Wednesday night saw one of the longest NHL playoff games in history won by Andrew Shaw, a relatively unknown forward of the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a truly epic exhausting game with so many story lines that I figured, much like the man of the hour, I’d pay a little homage to another unsung hero: The Man Behind the Light Switch.
Wednesday night. Game 1 Stanley Cup Finals Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins. Double Overtime.
Boston Bruin forward Jaromir Jagr seemingly ends the game…
(Yes, I just said Jaromir Jagr. That is correct, he is still in the league after 41 years on this beautiful earth. What Mom? Yes that’s also correct. Back in 1994 you did throw my Mitsubishi 13″ television against the wall because I defied your orders to go to sleep and instead played NHL ’94 on my SuperNintendo with the Lemieux/Jagr led Pittsburgh Penguins. This is reason #47 that I am not getting old. I just watched a game featuring a player that I played in a video game, on a 13″ TV, and was grounded for it. What a world!) Sorry to get off topic.
Boston Bruin forward Jaromir Jagr deflects a pass from teammate and captain Zdeno Chara, that looks and sounds like the game-winner as it careens into the post and slides across the red line.
This is the moment that anyone who has ever played league hockey will attest to, and was actually my Dad’s job for many our games growing up. This is the moment when the most powerful man in any hockey arena is on point and at his best, this is ‘Light Bulb Guy’ time.
As Jagr literally paints the inner post with black puck for what was surely a goal, the following exchange occurred:
Jimmie: That’s a goal. Damn. I wanted the ‘Hawks.
Jimmie: What?!!! Why? That’s a goal man.
Me: Nope. No red light.
If you live on the east coast or experience actual winters, you can skip a few paragraphs down at this point. However, if you are among the majority of my friends who happen to post 1.3 billion posts on Facebook about an Oakland Athletics run in June (Shhhhh, it’s early. We’re still in quiet fist-pump time, please don’t anger the Gods), but don’t know what a zamboni is, here’s a lesson: Hockey is awesome, especially summer hockey. If only for the fact that on every goal, a little red light and siren behind the glass goes off and the home crowd goes nuts……That is unless your a Sharks fan during the playoffs which means the other team scored. And they did. Again. A lot. But I’m good. Sort of. Anyways, I digress.
In baseball, there’s the ump behind the plate who can be overruled by anyone including your mother at any point. In football, Packers/Seahawks comes to mind and every other blown call ever, even those using replay. In basketball don’t even get me started, Donaghi anyone?! The fricken Mob was involved. That a kid David Stern! In UNO Connor always cheats and there is no ref. But when it comes to hockey, in the end just one dude. Just one person who tells you it’s time to go home for the night. His/Her entire existence: Watching one strip of red line and determining if one little rubber pellet ever fully crosses that line. Then and only then, he gets to flick that little switch to signal a goal, ignite a little red beacon right behind the plexiglass, and pandemonium or utter heartbreak ensues. THE POWER, THE POWER!!!!
The best part about Light Bulb Guy is that until he flicks that switch, there can be no celebration of any kind. When Jagr hit that post, at least 3 players stopped skating completely and stared directly behind the goal looking for the red light to signal it was time to go home. So next time you watch a hockey game, which I really hope you do this week, just pay a little attention to the messiah in security gear behind the goal. Announcers, players, vendors, fans, Jesus, 2pac, and the Kool-Aid man always bow to Light Bulb Guy.
The night may have belonged to the Blackhawks when they took down the Bruins later in triple overtime. But I like to think it was Light Bulb Guy who slept easy that night knowing he got to flick the switch on his home ice and send everyone home happy. At one point the announcers even yelled about how they couldn’t believe the Jagr deflection wasn’t a goal. In the post-game press conference Chicago alum Jeremy Roenick even commented that everyone in the building thought it was over, but thank goodness for the guy controlling the red-light.
In the end, it’s a great symbol in life. It doesn’t matter how close you think you are, if you hear it hit the pipe, cross the line, Mom screams ‘Goal’, 40,000 fans celebrate, and the ref give the hand signal; All that matters is the moment that little red 60-watt bulb goes click and it all comes together. Then you can dance. Only then is it over. Then and only then you can truly: