Last night we had a family hockey milestone. For the first time, all four of us attended a playoff game together.
I’ve been to three Devils playoff games with Riley, and Ryan and I attended a Caps postseason game in Washington four years ago. Veronica and I took in another Caps playoff game a few weeks after we were married.
But last night was the first time we were all together for a playoff game, and that made it that much more special. The Devils were also home on Tuesday night, but we — both Ryan and his parents — were too worried about disrupting his routines on a school night. We figured Thursday was a safer bet with just one more day of school to navigate.
Boy, did we make the right choice. Tuesday night, the Devils raced to a 3-0 lead before collapsing and losing 4-3. As we watched from home, we went from annoyed to thankful at our choice. It would have been bad enough to have the kids up late on an early-week school night, but far worse if they had to sit through that.
And not just for Ryan. Riley takes her Devils very seriously. A few years ago, they gave up two goals in the final minute to lose Game 7 of a playoff series by one. When she learned what had happened in the morning, Riley was inconsolable. Veronica let her stay home from school. The reason? A broken heart.
As last night’s game entered the third period, the Devils had a 1-0 lead and I was just hoping there would be no overtime. Beyond the tension and drama, playoff OT games can last a loooooong time. Full extra periods are not uncommon, and I was wary of having to drag two very tired, worried kids out of the arena while the game was still going on.
Thankfully, the Devils took care of things in the third, adding three more goals for a comfortable 4-0 win. As the period turned into a celebration, we all cheered a little louder and yelled HEY, YOU SUCK with a little more vigor after each goal. (Admittedly, not my proudest parental moment.)
But the part the kids got the biggest kick out of were the random strangers in our section who would want to exchange high fives during each goal celebration. We’ve been to games there all year and not once has that happened.
The playoffs are just different. Hockey players have a way of explaining everything that happens on the ice this time of year. “That’s just playoff hockey,” they’ll say. I guess it extends to the fans too.
The game was so fun — and the result guaranteed another home playoff game next week — that I think it even helped soften the blow of Ryan’s beloved Sharks losing later in the night to fall down 3-1 in their series.
We’re still somewhat dreading his reaction when and if they actually get eliminated but even if that happens in their next game, it won’t be the end of our playoff journey for the year.
Here’s hoping we get to high-five an entirely different group of strangers next week — and beyond.