Sometimes there are moments that are priceless, things that you will remember the rest of your lives. Times you share with loved ones that bond you and give you that smile every-time you remember it. Few weeks back my brother and I decided to find Stanley Cup tickets for our dad’s birthday. Hockey has a history in our family. My first experience with hockey was back in 1979 watching the mighty Montreal Candiens take on the purple and gold Los Angeles Kings. It was amazing seeing our home team take on legends like Patrick Roy, Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, Chris Chelios, Petr Svoboda, Mats Naslund, Chris Nilan and Claude Lemieux. That sticks in my mind even 30 years later. I also remember watching my brother play ice hockey every sunday morning at 7am for about 4 years. I played street hockey goalie for years, until getting badly injured. So when the local Anaheim Ducks made it to the Cup, we had to find tickets.THE TICKETS
While my brother drove to the house, I ordered the tickets. Expensive but priceless. Our dad, nightly watches hockey, yelling and screaming at the television. We knew this would be the perfect gift. When we told him about the tickets, the look in his eyes made it all worth it. He didn’t believe us and questioned the price. After we assured him it was real, the hard nosed Russian man was so soft spoken and happy. That night we had family over for dinner and all he could do is talk about his two sons. It was one of those times when a look is worth more then any thank you. It made his night. But there was still doubt about the game. The tickets were for Game #5, meaning one team had to win at least a game to make it back to Anaheim from Ottawa. Our dream scenario was for the Ducks to win three of four and come back to Anaheim to win the cup. And hoist it in front of us and our dad.With anticipation we watched the first two home games, which the Ducks won. All we needed was one win by Ottawa at home. They did, winning game three. It was set, WE WERE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP! But now we needed the Ducks to pull out game 4 so we can possibly see the clincher at home, with our dad. And the Ducks just as we hoped, took the game. Now the excitement for us was overwhelming. We could see history being made, we can see the cup being raised, and all this with our dad for his birthday. It was setting up to be as special moment as it could be.
The day of the game, I was coming off three straight sleepless nights of work. And arrived at my parents house a little later then I should have. Sometimes work dictates life unfortunately. The drive from Los Angeles to Anaheim is usually long but in rush hour we knew we were in for a long ride. I fell asleep in the back seat only waking up thanks to my loud snoring. We arrived at the game a few minutes before the opening face-off. On the way to the arena we saw exactly how Orange County goes, the cops were on these stand-up scooters! It was priceless moment number one. I chased one snapping pictures of him. From the outside we can hear the Canadian national anthem playing and as we walked in we heard a first cheer when a Duck player took his opponent hard into the boards. While looking for our seats I couldn’t take my eyes off all the cool merchandise. I knew I was going to shell out a lot of money on this night.
I must quickly mention, the Ducks organization are geniuses! They have these hot girls with snow shovels skate out between action and shovel snow!
As we got to our seats the atmosphere was amazing. Each seat had draped over it an orange Stanley Cup Duck towel. And the entire place was covered in blonde OC girls wearing orange shirts, the guys wearing Ducks jerseys, and a sporadic read Ottawa Senators jersey peeked through the masses. After the first period the Ducks were up 2-0, I headed for the merchandise store, ready to buy the world. The line just to get in was 15 minutes and once in, the line to buy was another 20. I ran around like a kid gathering stuff. I bought a jersey with a Stanley Cup patch, I bought a laniard, I bought two pucks one for me and one for my brother, I bought a Stanley Cup shirt for our dad, and a few buttons. As I stood in line a lady asked me if she could cut in line because her five year old daughter was crying about missing the game. She offered to buy me something, so well, I had her get me buttons … lots of buttons. Before getting back to my seat, I changed outfits. I threw on my Duck jersey and arrived at the seat with the Ducks now being up 2-1. Maybe I’m good luck, not sure, but as soon as I got back the Ottawa Senators scored on themselves. It was again a two goal lead and that much closer to the Cup.
I showed my brother the puck I got him but he asked me to give his to our dad. He told me a story that not only put a tear in my eye the rest of the game but made my knees buckle a bit. Our dad is pretty tough and unemotional but while I was gone he told my brother that when he was young in Russia he would watch the Stanley Cup. He would see fans going crazy. He thought he would never get an opportunity like that and this was an amazing moment for him. That right there, no matter the the result is what it’s all about. I handed our dad the puck, he smiled played with it and screamed as the Ducks scored again.
The rest of the game was thrilling as the crowd chanted “Emery” who is Ottawa’s goalie, they chanted we “We want the cup” as well and it seemed as it was inevitable. In the third period the question was answered as Ottawa’s penalty shot was stopped. At that point the whole crowd new it was the Ducks game, the Ducks night, and the Ducks year. And all of us were witnessing history. The buzz in the air didn’t stop, the Ducks were now up 6-2 and the goose bumps I had then, I have now as I remember the final minute of the game. The final count down began as the crowd was going crazy and the Duck bench pounded the boards with their sticks. Emotion overdrives you as over 17,000 people stand hand in hand watching the clock tick down waiting for that 3, 2, 1 and the siren. Some held back their tears, some cheered over them but we all were emotional. Our dad had the biggest emotional smile I have seen only other time. It was very personal moment then and very personal now but this time this moment we were sharing with an Arena of screaming happy fans.
The players stormed the ice, the fans waved their towels, the emotional music hit the speakers. It’s one of those times that as I type I visualize and remember and tear up over. We shared history together, for our dad’s birthday. A one in a lifetime experience. As the confetti fell people hugged. I snapped off pictures with one particular standing out so much to me. It was picture of our dad yelling with the confetti and the rink behind him. Behind him you can see the team celebrating, around him you see confetti and to his right is a lady, head up eyes closed and smiling, crying and enjoying the shower of confetti. It’s an amazing picture from an amazing night.
There are moments in life that we go through that no matter what will always bring back emotions. Good or bad, sad or happy. There are things beyond our control and all you can do is sit back and hope for the best. Ride the wave with hopes of not drowning. This moment in our lives is a moment that will stay with us forever. We shared something we thought we would never experience, especially not together. The raw emotion we all shared was unforgettable and the bond we had is even stronger. To this day I tear up thinking of what we shared. And from that day forward my bond with my brother and Dad reached a new high. Life is great when you can share moments like that with loved ones.