There is nothing better.
Admittedly, I have missed watching several Kings games because of the other great love of my life, dance. It seems that every time I have a dance performance (or lately even a serious rehearsal), the Kings win. Last year during the playoffs they won every night that I had a performance. This year, so far, the same thing. And, conversely, every playoff game I've attended in person has been a loss for the Kings. So as much as it pains me, I did not accept tickets to Round 2 (yet- I might break down). I just can't take that chance.
Dancing is nothing like hockey, but it is the closest that I can get to making a meaningful comparison, and for the purposes of this blog, it will have to do.
Hockey players do things in a certain order on game day. Wake up, maybe work out, eat, nap, wake up, put on a suit, go to the arena. Warm up in a certain order. Leave the ice in a certain order after you've hit or missed a certain number of practice goals. Dress in a certain way. Wear a lucky item of clothing. Wrap your stick. Tape your socks. Use a certain color tape. Breath in the adrenaline and anticipation.
I love that build-up. I love that ritual. I love the superstitions. I have a lucky suit that I put on the same way every time I make a big presentation. Before a dance performance I eat one of two food items every time (cheese sandwich or peanut butter toast). I warm up on stage. Stretches are always done in the same order, then re-done if my back or hip doesn't click into place correctly. There are lucky legwarmers, depending on the season and time of day. Certain parts of the dance must be run through; lifts must be hit, turns must be landed, abdominal work re-done until I can finish the problem moves without any serious issues. Certain words whispered at the last minute as prayers to other dancers.
And it starts. And sometimes...just sometimes...everything falls together perfectly. Better than perfectly.
In every performance, in every speech, and I think in every hockey game, there is that moment- that tipping point- where you realize that magic is happening.
Maybe it's when you realize that you don't actually need your notes to speak, and you make eye contact for the tenth time with the audience to see them looking back at you, and you take a deep breath and grin despite yourself. Last weekend during our performance in Arizona it was 2 minutes into that first piece when I could feel more than see that our timing was so perfect that even our breathing was synchronized. It is that moment of pure joy, where suddenly your nerves transform into wings, or jet propellers, or dragons, or something amazingly exciting that makes you feel like you are cresting down a very tall hill, and your stomach got left behind at the top but that's ok because you're happier than you've ever been and there's nowhere else you can imagine being at that particular moment. It's the perfect go-ahead goal, when your team is up in the series by 2 games and you score a beautiful, seemingly effortless goal that puts winning the third game out of reach for a demoralized opponent.
I love those moments. Those moments are joy. They are magic.
And I think we are witnessing one right now for the Kings. Is this what winning feels like? How many texts have you gotten, Kings fans, from friends who say things like "they are going all the way"? I can hardly dare to believe it. I'm scared to believe it. Pinch. Pinch. Is this real?
Yes. It's real. We are up 3-0 against the Blues and well on our way to Round 3. Breath it in, Kings fans. I truly believe that this is our tipping moment. The Kings are getting a true sense of momentum, and their game is being powered by confidence and joy as much as skill. It is a beautiful thing to watch.
I often say that there is nothing as gratifying as watching someone do what they love for a living. For the first time ever, I feel like that is what is happening for the Kings. They are each individually and as a team discovering the joy of playing hockey.
And I hope that that joy carries them all the way.