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Happy hand pass anniversary

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One year ago today, Timo Meier became the most hated man in St. Louis.

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - MAY 15: Timo Meier #28 of the San Jose Sharks fights for the puck against Brayden Schenn #10 of the St. Louis Blues during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center on May 15, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One year ago today, Timo Meier signed a lease to live rent-free inside the head of every St. Louis Blues fan. It was a cultural reset.

Back in a time when hockey was still being played and we could hug other people if we wanted, there was a San Jose Sharks team that was being held together with the goofiest run of good luck, bad refereeing and probably more bandages and pain management than we want to know about and they were able to ride that out until Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Naturally, hockey being the sport that it is and fans the way that they are, people hated this team.

Frankly, that only makes me like them more.

Leading up to that fateful night, when a hand pass briefly caused the entire city of St. Louis to be submerged under water from their own tears, I had been preparing for the Sharks to get bounced in round one in a spectacular repeat of the first round of the 2017 playoffs. The team wasn’t healthy (and only became increasingly injured every round, but we’ll get to that later), the goaltending was a mess and Pete DeBoer’s coaching was just starting to get recognized for going stale.

Somehow, the Sharks kept chugging along. The hockey gods saw a five-minute major that should’ve been a double minor change the Sharks’ entire fate and said to each other, “Hey, you know what would be really funny?” and continued to spin key calls in their direction. I think that’s how the rest of the hockey world tells the story, anyway, though nobody else seemed to find it funny, least of all anyone from Vegas, Denver or St. Louis.

The Sharks started to get mad about people calling them lucky. I think they were right, just not in the way they meant. It’s not that the 2018-19 San Jose Sharks were so brilliant at the sport of hockey that those calls had no effect on the outcome of those games. But being forced to play all the way to the Western Conference Final and have the St. Louis Blues head-hunt the whole team, including a player who just returned from a concussion, for six games straight? That’s not exactly what I’d call good luck, either.

Whatever sort of luck brought them there still did so.

What I love most about this story, I think, is that two other key players here are known for dragging teams kicking and screaming into the Conference Final. First, with just under a minute remaining in regulation, Logan Couture — Clutchure, if you’re nasty — scored the game-tying goal with some help from Joe Pavelski.

In overtime is when the hand pass happens. Erik Karlsson and his bionic groin received the pass from Meier and put it home, letting the Sharks live to fight another day.

Wow, can’t believe Erik Karlsson would make the entire city of St. Louis hate Timo Meier like that.

This was such a weird run. Being truly hated in the world of hockey while this Sharks team stumbled all the way to the Western Conference Final — nearly to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Boston Bruins would have eaten them alive — was a wild experience. I would say it was the most bizarre Sharks season to date, but well ... the highlight of this year was picking up Stefan Noesen on waivers and then sports getting cancelled for months, sparing us from 12 more games to suffer through.

This team was hated and rules were changed because of them. For three rounds, the 2018-19 San Jose Sharks made us confront how insanely fake sports are. You can do all of the right things and get screwed on a technicality — or worse, a blatantly wrong decision. You can do all of the wrong things, and still be forced to fail upward. The Sharks of last summer put all of our worst fears on display and the reaction to that was visceral.

Timo clutched that puck and spat at the institution of hockey, as if to say You built this house and now you have to live in it. He said fuck being fair, taking the fate of his team into his silky smooth mitt.

For a shining moment, he was the most powerful person in Enterprise Center.

Anyway, it wasn’t reviewable and that’s not on the Sharks. Give Timo Meier the key to the city, because the meltdown in St. Louis will always make me laugh, and I think he deserves something for his troubles.