The Scene: It is deepest, darkest night at stately IPB Manor, where all the denizens are sleeping the heartless, dreamless sleep of bitter, disgruntled hockey fans. In stark contrast to many parts of the hockey world, where celebration and sweet anticipation hang in the air, here there is little to no regard for the playoffs.
The silence is suddenly broken by an otherworldly moaning and the clanking of heavy chains. The Ookies are startled from the slumber, and grouchily trundle to the front door to see what all the ruckus is. There they are confronted by an apparition that looks almost exactly like the New Jersey Devils.
IPB: [Rubbing their eyes in amazement.] Devils? Is that you?
Apparition: [Moaning spookily and waving the ghostly chains that are draped all over it.] Um, sort of. Yes. In a way. I am, in fact, the Ghost of the Devils’ Playoff Chances.
IPB: Ghost of the Devils’ Playoff Chances? As in, “dead as a doornail”?
GotDPC: [Stiffly.] Haha. Very funny.
IPB: Seriously, you haven’t been short of work these last few years.
GotDPC: Look, I’m not here to listen to you crack wise. In fact, I’m here to warn you. [Emphasizes the point by shaking the spectral chains.]
IPB: [Yawning.] Are you here to warn us that the Devils aren’t getting any better any time soon, so we should get used to seeing you around? Because we knew that already. Now, if you don’t mind, we’d like to get back to bed…
GotDPC: No! That’s not what I came from beyond the grave to tell you! There are two things you need to hear.
IPB: Fine. What are these things? And make this snappy! We’ve got work tomorrow!
GotDPC: [Waves the chains again.] Okay, first of all, I think you should know that trucking your chains around is no picnic.
IPB: Sucks to be you, then.
GotDPC: Ha. You don’t seem to understand — these aren’t my chains. They’re yours. I just brought them to give you a heads-up of what’s waiting for you in the afterlife.
IPB: *Stunned silence.*
GotDPC: [Smugly.] Yeah, I didn’t think you’d have an answer for that. The thing is, these chains represent your bad attitude in life. Every time you say that hockey sucks, another link is added.
IPB: That sucks!
IPB: But we didn’t say that hockey sucks! We said the chain sucks!
GotDPC: [Shrugs.] I don’t make the rules.
IPB: [Glares balefully at the chain.]
GotDPC: You’re going to get yourself in trouble if you don’t stop doing that. Look, let me just finish what I’m here to tell you and you can go back to bed and stop thinking about the chain.
GotDPC: I’m here to warn you that you’re going to have three visitors tonight –
IPB: The hell? It’s already the middle of the night! Didn’t we mention we have work tomorrow?
GotDPC: Tough titties. You’re getting three visitors, and you would be well advised to listen to them.
And as quickly as it arrived, the Ghost of the Devils’ Playoff Chances disappears. The Ookies are left standing alone in the inky darkness outside their front door. They glance around briefly, then chuckle nervously to themselves and decide to go back to bed, not believing that any of what just happened was real.
One hour later, they are roused again from their gloomy slumber by a racket at the front door.
IPB: [Groggily opening the door.] What the fuck is going on out here?
A familiar-looking figure is sprawled across the stoop, his feet tangled in a now toppled and broken flowerpot, with dirt and flowers scattered everywhere.
IPB: Jason Arnott?
Arnott: Where the hell did that flowerpot come from?
IPB: It was just on the ground right there…
Arnott: I, uh, must have tripped over it…
IPB: Well, we kind of expect that sort of accident from you. You should probably see a doctor, because knowing you, you’ve gotten a concussion out of this, too.
Arnott: [Getting up and dusting himself off.] I’m not actually the real Jason Arnott, so I’m not worried about concussions. I’m the Ghost of Playoffs Past.
IPB: [Rolling their eyes.] Oh for fuck’s sake!
A ghostly *CLANK!* is heard echoing through the night air. The Ookies immediately look chastened.
