As previously penned in a previous piece (think we have used our quota of letter “P’s” for one sentence now), the end of the season calls typically dictates our brain, emotion, thought pattern and keyboards as to “what really happened.”
Granted: it means you may be peacefully reflective on a season where not many people predicted the Tips to do great things. You may be upset and frustrated with how this season ended.
For a Silvertips team that breached the 100 point mark for the second time in franchise history, surpassed 40 wins, and won a staggering fifth division banner in 14 seasons in spite of a young and (literally and figuratively) “green” squad, we all share a cornucopia of moments to pick from.
My top five moments (heads up: #1 is lengthy, but for good reason), if you don’t mind reading the reflection:
- FIVE OVERTIMES, WINNER BY BABYCH, MAKING HISTORY: Victoria on the day/night of April 2 will be one we’ll never forget. The Tips 3-2 win in five overtimes set a new CHL record for longest game ever, opened the door for the second round, and marked the fourth longest game in North American hockey history (they were seconds away from surpassing Philly / Pittsburgh in the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs). People have asked me, “what’s it like calling five overtimes?”
I’ll give you one simple answer: thrilling, and exhausting.
My anticipation grew with the end of each OT period. I began to think, “how am I going to appropriately articulate this no matter what team wins?” I also began to run out of liquids. The press box ran out of water by the end of the second overtime. My wife and son were on the trip (an added bonus, thanks to the boss for the green light) and after repeated visits to the booth between overtimes, had to bail after OT three (our dinner plans obliterated, so they went out for Wendy’s instead, so we could eat before the ferry — more on that in a bit). With pacing of voice inflection and diction into the fourth and fifth OT, things finally came to a summit on the Babych goal, that’ll forever be a part of my top collection of calls.
After the sign-off to the postgame show: I shook hands with Marlon Martens and the Victoria crew in the home booth, then literally plopped to the ground exhausted, headset still attached (they asked if I was alright, I joked in pseudo-psychosis that I was making a snow angel).
I signed off and had a grand total of 45 minutes to: pack, wrap up postgame media duties, rush to the family SUV, and still drive 30 minutes to the nearest ferry terminal to make it on time for a 9:00pm departure. No chance.
Packing up, then several bear hugs with the Tips as we crossed paths in the hallway, were followed by a stroll past the Victoria dressing room area where 100 fans were mourning the end of the Royals season, while Dave Lowry and several players still graciously gave posthumous interviews ending each in grateful applause. The scene was surreal. Meanwhile, my wife and I had an exhausted two-year old son on our hands, already crashed and burning in his car seat (parents: you know how the kiddos get when they’re tired), so we cut our schedule losses and spent one more night back at the hotel. After we put our son to bed, Amy and I finally were able to indulge in the tastiest history-influenced, five-overtime dinner ever: cold Wendy’s Chicken Wraps off the bathroom counter while our son slept in the portable crib of his quiet corner in hotel bedroom (and every bite was worth it). Silver lining: my wife is a fourth grade teacher, the next day was the beginning of spring break, and my boss said “no need to come into the office”. Waking up at 7am to the crystal-clear skies of Victoria next morning, explaining the whole scene on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, and taking a gradual amount of time to get back felt so good.
(PS, I saved nearly everything – notes, scoresheets, etc. from the press box / booth that night. Plans are underway to turn that into a wall relic of some sorts for the office or press box at XFINITY Arena).
- FINISH ‘EM OFF, U.S. DIVISION STYLE: Two weekends prior, the Tips (and all of us) woke up Saturday morning in a different country. By 4:45pm, we were finally back home but had to get into the home digs “road game style” to face the Victoria Royals in the second game of a “home and home” series. It wasn’t just the fact it was Fan Appreciation Night: a Tips win paired with a Seattle loss meant the 2016-17 U.S. Division title belonged forever into the rafters of XFINITY Arena. Five hours later after a dizzying 5-2 win, paired with Portland’s win in Kent 45 minutes south, downtown Everett was in bedlam with the Tips celebrating on the ice and nearly 8,000 fans in party mode. I took a deep breath and long look while on the ice, seconds before the postgame awards ceremony. Downtown Everett was goosebumps city.
- LETTING ‘ER RIP IN REGINA: You want a litmus test? Here’s one: with the struggling Silvertips finding a second wind on the treacherous path of the East Division swing, they won five of six games. The signature win, 4-2 at Brandt Centre over the lethal Regina Pats, delivered: an assist in Sean Richards’ return, the Tips first win in Regina since Dec. 7, 2010, and an extinguishing of the Pats’ 11-game winning streak before 5,400 fans in what was a great looking midweek environment. Simply put: this was a stern test to answer “ok, how real are the Tips?” The question was answered in resounding fashion (the trip also began the “suit / sweater combo” fad … after this win, I wasn’t letting go).
- COMING OUT SWINGING: February 26 at ShoWare Center: the Tips were beaten, and bean soundly in a 6-1 massacre. You figured they really had to be ready after Keegan Kolesar called it the “biggest game of the season.” Good news: they had a do-over, and a chance to turn tables one weekend later. In downtown Everett, they turned the tables, then flipped it on the Thunderbirds. One 4-2 win later before a sellout crowd of 8,249, the Tips outshot their rivals from Kent 40-17, built a lead as big as 3-0 in the first period, and essentially never looked back. The Tips and T-Birds would teeter between first and second place over the last two weeks of the season, but the Tips had games in hand (which, they took full advantage of), and this was the win that perhaps sent the U.S. Division title chase into a permanent positive course.
- STARING IN THE EYE OF THE TIGER: Perhaps the first statement making win at home for the Tips was Dec. 2, in a 4-3 win over a Medicine Hat Tigers squad that offensively resembled a buzzsaw. Averaging over four goals per game and en route to a 50-win season under Shaun Clouston (most since the 06-07 championship season under Willie Desjardins), the Tips hacksawed Medicine Hat’s high octane set-up and enjoyed their only hat trick of the season: Patrick Bajkov’s natural delight which included a record setting two goals in 15 seconds.
Honorable mention: Teddy Bear Toss – for everything. The goal (scored lated in the second period), Tuulola’s reaction, then the always-goosebumps inducing theatre of fur flying on the ice made for an amazing moment.
Let’s hear yours (thanks friends, via Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments). When you’re done reading this, soak it all in, and savor for next season:
(De Ann Argle, BLOG COMMENTS): As much as I would love to say that the 5 OT game killed our 7:00 PM ferry reservation we had no choice but to leave after the 2nd OT period. We frantically (those not driving) searching for a way to listen to the rest of the game on the radio… that is not one of my favorite moments. The one that sticks out the most is this last season on the Monday afternoon game (drawing a blank on which team we played) but… The puck was down in our (ice box side) end of the ice and Foote (I believe) and Riley Sutter were jousting with each other and Foote came up under Riley’s stick and it flew out of his hands. Riley went and quickly grabbed his stick and got back in position and he did the same thing right back to Foote. What makes it so memorable and one of my most memorable moments is the look on Riley’s face after he looked at the ref to see if he was going to get called on it. Well the look of pure delight and a bit of revenge was awesome! I can still see it to this day!
(Facebook – worth the click – the responses are really good):
Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game. Tweet at him here.