“You look at which team won, and it starts with disappointment. We’ll be back.” – Conor McDavid, 2017
Edmonton – The irony of this quote is that after five years, the Edmonton Oilers have not found their way out of the disappointing business. But they came back at the same time.
Back in another Game 7, like that 2-1, Game 7 second-round loss at Anaheim that left 20-year-old McDavid extremely optimistic about his team’s immediate future, impossible rosy as it seems that day.
“Come on to next season,” MacDavid promised that night, “we will find ourselves in a similar place. And we will be able to look at this, feel the disappointment, and find out … how bad it is.”
Well, it’s been five years, but here we are. Better late than never, this may be the only time McDavid has done anything slow on a hockey rink.
Sometimes life gives us a special moment right away. Other times, like Game 7 at home on Saturday night in May, you see the moment coming – you’re not sure what kind of moment it will be. What feelings does lasting memory, exhilaration or dread, evoke?
Is it cut like a knife in the heart, or the blood bond between brothers? Either way, it can never be forgotten.
After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, Sean Horkoff gave us one of our favorite quotes in his long career of collecting ideas.
“We left everything there,” Horkoff said after that match. “It was an honor.”
After Game 7 in Dallas in 1997, overtime champ Todd Marchant—who days before we wrote somehow couldn’t put the disc in the ocean, even if he was shooting from the end of the pier—was waiting for us to get to the position—the locker room in Old Reunion Square.
I’m here, Speke,” said Marchant, loudly enough for everyone to hear. “At the end of the pier.”
We might have to google most of the results and scenarios from all those series that our favorite teams have given us over the years. But the 7s game we remember, right?
This one, in the back end a Hockey night in Canada The double header of two Canadian teams in the exact same spot (as the kids would say) would be an instant classic. Saturday nights 8:20 p.m. CT begins at Rogers, and with spring in the air and crowded patios from 2 p.m. onwards, it will provide an atmosphere inside Rogers Place that no game show or scoreboard department can emulate.
Electricity in that building on Saturday could power the Suncor plant for a week, while draft lines would pump enthusiasm into Rogers Place like blood in King Kong’s veins. As Horcoff said, it’s been an honor to be around a handful of these over the years, and it’s a privilege to talk to warriors before and after.
“You want it too bad,” vet Rod Brindhamore, 20, said in 2006, when the Carolina Hurricanes were his last hit in the ring. “Not just for yourself, but for the guy sitting next to you. For your dad. Your kids. There are a lot of people you think of who are pulling you in. It’s exhausting.”
That was, of course, the Stanley Cup final. But if you don’t win Game 7 along the journey, you’ll never reach the destination Brind’Amour talked about.
Like the night of 2011, when Vancouver finally killed the dragon that was the Chicago Blackhawk in overtime for Game 7, the first round series. Or the St. Louis Blues in 2016, when Troy Brewer touched the disc four times before sweeping away the game-winner to topple the hated Chicago Blackhawks in the quarterfinals.
“If I hadn’t put that down, I might have quit hockey,” Brewer said that night.
“It was like playing mini golf,” his coach Ken Hitchcock added.
In 2006, after Edmonton cleared Carolina in Game 6 at Rexall Place, it was nearly impossible to imagine a loss in Game 7. Unfortunately, the Oilers lost 2-1.
In Vancouver in 2011, with the Canucks at home and desperate to satisfy a 41-year thirst for franchise success, we had bet the family car on the Canucks that they beat Boston. That night, the brothers Henrik and Daniel Seiden did not smell.
Today, just because the Oilers conjured up their season’s performance on Thursday in Los Angeles, there are no guarantees, no carryovers, once you hit the hockey track – Game 7.
I’ll never forget Marchant breaking right-side around a faltering Grant Lydiard, or that save Curtis Joseph made by Joe Newendyk just moments before. Steve Smith’s Game 7 grief is etched in our minds, of course, but I can also picture Billy Guerin settling in 1998 at the old McNichols Arena, before blasting it through Patrick Roy’s legs to secure Round 1 in Game 7, the second goal in a 4-0 win. 0 for Edmonton over Colorado.
Old story narrator Hitchcock has burned this memory of Game 7 in his mind since 1999.
He said, “There’s 13 seconds left, Ray Burke got the puck at that point and got a shot in the wrist from the right side, which we all know normally goes in from (Eddie Belfort’s) wand and out of play. We could see it perfectly from over. The bench, it’s a goal, and it would have equaled the game… and it ends up putting us in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“So, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen how close it is.”
There is no medium in Game 7. And yes, feelings and audience make a difference.
“That’s what dreams are made of,” goalkeeper Mike Smith said on Friday. Playing Game 7 back home in Edmonton? “Men are very excited.”