Tierney and then let him score. I am howling. An incredible turn of events.
0:10: 2-1 CANADA!!!!!!!
Second Period Summary: They show the Canada score on the jumbotron. The ACC ERUPTED. That was a weird period of hockey. San Jose didn’t seem to play well, but the score is tied, so I guess that’s a win. Went to pee again, and the guys next to me didn’t know the Canada game was at intermission. So I let them know, then we had a full on conversation about the ACC playing the game live on the jumbotron and how cool that would be. Hockey brings people together at the urinal, a traditional Canadian tale.
18:28: Goon job.
16:54: This is the second time the Sharks have iced the puck on the PP. WTF.
13:52: That is an A+ chance. Got to bury those.
13:42: This child is ruthlessssss with the chirps. It is a barrage at this point.
10:04: Somehow Ben and I end up discussing the minutiae of Mighty Ducks D1, D2, and D3. How did they let a drunk guy coach kids? What if Bombay doesn’t blow 0.08?
8:21: The ACC goes bonkers when they show Canada is up 3-1.
8:08: 4-1 Canada now. The greatest hockey nation on Earth is rolling.
4:30: Melker blocked a shot with his elbow. It looked super painful and we are close enough we could see the pain on his face. Melkman L
2:33; 5-1 Canada. The roof is blown off the ACC.
1:46: ZEBRA DOWN!
1:10: Tierney, Boedker, and Karlsson head onto the ice. Why Pete, why?
0:01: That was far too close.
Third Period Summary: Pretty uneventful. As the period wore on, the building got more and more tense. The child asks me if the Sharks ever won the Cup. He knows the answer, but is twisting the knife like a champion. Also, I find out he is actually 11. Can someone hate an 11-year old?
5:00: Everyone send me your prayers. I don’t want to have to fight my way out of this place if the Sharks lose. This is the third straight year the game has gone into overtime; it will never to cease to be heart stopping. Jesus, take the wheel.
1:50: OMG HIGH STICKING ON THE LEAFS!!! I CAN’T BREATHE!
0:10: HOW ARE YOU NOT SCORING?!?!?
Shootout time. EVERYBODY TAKE A DRINK! It is here the timeline gets blurry. Kevin Labanc is a filthy, filthy man. But also, why doesn’t Hertl shoot? Double also, why did Hertl only play one OT shift? Chris Tierney got OT shifts and a shootout shot in a do-or-die moment. I am baffled by the coaching decisions. Mike Babcock puts Patrick Marleau out to shoot third. He misses, so the world is alright.
My final thought as I left the building amid rabid Leafs fans was, “Oh, so this is what it’s like when they win. Weird.” That did not go over well as I said it out loud. The small little Leafs fan gets in a few more shots on the way out. Mad respect to the kid, he will do well in life.
I still am sad the undefeated streak is over. I guess the streak will begin anew next season. See you later ACC, next year we will dance again.