Overtime playoff hockey is glamorous. It’s the peak performance moment of the sport. If you were to write a screenplay for a Hollywood film about a professional hockey team, it would end with a game that went to sudden death overtime in a playoff clinching game. It’s sexy.
It’s also annoying.
When you go to a game, the possibility of one overtime is always in the back of your mind. Two overtimes is an exotic proposition; something special and rare. Three overtime periods is actually kind of obnoxious. “Can’t someone just score already? I’ve been here for hours. End this game!”
Third overtime also resides in that space where it is so beyond annoying it starts to become funny. How long could this game go? Could we have a fourth OT? A fifth? You start searching on the Internet things like “longest hockey game ever.” It becomes a story to tell your friends. “I was there when the Marlies had triple overtime!”
Today I share the tale from the press box of Ricoh Coliseum after the Marlies played through to a third overtime; a gruelling 4 hours and 39 minutes; the longest Marlies game in history.
“This can’t happen”
It was pretty obvious the game would go to overtime. At intermission before the third period, I was sitting with PPP member LatinHeat, and predicted just that. Little did I know how much overtime was about to happen. Mackenzie Blackwood was an absolute wall for the Devils. So was Kasimir Kaskisuo for the Marlies. There were legitimate scoring chances by both teams, but neither goalie let in a single shot after the first goal on each.
When the game went to OT, it was fun, mostly. Ricoh was really cold that night, so it was a little uncomfortable, but the prospect of sudden-death OT made it worthwhile. However there was no sudden death. Instead we watched as the teams went back and forth, turning over the puck in the neutral zone, or playing the dump and chase game. The scoring chances went down compared to regulation, not up.
If I may be so bold, the game got kind of boring. And it went on, and on, and on.
Second OT had some great saves by the goalies, but also some pretty bad hockey by the skaters. It was obvious all the players were really tired. They were slower, and started having trouble making basic hockey plays. Passes were flubbed, pucks were turned over to the other team in the neutral zone, and then turned back over again two seconds later. All that on top of a 15 minute intermission between each OT period meant for an extraordinarily long hockey game.
Marlies Coach Sheldon Keefe said the players were actually receiving IV’s in between periods to stay hydrated.
Even the officials looked exhausted. At one point a referee on the ice dropped to one knee, giving the universal “I need a minute” signal. The game had started at 7:00PM. I arrived at about 6:00, expecting to leave before 10:00. As 2OT wound down, it was now well past 11:00PM.
We still believed that the game was likely to end soon. “There’s no way it’ll go to triple OT. That just doesn’t happen! Someone will score.” But, as the clock ticked on, it became clear that triple OT was going to happen. With under one minute left in 2OT, the Marlies finally had an offensive zone face off. They won it and made a valiant effort to setup scoring chances, but there was still no goal. Blackwood stopped everything, and the buzzer sounded.
This was really happening. A third overtime was happening... and we were stuck there waiting for it to happen, and who knows how many more!
With the game surpassing 2:21 of the third OT, this is now the longest game in Marlies history. Remember where you were, I know I will.— David Alter (@dalter) April 29, 2017
What if it never ends?
Late in the second OT period, Kristen Shilton of TSN turned philosophical. “What if this game actually never ends? Really, never ends?” she pondered. An interesting question. Were we all possibly in some kind of hockey purgatory?
But, seriously, how does that work? The Marlies and Devils were scheduled to play the following day at 7:00PM, if the Devils won. What would happen if the game had not been resolved? How many overtimes can be allowed to happen before they call the game a tie, or postpone it for another day?
Could one hockey game theoretically turn into the next game the following day?
Such questions are best left to the hockey saints and philosophers, but the possibility of one event occurring did amuse me. What if so much time passed that Kasperi Kapanen went home, slept, came back, and was medically cleared to play? What if he suited up, stepped on the ice in a sixth OT, and scored the game winning goal at 4:00AM? How absolutely nuts that would be?
(Note: Kapanen has since had a follow-up evaluation, and is cleared to play for the Marlies next game against Syracuse.)
Thoughts like these are what consumed our sleep deprived minds. We were also delirious from a lack of food.
It had been almost 5 hours since any of us ate or drank something other than popcorn, coffee, or Jolly Ranchers. The concessions closed up during the first overtime. There was no poutine from Smokes, no snacks from Tim’s, no hot dogs. No nothing. We even ran out of water.
Shilton kept talking about cheeseburgers, basically the last thing you want to listen to when you are starving. It got so bad we actually considered cannibalizing Jeffler. Fortunately for him, a large cardboard box filled with Pocky (a Marlies sponsor) made its way into the room courtesy of the PR staff. Never have little chocolate coated bread-sticks been devoured so quickly. We were like a pride of lions on a succulent young wild boar.
Journalists aren’t supposed to cheer on their team
There is an unspoken rule that professional (and amateur) reporters should not be visibly cheering their team in the press box. While we may be fans, we’re supposed to be there working to cover the game, not enjoy it.
Let me tell you, after sitting and watching a hockey game for four and a half hours, that all goes out the window. Every missed Marlies chance was met with sighs. Devils chances met with yelps of horror. No one wanted to come back for a game the following day at that point. I can only imagine how awful the hockey would have been on Saturday evening between two teams who had in the early hours of that morning finished another a five hour long game.
Finally it’s over - for the players
A lot of fans had already left when Justin Holl finally scored. Many were families with young children who had to get to bed. Some were running to catch the GO trains. I had some comments to record from the players, and then packed up and left.
But, fate is cruel sometimes.
As I exited Ricoh at 12:30AM, the last taxi waiting for a fare decided there was no one left, and booked it out of there. I was literally seconds away from running up to his car. I was forced to schlep down Princes’ Boulevard, under the Princes’ Gate, where a man was was standing on a rock jumping rope at midnight for some reason, to find a ride home.
Strangely, I then got a second wind, and was not tired at all. Perhaps that was actually a symptom of exhaustion, but I was ready for more overtime! Bring it on! Let’s break some world records! It felt like a fitting conclusion to a crazy game I will remember for a long time.