Being a sports fan is a weird thing, isn't it? You watch your team over the course of a season and sometimes it's fun and exciting but even in Buffalo where it seems like there's always something going on behind-the-scenes and off the ice, it can become routine. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, something will happen that just makes you so dang happy that you kind of remember why you invest all that time, energy, and love into a sports team.
I don't think it's any secret that Henrik Tallinder is my favorite player. (If you haven't picked up on that you're not very observant and you might want to look into some reading comprehension classes.) Part of what I love about him is that he's not the hero very often. He's a defensive defenseman and as I've said many, many times before, they usually don't get the glory. Unless a great defensive play happens in the waning seconds of a game (a la Jochen Hecht's poke check in front of the net a few games ago), defense always gets overshadowed by the game-winning goal or the big hit or the perfect pass. And I like that, I do. I like that when I see Tallinder or Toni Lydman or Jochen Hecht make a great defensive play, I feel like I might be appreciating something that I know a lot of other fans missed or will forget when the "real" heroes - Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Maxim Afinogenov etc. - step up and do their thing.
But everyone needs some glory once in a while. Mark and I saw a breakaway drill at practice last year and Henrik Tallinder totally schooled Ryan Miller but even with that memory and even with all the Tallinder love in my heart, I was as blown away as everyone else when he skated in and calmly made a future Hall of Famer look ridiculous. I screamed, I whooped, I clapped, I raised a crutch to the sky and shook it like crazy. I debated jumping up and hopping around on my one good foot. I couldn't stop saying to Mark, "Did you see that? DID YOU SEE THAT?!" Hank skated away from the goal, straight-faced and stoic, like he'd done that a million times before and then I don't know what happened - maybe it suddenly clicked what he'd just done, maybe he tuned into the nutso crowd, maybe it was seeing how excited his teammates were - but all of a sudden this huge grin burst across his face and by the time he made it down the length of the bench he couldn't stop smiling.
Seriously, look at this photo! Look at how happy they are! Jason Pominville is totally pommerdoodling! Even Thomas Vanek is smiling from ear to ear, something we haven't seen very much this season. I love this about hockey. For some reason hockey players, even more than other athletes, seem to get so happy for each other. I'm sure there was a lot of relief and excitement about getting the two points and breaking the shootout curse, but I do think they were really happy for Hank too and that's awesome. Because again, how often does a player like him get to be the hero?
Anyway, working back to my original point, it's weird because I don't know Henrik Tallinder. He seems like a pretty happy guy, he usually makes me laugh and I've heard from a few people who should know that he's a pleasure to talk to. But I've never talked to him and probably never will with the exception of maybe, "I think you're great, would you sign my jersey?" But I was so genuinely happy for him last night that it's probably a little ridiculous. My heart was bursting and when trying to respond to an email from Kate (subject: HANK IS SUCH A STUD!) I realized that my hands were actually shaking. I don't think I could have been more happy. Isn't that crazy?
I also love that before I even had time to post anything last night I had received numerous comments and emails, all some variation of, "OH, MY GOD ARE YOU TOTALLY FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW?" I am completely tickled that when Hank got his shining moment in the sun, a fair number of people thought of me. That's awesome. And fitting! That's right! You people better recognize! :-D See? Even twelve hours later I'm so excited that I'm putting emoticons in my post, something I usually try to avoid! What's happening to me? I'm not used to My Boy getting the headlines. It's probably a good thing this doesn't happen all the time because I don't think I could handle it! If your favorite player is the one who always comes up with the game-winning goals, does it start to feel blase after a while? I don't know if I'd like that either.
Oh, well! No matter! I do know this: The couple of minutes between, "Did he just say Tallinder?" and "HOLY, HELL! HAAAAAAAAAAAAANK!" were a couple of the best minutes of this season so far. Hank, if you're reading this, relax and enjoy your day as the hero. I know I'm planning on enjoying my day as the hero's biggest fan.