The end comes every year. For some it comes earlier, in April or May. For some it takes until June. For one, the end doesn't really ever come. There is one final win. One presentation of the Stanley Cup. One summer of celebration, parties and adventures that stretches out for months in the living of it and years in the memory.
There are two teams on the brink of those moments at the start of the fifth and final episode of Showtime Sports' "All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup," which aired Friday. One will have its season end in devastation. One will go down in history.
The episode begins with Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette watching game tape, trying to figure out the magical formula that will enable his team to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and become Stanley Cup champions, something that Laviolette has experienced before, in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.
At this point the Predators are still alive, still plotting and planning, still vowing to win the one road game they need to capture the Cup, coming in as the No. 16 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At this point there is still hope.
The teams are heading into Game 5 in Pittsburgh, where the best-of-7 series will turn, putting one of them one win away from the ultimate prize.
"Come to Pittsburgh, take Game 5," Laviolette tells the Predators before the game. "Like a [expletive] dog on a bone. Our Game 5. Our playoffs. Our time."
It's the message for each team before this pivotal game, how important it is, how much it will mean, how hard, long and voraciously they've worked to get to this moment and have this chance. How rarely it comes around.
It comes out in the moments of emotion, with Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban, with animosity and intensity left on the ice, even as the Penguins take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period. And it doesn't let up. The Penguins take control of a game they will eventually win 6-0, putting them on the brink of something no team has won in the salary-cap era: back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
"So we took care of business here," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We've got one left. We've got to go in with that attitude that we're going to take care of business. I think it all starts with an attitude. You guys had it tonight. That was Penguins hockey. In your face, relentless, all night long.
"We've got to take that game to Nashville and we'll get what we want."
And so the Penguins head to Nashville, knowing they will get a chance to end the NHL season with a win. But the Predators have won nine of their 10 playoff games at home, so there is confidence there, a feeling that, like they did in Games 3 and 4, they can pull this out.
By the end, though, it is the Penguins still standing, with a goal with 1:35 remaining in the third period that gives them the Stanley Cup and shatters a team that was just so close. That brings the show to its high point, when the Predators find themselves at their nadir. They have fought so hard and come so far, only to lose it all.
So as the party continues on the ice, the scene in the Predators dressing room is devastating.
"Hold your head high because you played your [butts] off the entire year, the entire [expletive] year, just to get to this point here," Laviolette tells his players, who have tears falling and heads in hand.
There are some words. They will never be enough.
The scene switches and there is the Stanley Cup in the Penguins dressing room, the champagne spray and the exultation of a goal reached. Their summer and their celebration is just beginning.
"The best part of the whole thing is the journey, some of the challenges that you go through as a group and the obstacles that you have to overcome," Sullivan said. "That's what makes it so rewarding and so fulfilling. For me, it just makes me hungry to want to do it again. I think if you asked our players, to a man, I think they'd give you the same answer."