One of the best gifts I’ve ever received is a Steve Yzerman Red Wings jersey.
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) bought it for me one year as the Wings were about to start their run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That was 1997, the year the Red Wings finally ended their 40-plus-year drought and won the Stanley Cup.
I still have a photo on my dresser of my friends and I celebrating as Yzerman hoisted the Cup above his head. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
And I still have that jersey. The white isn’t quite as bright as it was back in 1997. There are a few stubborn stains that refuse to come out in the wash. For the most part, the jersey resides on a hanger in the back of my closet.
But each year, when the playoffs start, I pull it out and wear it for nearly every Red Wings game.
That’s a lot of games, because the Wings have made the playoffs ever year since I was in sixth grade.
This year, I was a fairly concerned that my Yzerman jersey would have to remain buried in the back of my closet this spring.
But the boys from Hockeytown came through. They won their final four games, sneaking in as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Tonight, they’ll open the playoffs against the Ducks at The Pond in Anaheim. They’ll be heafty underdogs as the seventh seed going up against the No. 2 seed.
But looking back, the Wings won two of their three meetings with the Ducks this year. And the way the Red Wings pulled together to close out the season, I wouldn’t put it past them to upset the Ducks in the opening round.
Hockey’s a funny game. It’s not like the NBA, where the favorites win a vast majority of the time. In hockey, especially during the playoffs, one hot player — the goalie — can swing a series. Need proof? Look no further than last year, when the No. 8-seeded Los Angeles Kings stunned the hockey world to win the Cup.
Once you make the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s what makes playoff hockey the most exciting game out there.
That’s why, despite the fact that half the Wings’ games will start at 10:30 p.m., I’ll be up watching every minute of every game. And you can bet I’ll be wearing my Yzerman jersey the entire time.