I will never get that experience again

I can easily make this another thank you letter to how my friends, family, or Maroon 5, and how they have led me closer to the Real with each passing day. However, how can I know they have led me so close to something I have never even tasted? There is something wrong with that previous statement, as I can remember one moment, just one moment throughout my 18 years on this Earth, where I felt as though I could reach the Real. What I’ve realized is that in order to achieve that Real, you must be between some saddest moments in your life, as it makes that experience that much sweeter.

It is impossible to live in complete happiness or sadness because we instead live in between these categories based on the events that happen around us. It is hard to believe this statement when it feels like one bad thing happens after another. This was the story of my life in 2013 when my grandmother past away. That was the hardest death I ever had to face because my two grandfathers had died before I was born and my other grandmother died when I was young. Therefore, this was the biggest death that ever happened to me and it hurt me so bad. Now, imagine going through all this pain after the nicest and most caring person in the world just died, and add the first day of high school 2 weeks later. The hardest time in my life came along with the hardest transition of my life. It makes me cry just thinking and writing about it.

As the weeks roll by, the pain does seem to fade away at times, but comes back to haunt me at the worst times, from kids talking about their grandparents to even driving around her old neighborhood, bringing up old memories that I never appreciated enough and will never ever get back. But if I had to say one thing that helped me get through the hardest time in my life, it would be the New York Rangers. As you all know, I am a big sports fan, but during that time (to make matters worse), everybody was still laughing at the Jets, the Knicks were beginning their long and hard decline, and the Yankees weren’t doing anything special. But the Rangers were certainly doing something special, and I am forever grateful for what they have done for me in my hardest of times.

At this time, I wasn’t the biggest of hockey fans. I would keep up with the scores and watch some Ranger games, but I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan. Just a causal fan watching their team. However, as the Rangers continued their season, the showed unbelievable grit and determination to fight for every single game no matter the score and no matter the cost. You would see small Mats Zuccarello and his 5’7” body running into walls and speeding past every single person that was bigger than him (which was everybody) and then give a selfless pass at the end to get the assist, not the goal for himself. You would see Henrik Lundqvist making the most unbelievable saves that would make anybody’s head turn upside down. As the season grew, I definitely was a much bigger fan, but I wasn’t in love with the team at the time of the playoffs.

As the playoffs began, the Rangers were the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, and for all you basketball fans, go back and think when the last time a 5th seed won a championship. Exactly. The Rangers were actually favored in their first series, but after that nobody gave them a chance. The had to go to a seven game series just to defeat the Flyers in the first round, and next up was the 2nd seed Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the best teams in hockey. I’m sorry this post is so long, but I’m just trying to get every detail so you can somehow feel what I went through.

This series was one of the most grueling series I could ever remember. The Rangers had to play 5 games in 7 days, when you should normally play 5 playoff games in about 10-12 days. Especially when these games were so important, the Rangers were exhausted, and that showed through the first 4 games of the series, as the Rangers lost 3 of them. The Rangers had never overcome a 3-1 deficit in their whole history, and they had been around for almost 90 years at the time of this series. Down to one of the best teams in hockey, exhausted, and having to overcome a deficit never done before turned out to be the least of the Rangers worries at the time. Soon after Game 4’s completion, Martin St. Louis, the shortest tenured Ranger, had found out that his mother had just died. Flashbacks suddenly came back to me of my grandmother, and my heart sunk in such a depressive state as I can only imagine what he was going through. His mother’s death was so unexpected and happened at the worst time in terms of hockey and life. Nonetheless, he played in Game 5, a game most experts said would be the Rangers last of the season.

The Rangers came in with such a fury never seemed before that it even took me by surprise. The Rangers won Game 5 5-1, as St. Louis continued to play as he mourned his mother’s death. Now this is my favorite part, so if you’re going to read any part of this post, read this part. Soon after Game 5, the Rangers absolutely had to return home to New York for Game 6 to practice and rest their already exhausted bodies. But Martin St. Louis had to stay back alone and attend his mother’s funeral. As St. Louis went to the funeral, the Rangers took the team bus back to New York. However, on that very day, SportsCenter cut to the funeral. As you see a crowded parking lot, a huge bus suddenly appears from out of nowhere. And, as tears began to fly off my eyes, one by one, a Ranger came off the bus in a beautiful suit ready to console their teammate and new friend. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. A team that had to be in New York to get ready for a playoff game instead went to console a teammate that they just recently traded for and barely knew as a person, just as someone who just enters high school barely knows anybody n the first day of school.

I promise I’m getting to the end of the story soon. Now, as Game 6 started, Martin St. Louis got a rebound and quickly scored the first goal in the game. One of the reasons as to why I love hockey so much (something that I first began to love at that point) is that the players always high five and hug each other after a team goal. But there was something special about this moment when St. Louis scored and all his teammates quickly consoled him in the corner of the rink. Did I forget to mention St. Louis scored the first goal on Mother’s Day? If you gave this script to a Hollywood producer, he would throw it away for being too cheesy and impossible to happen.

The Rangers went on to win that series in 7 games, and then came the Montreal Canadiens, a team who had one of the best goaltenders in hockey. But they forgot about our goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, who is without a doubt the best goaltender in hockey. In Game 4, with the Rangers up 2-1 in the series and in a pivotal overtime game, the puck somehow found its way to, somehow, you guessed it, Martin St. Louis, who quickly scored the overtime goal. Henrik Lundqvist went on to make the most memorable save in my lifetime in Game 6 to lead the Rangers to the first Stanley Cup Final in my lifetime. As the Rangers hugged each other to death, I could only think about how happy I was, happy for one of the first times in a long time, and the first time I could remember my grandmother with a smile on my face. I could taste the Real, it was right there in front of me. If you truly worked hard enough you could accomplish anything no matter what other people believed at first. The haters will soon understand and show their love to you too, as hockey soon took over this town as it deserved. This team finally got the recognition it deserved after so many years of playing second fiddle to every other sport. The Rangers, total underdogs, got on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the underdog that everybody has come to love. It was finally happening. After one of the hardest times in my life, my luck was finally turning around and a team built around nothing but heart was going to finally get what they deserved: a Stanley Cup title.

As the first two games went by, the Rangers lost in overtime and double overtime, respectively, and were quickly down 2-0 in the series. They then lost Game 3 of the series and had to win every single game from then on in order to win a Stanley Cup. It was nearly impossible, but after reading all this, we know nothing is impossible when it came to these Rangers. But, as these 3 games went by, there was a different vibe. The Rangers weren’t getting any lucky bounces and were getting very unlucky for a team that was putting their hearts and souls into every game. Skipping to Game 5 of the series, the Rangers were once again in double overtime with the Kings. Whoever scored next would win, and if the Kings scored, they would be champions. Henrik Lundqvist made 48 saves that game when a goalie should normally only face 30, but the 51st shot of the game was the last he faced that season, as the Kings scored off a rebound from a Lundqvist save and shot it into an open net to win the Stanley Cup.

As I sat there in silence watching each member of the Kings storm the rink in celebration, all I could do was cry. As Henrik Lundqvist, my favorite player and the man most deserving of a Stanley Cup, lay flat on the ground in misery, I cried. As the Kings lifted the Stanley Cup up each time, I cried. And as I look over to my dad, who was watching every game with me every step of the way, he was also crying. I had only seen him cry one other time in my life.

Therefore, through that small taste I had of the Real, I also had some of the worst moments of my life. I hope that I will one day achieve the Real, but I know I will never get that experience again, and maybe that is what I truly wanted all along. I guess we’ll never know.

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