It was almost perfect.
Anyone who knows me even a little bit is well aware of my three sports loves: the Toronto Blue Jays, the Boston Bruins, and the Toronto Raptors.
I was fortunate enough to be of an age where I was able to appreciate the baseball team’s World Series wins back in 1992 and 1993, but it was a good while before one of that trio came out on top of its respective league.
18 years, in fact, and I’ve written about how I cried when the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and what it meant to me to be able to celebrate the win when Rich Peverley brought hockey’s holy grail to Guelph that summer.
The Bruins reached the Final again in 2013 (let’s not talk about that), but I honestly wasn’t sure I’d see this group – or any other in black and gold – get very far anytime soon.
The Blue Jays unexpectedly offered two straight years of playoff baseball, and I truly thought they’d get another win in 2015 – let’s not talk about that either.
As for the Raptors, the greatest joys I had previously experienced in all the time spent rooting for them since Day One resulted in a missed buzzer beater back in 2001 and an inability to get past LeBron James in more recent times, even with the best regular season teams assembled to date.
Cut to two recent nights in June, and the chance to witness two more league championship wins on consecutive nights.
Too good to be true, right?
I’m honestly still not over how the Bruins fell flat in Game 7. It was honestly the perfect opportunity to win another Cup, and to cement the legacies of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, the only carryovers from 2011.
I felt pretty good through the opening 15 minutes, while lamenting a few glorious missed opportunities. As hockey is wont to do, the opposition found a way to capitalize despite limited shots on goal, and a late first period goal on one of the most ill timed line changes I’ve ever seen basically sealed the deal for the St. Louis Blues.
The TV was turned off with a few minutes left in the third period, if I’m being honest. Yes, I know “it was 4-1” once upon a time, but you could tell this group was lacking that magic on this night, and it was too painful an ending to watch.
Earlier than expected to bed I went, and that rest was much needed for the night after.
The Raptors have meant a lot to me over the years. Many of my college memories revolve around this team, and they’ve remained an easy talking point, an impetus to keep in touch with good old friends.
While I usually watch Bruins games alone because nobody around that I’m close with really cares as much as I do, I went to my brother-in-law’s house to watch Game 5 and 6 of the NBA Finals with him and his wife. The energy up here had been palpable for weeks chance to see the Raptors win their first Larry OB was to be shared with others.
Kyle Lowry came out firing, and Kawhi Leonard continued to prove why he’s one of the best players in basketball, and in the end, the Raptors did the damn thing.
I cheered, we hugged, we drank celebratory scotch, I cried and took to Instagram to express how I was feeling in that moment:
It’s a night I won’t soon forget, and the days that have followed have been filled with smiles, high fives, parade viewing, a championship t-shirt order and quiet moments of contentment and thankfulness that we all got to share in that long-awaited moment.
Still, I’m bummed about the Bruins. Through the Draft, the release of next year’s schedule, and as we move into free agency, I continue to lament what could have been, and daydream what could have been with a little more puck luck in those opening minutes.
But hey – if the Bruins themselves were able to party and celebrate getting that far only a couple days after the loss, then far be it for me to dwell on it for too long from a much greater distance.
Because let’s be honest. It’s rare to see the ideal or even expected scenario play out in reality. Lord knows we’ve seen our fair share of hardship around here over the past few years. That’s what puts all this sports stuff in perspective when it doesn’t go your team’s way, and makes life all the sweeter when it does.
Those two nights were a reminder to not take anything for granted, to accept that life will include losses, to celebrate even the smallest of victories along the way, and to enjoy the hell out of the big ones.