“Am I still breathing?” One fan’s Game 7 reaction

Elimination games are one thing. Game 7’s are a completely different beast.

I got a lot of welfare checks and reminders to breathe Wednesday night during the Syracuse Crunch’s game 7 victory over the Toronto Marlies.

A lot.

I’m not kidding.

I’ve long given up on hiding my true feelings from my Twitter followers. Although I don’t tweet nearly as many cuss words as I use in real life, what you see on my Twitter is pretty much me.

Let’s put it this way: I tweeted a lot about anxiety and vomiting on Wednesday, and yet didn’t lose a single person. Not even a bot! That’s pretty dang amazing, especially considering my Syracuse Crunch coverage has lessened somewhat since changing positions here at Raw Charge. Granted, I have no way of knowing how many of my followers have hid me - and, honestly, I’m willing to bet it’s quite a few - but my Twitter is generally a safe space for me, and I’m lucky to have it.

I take my hockey team seriously and follow them with a pretty intense passion, as do most of us who frequent this site. In the 13 years I’ve been a fan of the Crunch, I’ve watched them make the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs six times. I’ve watched them make the Conference Final twice, and the Calder Cup Final once. I’ve yet to see them win a championship. A very good friend of mine has wondered repeatedly how I haven’t burned out over all of this, basing her amazement on her own experiences in the past with following a team through a failed championship bid.

I’m not sure I have an answer for her, but I do know one thing: If there were more game 7’s in my life as a fan, I might burn out quicker than a match in a windstorm.

In those six playoff runs, I’ve been present for numerous elimination games. Only two of those games, however, were game 7’s. Game 7’s are just different from the average playoff elimination game. Both teams have to be hungry. Both teams have to be desperate. Both teams know it’s truly win or go home. The cliche is true: the intensity cannot be beat.

Somewhat amazingly, the two game 7’s I’ve watched in 13 years have both featured the Syracuse Crunch pairing off against the Toronto Marlies in the second round of the playoffs. In 2008, I sat in the living room of my best friend, watching the grainy feed over B2 Networks from Toronto (B2 was the precursor to AHL Live). I can still vividly remember the scene, almost 10 years old now, as the Crunch tried desperately - and failed - to save their season. As the clock ticked down, we could only sit in stunned silence as we realized that our - I mean, their - season was over. No more chances. Nothing. It was awful.

Nine years later, I found myself staring down another second round game 7 versus Toronto. Our colors were different, our players were different, our rink was different, but the anxiety was still very much the same. The Crunch were at home Wednesday night, having gained the home ice advantage the 2008 team before them didn’t have. The familiar surroundings perhaps offered some comfort, but I was still incredibly nervous, something I didn’t bother trying to hide.

One of the best things about watching hockey at the Onondaga County War Memorial is that the fans are right on top of the glass. My seat is three rows and a walkway back from the ice, across from the Crunch bench. I’ve done my fair share of observing “the guys” in the years I’ve been sitting there, and never was I more intent on my team than when they went down 3-1 in the second period. I was starting to feel scared that things were going to go to way of 2008, and so I did what a lot of fans (and players) do during times of panic.

I looked to our captain.

Cheesy? Probably. But I’m not going to lie to you: it helped.

So much as been written here and elsewhere about what Erik Condra has meant to us here in Syracuse this season that it doesn’t need to be reiterated. That night, the midst of all of my anxiety and invading previous memories, I looked to Condra, took a breath, and started cheering for my team again. As the comeback started, I cheered louder. And as the clock ticked down towards an eventual 6-3 Crunch win, I screamed so loud and so often that my voice is still scratchy two days later.

There are moments fans just don’t forget. Trevor Frischmon’s overtime goal in 2008 that sent the Crunch on to that fateful series with the Marlies is one. Gabriel Dumont’s overtime goal in 2017 that sent the Crunch onto a second fateful series with the Marlies is another. The game this past Wednesday, one of the few successful game 7’s in Syracuse Crunch history, will most certainly be added to that list. It was thrilling to be a part of.

Now if you’ll excuse me...

...Here we go again!