Last night, against the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers’ #89, Sam Gagner, did the unthinkable and scored 8 points in a game, earning the first, second and third stars at the game’s conclusion, which rendered the little Oilers and their unexpected breakout star the winners by a whopping four goals. Even before the end of the game, Gagner, among Oiler fans and fans of any other NHL team in the league, were blowing up social networking sites the world over to talk about Sam Gagner, who had done something unheard of in the NHL ever since 1988.
It’s reasons like this why I love sports; because sometimes, something completely unexpected, mythic and historic happens. Last night’s Oilers game is something that nobody would have seen coming a mile away. We were all blindsided; I think even Gagner himself was blindsided by his amazing performance. The underdog triumph in this case was two-tiered: an underdog team seeing a HUGE success at the hands of an underdog player. If you wrote this story as a fictional event, no one would believe it. They’d think it utterly impossible or too perfect and precious to be real. But there we all were, watching history in the making and watching a team find its sea legs in a crucial moment against a division rival with the big guns hoisted on its back.
Drama is something that people don’t associate with sports often enough. There is a physical side of sports; there is the analytical and statistical side of sports. But behind those two elements there is a passion play conducted, rehearsed, recited and performed at times that are completely random and astonishing. It happens every Olympic games; it happens every sports season: that moment that sends people into collective awes.
The Oilers basically have no hope in hell of making the playoffs again this year; I mean, mathematically, if they won EVERY game for the rest of the season and if someone else on the cusp went on a tyrannical losing streak, there is a slim chance that fate would thrust them into the eighth place spot. But the chances of that happening would rely on the presence of the most powerful Hockey Gods on the planet. However, I was watching them yesterday from my living room and thinking, “Now there’s the team to beat. Because there’s the team that wants to win, and will stop at nothing to do it.”