As fans and even athletes, we breathe every single breath of hockey for games like tonight.

The playoffs.

The playoffs mean everything to anyone associated with hockey. The weather seasons may change on the 21st of every 3rd month, but when you walk outside, you can’t tell or feel that the change went down on that 21st day. However, you can when you add the word “post” to “season.” Now change is staring right back at you. When you live through your first playoffs, it really changes how you view the hockey world. It reminds you of why you watch all 82 games and as you return to the playoffs years after, your vision grows. Wanting..and needing that validation to be the best. It is a hunger that will never leave and it only gets bigger.

When you stand out there on center ice or you are in the stands listening to the national anthems and watching the waving flags and putting on your game face, it truly is the grandest day of them all on the grandest stage. You are standing there, chin and eyes up while taking in the sights and sounds. You realize that this is what it is all about. You stand with your peers and your fans, and as a player or team, you realize that you mean something. Your center ice is like a dance floor at your prom and you are the king of it.

It truly is a dance for VIPs.

Maybe you are thinking of the memories of playoffs past. You are thinking of the first time you watched the Bruins and Sabres in the playoffs during the 80s. The bitter disappointments and the sight of gold and black sure doesn’t make you think of bees and honey. You think about Game 1 of the ’99 SC Finals and you can still feel the goosebumps and butterflies before the game. Yes, those days weren’t the same as hoping to just get into the playoffs on our heroic run for the 8th spot. 18,000 fans cheering for Chris Drury’s game 5 clincher against the Rangers. How many times did you check out YouTube? The Buffalo hockey world stood in awe for those moments.

Oh, yeah…the butterflies never leave you..they are just napping. No matter how many playoffs you’ve seen or played in, you are still in awe. 

The playoffs, man…there’s a fever to it. There’s an X-factor to it that you can’t really explain or put into words, you just have to feel it. Sometimes, things are so special in your sports life, that you can’t describe it because you have to be there.

It is your time to shine and take that hockey spotlight and let it mean something more than just a light bulb. The playoffs are a time for a player to give a performance that the hockey world will never, ever forget. It is a time in which you put together all your hard work, the blood, the sweat, the tears and the sacrifice to prove to everyone that you are the best in the fucken world. Everything you have ever wanted in your hockey life comes down to just 16 more wins in two months. You haven’t lived..you haven’t breathed..until you feel the NHL playoffs.

May Day, the fog game, Drury with 7 seconds, Pominville beating Emery, Jason Woolley’s shot heard ’round the hockey world, those are all great memories that make you watch in sheer amazement. Of course, it was not always perfect as we watched in utter disbelief or in stunned silence when the dream became a nightmare.

But above all, you are inspired and enriched by the vision.

The Sabres and I have never seen our favorite moment…yet. Winning the Cup is the chance to live forever. Your named engraved on the greatest trophy in sports. It is not about parties in the plaza or beer or injuries or friends, it is about being the best at what you do and love. Winning the Cup is the ultimate.. It is hockey heaven and you can only RSVP if you win it all.

A moment where you can yell at the top of your lungs: “We did it! So many times we were so close, years after years, mile after mile, loss after loss… but we never quit, we never gave up! We have done it! We are living our dream. FINALLY! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THIS WORLD!”

Alas, we aren’t a part of it..again.

We didn’t get the invite to tonight’s festivities. We get to watch other players and fans live for their moment in history. So, when you try and say that this season wasn’t a failure because of whatever excuse or silver-lining you are grabbing on to, you should probably read this again or ask someone who’s been there to tell you what cheering for sports is truly about.