I had just scored the game winning goal – in overtime – to lead my last-seeded hockey team past the undefeated villains of my house league. It was a heckuva shot too – I batted that sucker right out of the air off a high saucer pass.
The goal was disallowed. “High stick,” yelled a referee – from the other end of the rink.
The ref who made the call was actually a member of our opponent, but had to work his ref gig that night. Moments later, his team put the puck in the net to end our glorious charge. There would be no hockey justice that night. Adding injury to insult, I broke my pinky finger against the boards in the third period. I didn’t really feel any pain in it until after that dastardly game ending goal went in.
Hockey is a wonderful analgesic.
When I finally got back home, Dad was glued to the television screen. It was April 24, 1994. Sabres fans know that date as the first of two days it took to end a playoff contest between Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur. Sure, it was technically the Sabres versus the Devils, but on that night, and into the early morning of the 25th, it was all about Marty and Dom.
In all fairness, Dad and I weren’t at that game in person. But the emotion of the game was so high, and it was so dark and silent outside, that it felt like the world encapsulated itself around us and the television screen – the game on screen was transcendent, above all.
“What the hell did you do to your finger?”
I didn’t realize it had swollen up, and had forgotten how crooked it had gotten.
“Put that in a bowl of ice.”
We both knew a hospital visit was out of the question on a night like this. I waited until a commercial break, and got the ice. For the next 3 overtime periods, that’s where my pinky would stay. There were 7 periods in all in that game, and only one goal would be scored.
Finally, in the wee mornin’ hours of the 25th, Dave Hannan became the unlikely hero. The Hockey Gods, as it seemed to me, had restored hockey justice in the world.
Hasek stopped all 70 shots that the Devils threw his way before Hannan scored over a sprawling Martin Brodeur at 5:43 of the 4th OT. At 125:43, the 1-0 shutout is one of the longest played outcomes in the modern era, and one of the most celebrated games in Sabres’ history.
“Well kid, we better get rested up for school tomorrow,” said Dad, once we were done hootin’ and hollerin’. “School tomorrow.” Indeed, we were celebrating in what was now an early, early Monday morning – of all days. He was a teacher, and I had an early class at Buff State to get my rear end to. “Oh yeah, how’s that finger? I bet it feels a lot better right now.”
As for my pinky, it’s still sore – especially on cold, windy days like today. It’s also still a little bit crooked, so my typing style is a bit free-form. But I can still grip my Easton just fine – and every time it throbs, I am reminded what Dominik Hasek and Dave Hannan did for Sabres Nation in that game.