A better PR-person than myself probably would have already sold this to ESPN as a 30-for-30 short.
What if I told you that a meaningless game could mean everything.
It was game 82 between two teams who had missed the playoffs. But for the Hurricanes it was game 395 - the final game of Bryan Bickell's career. And to a man, everyone wanted to send him out a winner.
In the end, it was Bickell himself who played a major role in making sure that happened. His pressure on Flyers forward Travis Konecny led to Carolina's opening goal by Brock McGinn. And his goal in the shootout was everything we all love about sports. Skating by himself, a man who has faced incredible adversity all year fired in one final, beautiful goal to cap a championship career.
Bryan Bickell is the type of teammate the guys want to skate through a wall for (as McGinn basically did, flying hard into the boards in the third period) and the type of person those of us behind the scenes love to have around. Here's a guy who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but stayed determined. Who spent hours enduring tests and treatments in hospitals and doctors' offices, but kept smiling. Who was bag skated every day for months while trying to make his comeback, but stuck around to cheer on his teammates at every game. Whose body betrayed him so badly that he had no choice but to step away from the game that he loved, yet he remains positive.
We had some truly inspiring things happen around our team this year, from an equipment manager getting 7.6 seconds of glory in December to a little boy with cancer lifting our spirits in January. But the last, best story of all was one that played out slowly from a devastating diagnosis in November to a shootout win on the final night of the season.
Anyone who's been around sports for any length of time knows that some people are just winners. They aren't always the biggest stars or the ones who post Hall of Fame statistics. They are always the ones with immense levels of fortitude and true passions for their crafts.
Bryan Bickell is one of those people. He went to a Memorial Cup in juniors. He won three Stanley Cups. You get the feeling that every time he sits in a boat, he's probably the one reeling in the most and the biggest catches.
Somehow, after the worst year of his life, he still found a way to bow out as a winner.
For a young team, with seven of its top nine scorers under 26, Bickell's inspiration will have a lasting impact. You could see it in their eyes in the locker room last night, and hear it in 20-year-old Noah Hanifin's voice as he presented Bickell with the Chop Wood, Carry Water Award. To them, to all of us, Bickell is a true hero, and he showed us every quality it takes to be a winner over the course of six months this season. And not just on the NHL level, Bickell's time with the Charlotte Checkers means that the next generation of Hurricanes were also exposed to his example.
"You guys have got a bright future, you don't even understand," he told his teammates last night. "I'm going to be happy to watch it."
He's right. There is a bright future. And when success comes to the Hurricanes, Bickell's brave legacy will be at its foundation.
If you're interested in owning a BICKELLBRAVE t-shirt like the one the Canes wore at the MS Walk on Saturday, you can purchase one here. All proceeds will go to support the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation's new initiative, which will provide service dogs to people with MS at no cost. In less than two days, sales of the shirts have already raised more than $11,000.