As I work my way back into reality (taking the kids to school, home improvements, grocery shopping, and bills, bills, bills!) after the fantasy land experience of being on the road for two weeks at the Stanley Cup Final, I find myself being asked often if I'm suffering from hockey withdrawal yet?
It's an obvious question, because people know I've been dialed in to near-nightly game action for the past nine months.
And while I would have jumped at the chance to do "On The Fly -- Calder Cup Edition" Monday night as the Hershey Bears secured their league-record 11th title, I have to say I'm OK without game action for the next little while.
A total of 1,319 regular-season and playoff games since October have left my thirst for the game quenched.
There were the Premiere Games which featured the early-season omen of an Antti Niemi
shutout in his native Finland.
The monumental (a word that also has omen in it) Hawks comeback versus Calgary on October 12, aka the Monday night meltdown on Madison as the Flames coughed up a 5-0 first-period lead, eventually losing 6-5 on Brent Seabrook
's overtime tally. (I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the winning team went on to claim the Cup, and the losing team missed the playoffs ...)
From late October to the start of December, Corey Perry
punched his Olympic ticket while posting the season's best points streak, a 19-gamer for the Anaheim Ducks
Playing hockey hooky in early December with my 5-year-old daughter so we could spend a couple of days in Niagara Falls and check out the Sabres-Capitals and Sabres-Hawks at HSBC Arena. Two great games -- and never too many memories when watching them through a child's eyes.
The emergence of Michael Leighton
, just in time for the Winter Classic.
The snow falling at Fenway just minutes after we hit the air on the NHL Network on the morning of New Year's Eve.
Never imagining what would happen when the Bruins and Flyers would meet again in May.
The dueling winning streaks of the Capitals and Senators, which ran concurrently from mid-January to the first week of February. For Washington an NHL season-best 14 games, that ended only when Montreal found new life with 8 seconds to go in overtime, after the Capitals had rallied from 5-2 down in the third. For Ottawa, a franchise record 11-game surge that ended in Toronto, on a night when the courageous Leafs played for the life of Brendan Burke, son of GM Brian, who had succumbed to injuries from a car accident just a day earlier.
There was Olympic gold for Canada, silver for the U.S., and bronze for Finland.
A chaotic, unforgettable push to the playoffs through March and April, punctuated by Claude Giroux
, Brian Boucher
, and the Flyers' shootout win over the Rangers on the season's final day -- a day when even the King couldn't save New York.
History being made from April 14 to June 9, in part by the 18 overtime games, 16 of which ended in the first extra period. So thankfully it was a two-month stretch without the seemingly annual, nauseating debate that the NHL needs to revamp its playoff overtime format.
A year ago we saw Sidney Crosby
hoist the Cup after the 87th game of the playoffs.
In 2010, No. 88 ended Game 89.
Almost all of us would have welcomed a 90th game.
But it's hard not to feel fulfilled.
At least for a few more days anyway.