So there we were, less than 3 minutes to go, Melbourne Ice down 2-3 to the Sydney Bears, having scored a third period goal to edge back to within reach, yet probably not really.
I turned to my game companions, Will and Hotcakes Gillespie, and said: “Wings deja vu, much?”
Because only a day before, the Red Wings had found themselves trailing 2-3 in the third period one too many times and not been able to find that final goal, against the San Jose Sharks.
Out of the play-offs for the second year in a row in Round Two. Beaten by the Sharks for the second year straight, even if the Wings had heroically forced it to a sudden-death Game 7. Banged up and running on fumes and not able to find one goal that might have changed everything.
Unlike the fitful Ice, who somehow slotted home an equaliser and then won in OT on a shoot-out goal. Go Ice!
There was only one thing to do, in the wake of the Wings’ demise. Will and I had a stick and puck session on the Henke Rink after the Ice game and then the next day I went to the Melbourne Aquarium to go mano du sharko with some actual sharks.
It was kind of strange scuba diving at the aquarium: like Disneyland for divers. You’re diving in a seven-metre deep tank and it feels like a giant swimming pool – a long way removed from belting through the Port Phillip Bay heads on a dive boat, the shock of Bass Strait cold water, the surge of the ocean. And yet Sam and I, and the other divers, were surrounded by huge rays, actual sharks, a hammerhead, and all sorts of incredible fish.
And a crowd watching from the aquarium’s observation areas. One kid was staring at me as I swam over the glass tunnel, and I waved. His eyes almost popped out of his head – I felt a strong need to track the family down and have his parents explain the difference between fish and people swimming underwater.
Unlike the super-friendly fiddler rays, the sharks at the aquarium don’t love the divers who turn up each weekend, in groups of five, including a guide, three times per afternoon. They keep to themselves, only occasionally even gliding overhead or nearby.
Which meant I was unable to land a roundhouse haymaker on the snout of one of them, hissing through my regulator: “This one’s for the Wings, bitch.”
Probably this was for the best. Instead, I just enjoyed leaning on a fake coral shelf, watching a hammerhead swim by. Not something I do everyday.
Half a world away, in Detroit, the Wings shaved their playoff beards, posed for one last team photo, cleaned out their lockers, and headed for a long off-season. As with all teams, the end of a season leads to questions about who will be there next time around? Modano and Osgood will almost certainly retire. Draper too, probably. Everybody hopes the team captain, mighty Lidstrom, goes around one more time. He’s definitely playing well enough, and Nik, every pro athlete I’ve ever spoken to, post-retirement, rues that you’re a long time retired and should milk it for all you can while it’s there.
Just like an aquarium dive. Even if you can’t beat up the Sharks responsible for Detroit’s demise.
And me? I need to get back on the ice. I missed last Wednesday’s class (pivots!) for an ill-advised attack on the Rocket Clock stage (second place, sigh … I’m blaming the playoff beard scaring the judges; not the story) and so am a skate or so short of good form right now. Just because Zetterberg and Dats have put their skated feet up for the northern summer, doesn’t mean I can. My journey continues.