Blackhawks Red Wings Hockey

Chicago Blackhawks center Michal Handzus (26), of the Czech Republic, celebrates his goal against the Detroit Red Wings with teammates including Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81), of the Czech Republic, at rear, during the third period in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Detroit, Monday, May 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Memorial Day is supposed to be a day of remembrance and relaxation. Tradition calls for honoring the memory of those who served our country and perhaps a cookout or tee time or both.

The goal is to reflect and recharge, even if rain shows up uninvited. It’s done that a lot lately.

The downpours came and went and came again Monday, putting a damper on outdoor pursuits. Yet, they were secondary to the real game changer on this Memorial Day.

That came as day turned to night, through the magic of television and a reality show unlike any other … playoff hockey.

From the minute they dropped a puck in Detroit, Memorial Day became a heart attack on skates. The pulse raced. Air left the lungs. Blood rushed to the head.


Forget it.

A cliche told us it was “do or die” for the Chicago Blackhawks, who trailed 3-2 in a best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series with the Detroit Red Wings.

That is, what would the guys in Indianhead sweaters “do” — i.e., win or lose — and would the guy on the couch “die” before they did it?

It’s tough to get odds in your living room. The dizziness, sweaty palms and choppy breaths put them at about 3-1 in favor of the coroner arriving before the final horn.

That’s what playoff hockey does, even to a relative novice. Five years ago, the guy on the couch didn’t know the 5-hole from a face-off. Now, he was living and mostly dying with every odd-man rush and butterfly save.

Ever since a daughter began working for the Blackhawks in 2008, their games have turned family — and extended family — into jelly. At playoff time, it gets worse.

So when Chicago’s Marion Hossa nudged in a rebound early in the game for a 1-0 lead, there was elation.

When the Red Wings scored late in the first period and again in the second for a 2-1 advantage, there was deflation. And when Chicago scored three times in the final period, rallying for a 4-3 win, there was exhilaration.

Beyond that, there was exhaustion … emotional and physical. The Blackhawks had lived to see another day. Somehow, the guy on the couch had too.

It is difficult to explain the agonizing toll and simultaneous rush hockey provides, especially in the postseason.

It’s like jumping from an airplane blindfolded, unsure if the chute will open. When it does, you want to drop to your knees and kiss the ground. On Monday night, it was the carpet.

You don’t get that with every sport. You shouldn’t get it from any sport when you watch and write about such things for a living.

Buzzer-beaters and walk-off home runs are part of the job. So are elimination games. Winners move on, losers go home. It happens.

Yet, there seems to be more of an investment in hockey. Maybe it’s the constant motion of the game, the skating and contact and all-out effort a minute or two at a time. Then a new set of players comes in and it starts anew.

Watch it long enough and you begin to move side to side and up and back, steering the puck toward the net or out of it, depending on the shooter.

It was true on Memorial Day. It will be tonight. Game 7 is at Chicago, a “do or die” scenario for both teams. Some call it “sudden death.”

Not yet, but …


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