Most of the world has come to a virtual standstill. We’ve all had to adapt and overcome in the face of COVID-19. There are almost limitless examples of human ingenuity and innovation in the face of adversity. Teachers around the globe have had to condense their classrooms to their computer screens. Manufacturers have altered their plants to be able to produce PPE for frontline health care workers. “Some Good News” with John Krasinski is quite possibly “winning the internet”. People who suddenly find themselves unemployed are coming up with countless ways to not go out of their minds while stuck at home in their efforts to “flatten the curve”. Among these resourceful professionals are sports commentators who find themselves with no sports to broadcast. As a result, the internet has given us gems like this:
If dogs aren’t your thing, there’s always stroller races:
Where Am I Going With This You Ask?
Well, as a sports writer I can relate to these guys. They’ve gone the extra mile to give us “sports” as “entertainment”. While watching today’s installment of “Filling The Void”, I realized that, as an actor, I could return the favor. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Today: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers – Game 6, Stanley Cup Finals, 2010
This is Right In Our Wheelhouse
As you may or may not know, most of our staff here at The Turf are involved in some way or other in the arts. Many of us are actors. Some work behind the scenes, or in front of the house – but pretty much every one of us is equal parts entertainment professional and sports fan. Occasionally, there’s a story that perfectly encapsulates the crossroads of these two loves. We’ve done an in depth analysis of Tom Brady’s acting chops. Two shows on at the same time and you can’t decide which to watch? We can relate. Did you know MLB pitcher Steven Brault released an album of Broadway songs? We did. Today, I offer you “Stanley Cup – The Musical!”
The “Stage” is Set
You’ve arrived at the Wachovia Center, gotten your snacks to take to your seats (you can do that in many theatres these days), and are settling in for the performance. Today’s show is the 6th installment of what could be a 7 part series. The first 4 chapters were a back and forth between the two protagonists – evenly matched and tied at 2 games apiece heading into chapter five. This 5th installment would see Chicago take charge of the war, winning 7-5 and pushing Philadelphia to the brink of defeat. Will the Blackhawks end the war with a decisive victory, or will Philadelphia steal victory to force a final (Game 7), winner takes all battle?
Read Your Playbill
The cast for this show is pretty big – it is a musical after all! Each team is comprised of a 20 person ensemble. Among those are a few stars who no doubt will drive most of the action. For Chicago, clad in their white road uniforms, you may recognize names like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Antti Niemi. The Flyers, dressed in their home orange jerseys, feature the likes of Claude Giroux, Ville Laino, Scott Hartnell and Michael Leighton. As you flip through your program reading about the past exploits of these characters, you read the story of Marian Hossa.
His is a story of persistence. For the third season in a row, he’s reached the Stanley Cup Finals – with three different teams. In 2008 he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, while 2009 saw him in the Finals as a Detroit Red Wing. Both times, he wound up on the losing side. Would this game finally see the well-traveled veteran win a Championship ring? We’re about to find out. As Lauren Hart wraps up her duet of “God Bless America” with the late Kate Smith (gotta love technology), the lights start to dim.
The Show Is About To Start!
As the puck drop nears, our ears are treated to the dulcet tones of Mike “Doc” Emrick, play-by-play announcer for the broadcast. He’s joined by commentator and former player Eddie Olczyk. Hearing their voices calling the game is like hearing Brian Stokes Mitchell or Audra McDonald. You just know you’ll be in good hands throughout the performance, and can settle in for what promises to be a riveting show.
The Curtain Is Up
With the drop of the puck at center ice, the performance is underway. The first period doesn’t disappoint. Both teams try to put their stamp on the game, landing big hits and volleying shots on net. Chicago strikes first, on a power play goal by Dustin Byfuglien. The Flyers would counter just before the break when Scott Hartnell would find the net with a man advantage. As the lamp was lit, I heard the horn go off in celebration of the home team’s goal. It immediately made me think of the Factory Whistle from Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”. Yes – that one:
Ok – maybe the arena horn isn’t quite the same pitch and it inspires jubilation rather than fear, but you get the idea. The crowd comes to life to celebrate their team drawing even. As with any good musical, you have to keep the audience coming back for more, so with that, we head to…
A quick trip to the bathroom followed by a stop at concessions to reload takes you back to your seat, where you take a breath in anticipation of what’s to come. The second period picks up right where the first left off. Eight minutes in, the home team takes the lead after Duncan Keith gets his skates tangled underneath him (that’s not the choreography!) and the crowd goes nuts. However, that excitement is short-lived, as the Blackhawks tie things up less than two minutes later. By the time the period wraps up, the visiting Blackhawks have a 3-2 lead.
Perfect. It’s time to take a breath after the action. If you’re a Philly fan, you’re starting to sweat a bit, especially since the Flyers will start the third shorthanded. But, if you root for Chicago, the next 20 minutes of gameplay can’t go quick enough.
The “Final Act” – Or Is It?
The first minute of the third period sees the Flyers weather the storm of Chicago’s power play. They stand tall and prevent Chicago from extending their lead. The refs, who made some controversial calls earlier in the game, apparently decided it would be more exciting if they swallowed their whistles and let the guys play. They were right. As the clock ticked down inside five minutes, Philadelphia stepped the pressure up a notch. Throughout these playoffs, they were the team that wouldn’t quit. They only made the playoffs by beating the NY Rangers on the final day of the regular season to claim the final spot. That resiliency would show itself again at the 16:01 mark when Scott Hartnell deflected a pass through the crease that found its way past Niemi into the back of the net. Bedlam in Philly!!!
Epilogue and Curtain Call
Thanks to Hartnell’s heroics, this game would head to sudden death OT. Unlike regular season overtime, full periods would be played until someone scored and a winner was determined. After retreating to the locker rooms to recharge their batteries, both teams returned to the ice intent on leaving victorious. A little over four minutes into the OT period, Patrick Kane squeezed one under the pads of Michael Leighton to vanquish their opponents for good.
After a short delay to verify things, the refs confirmed the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. At the time, it was the longest active drought in the NHL. As the combatant casts exchanged handshakes after the performance, the audience was on its feet. Even in defeat, they cheered on their warriors for a great season that came up just short. For Chicago fans, the party was ON.
Look Mom, I Won a TONY (Stanley Cup)!!!
Man, I can’t wait for sports, and theatre, and everything else, to start up again. Until then – I hope you enjoyed the “show”. Come visit again soon, there’s plenty more where that came from.
See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.
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