So I was sitting in the sports bar at the Tampa airport waiting for my flight. Two and half days with my girlfriend back in my condo wasn't long enough. Fifteen minutes are left in the third period of the Blackhawks/Sharks game. Chicago, holding a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, had scrambled back to tie the game at 2.
My phone buzzes, Southwest was letting me know that my flight had been delayed till 7.30. Sweet now I get to see the end of the game (hopefully). Barkeep - another Makers and Coke this way, my friend!
The Hawks are buzzin' in the zone, at the table next to me a middle aged man sits with his wife, his thinning hair is covered by a red Blackhawks cap. Behind me a couple of youngin's in their 20's wear red shirts adorned with an Indian mascot.
Dustin Byfuglien creates havoc in front of the net simply by standing there. The pucks comes his way, he flicks his stick at it, Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is reaching behind him, the puck is in the net.
All of us cheer, I can't help myself, I will cheer the Lightning till I die, but for the next two weeks I'm a Blackhawks fan. Now five minutes are left on the clock, the slightly inebriated gentleman to my left in the Innesbrook cap mentions that an empty netter would be nice.
The next four minutes are are tense, the Sharks are buzzing in the zone. A couple of shots head toward Chicago goalie Antei Niemi - none get past. My phone buzzes again, Southwest says my flight is back to 6.30 pm. Were the pilots watching the game?
With less then two minutes left Nabokov skates to the bench and the Sharks have the extra skater. With 50 seconds left Kris Versteeg, who if you believe the rumor mill was almost a member of the Lightning, pokes at a loose puck and it heads toward the empty net. No one can catch it and it crosses the goal line. The red light goes off, Chelsea Dagger blasts over the loudspeaker and the Madhouse on Madison erupts.
At the bar I jump from my seat and high five the stranger next to me, he is grinning like a four year old with a new bike. His wife is happy, but looks a little bewildered.
I slam two fives on the bar and head to my gate in time to make the flight. I'm heading to my new home and the Blackhawks are heading to the Stanley Cup.