The end comes every year, for almost every team. 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 airs Friday. One will have its season end in defeat. 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 the Predators 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 capture the Cup as the No. 16 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At this point, there is still hope.
"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."
But it isn't. Not really.
The Penguins will take Game 5 in Pittsburgh and Game 6 in Nashville and, with those two wins, they will capture the Stanley Cup, which unfolds throughout the episode.
They will be the ones celebrating on the ice and in the dressing room, getting ready to have their names written in history. But it is the reaction of the Predators and the scenes in their room after the game that will truly stick with viewers. Because it is easy to watch victory. It is not so easy to see the aftermath of defeat.
For now, though, this is the Penguins' time, the Penguins' championship, the Penguins' summer.
"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," Penguins coach Mike 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."