They’re almost here.
Over the weekend, hockey fans will get this year’s first look at Game 6. We’ll get one on Saturday night, with the Hawks hosting the Blues. Depending on how things play out, we could have as many as four more on Sunday, and maybe even two more after that on Monday.
It goes without saying that a Game 6 is always crucial. A Game 6 means that one team is guaranteed to be looking to close out the series and move on to the next round. It also means that one team will be facing elimination, just one loss away from seeing everything they’ve worked for all season long end with the crushing disappointment of elimination.
But even more importantly, it means we have a chance to get overtime. And if we do, then the odds are good that we’ll see something truly strange. Because, for reasons nobody has ever been able to explain, Game 6 Overtime is the NHL’s version of the Twilight Zone.
Think back to the strangest, most controversial or just downright confusing moment you can remember witnessing as a hockey fan. The odds are good that it happened in a Game 6 Overtime. Nobody knows why this is. There's no rational explanation for it. But somehow, when it's Game 6 of a playoff series and we're deadlocked after regulation, things get weird. Before the Zambonis have completed their intermission rounds, the generally accepted laws of society, justice and even basic physics are already resetting themselves.
For example, what's the most controversial play in NHL history? Most fans would probably think of Brett Hull's skate-in-the-crease goal to win the 1999 Stanley Cup. And when did that happen? Game 6 Overtime, of course.
That goal and its aftermath still stands as one of the strangest moments that hockey fans have ever seen. Then again, at least we did actually see it. In Game 6 Overtime, there are no guarantees. At any other time, a star player scoring the biggest goal in a decade would be an unforgettable moment. In Game 6 Overtime, you might not even notice that it happened.
This stuff has been going on for decades. And it's not just about the winning goals. Go find the nearest Maple Leafs fan and ask them how their day is going. Then count the seconds until they manage to change the subject to the one play that every Leafs fan has been droning on about for 23 years: Wayne Gretzky's missed high-stick on Doug Gilmour from the 1993 Conference Finals. And when did that happen? Of course.