GoPP: I’m here to take you on a little journey, ladies. So watch your step there — some of the shards of that flowerpot are pretty jagged — and follow me…
Suddenly the Ookies are transported to Continental Airlines Arena just as the final shift is being skated of Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. The building is rocking, and there in front of them is the 2003 Ookies, hugging their friends and weeping with joy.
GoPP: See that?
IPB: [Wiping away tears at the "Dano!" chants from the crowd.] Yeah. What a great time!
Before they can watch any more, the Ghost of Playoffs Past snaps his fingers, and the Ookies find themselves standing in the family room of their old house in Arizona, as the final shift of Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final is being skated on the television. The Ookies look like they’re about to say something, but the Ghost shushes them.
GoPP: Hold on. I just wanna watch this one more time…
They watch as Jason Arnott scores the Cup-winning goal, and the 2000 Ookies go crazy with happiness in front of the TV. GoPP looks a bit choked up.
IPB: Are you sure you’re not the real Arnott?
GoPP: [Fighting tears.] If I was the real Arnott, I’d be concussed right now, remember? I just happen to really like that play, is all. I’m totally not Arnott. Totally.
The Ghost snaps his fingers again, and suddenly the three are standing in Penn Station, watching the 1995 Ookies emerge from an R.E.M. concert at MSG into throngs of Devils fans chanting “Let’s go Devils!” 1995 Schnookie says to 1995 Pookie, “Was there a hockey game tonight? I had no idea the Devils were playing for the Cup.”
GoPP: What the hell? This was supposed to be a triumphant tour of your happiest moments as hockey fans! What’s all this? You’re at an R.E.M. concert, and have no idea that the Cup Final is going on? Or that your state’s hockey team is winning it? What is wrong with you?
IPB: [Defensively.] We became fans the next Fall! Give us a break! We wanted to be fans after everyone got all wrapped up in the ’94 Cup, but then there was the lockout, and Schnookie went to college, and…
GoPP: Whatever, Ookies. Whatever.
IPB: You asked.
GoPP: Yeah, forget it. The point is that I wanted to show you how much you’ve been able to enjoy the playoffs before. Remember how it was? You saw how happy you were!
IPB: Well, no kidding we were happy! Those were Devils’ Stanley Cups you showed us.
GoPP: Right. Well… there’s also this–
In a snap the trio is down on the glass watching the 1997 Ookies flipping out to cheer Marty Brodeur scoring a goal against Montreal, and then just as quickly they’re in two places at once, seeing Schnookie watching on TV in Arizona and Pookie watching in person, both giddy with glee while chanting “CUUUU-JOOOO!” as the Devils hold the Maple Leafs to six shots in the second-round elimination game in 2000, and then just as quickly again they are seeing their 2006 selves whooping with delight as the Devils finish off the first-round sweep of the Rangers on TV.
IPB: [Unimpressed.] Dude, those are all great Devils playoff moments. Are you trying to teach us about how much fun we have watching the playoffs that don’t have the Devils in them?
GoPP: Uhhh… I think that’s what I was supposed to do, actually, now that you mention it.
IPB: Memory problems? Are you sure you’re not concussed?
GoPP: [Crankily.] I’m FINE! Look, I could take you back to 1996. You had a great time that year–
IPB: [Cutting him off.] That was our first year as hockey fans! We weren’t even Devils fans yet! Don’t take us back there — we were cheering for the Avs, for chrissake.
GoPP: Gross! The Avalanche Avs? You ladies were messed up, you know?
IPB: [Through gritted teeth.] Yes. We know.
GoPP: Oh, right! Speaking of messed up–
He snaps his fingers and the little group is watching the 2006 Ookies reveling in the fun and joy of that year’s postseason.
GoPP: Look at how much fun you had then.
IPB: We dunno… That was kind of an exceptional year, looking back at all these other duds…
Suddenly, as another spectral *Clank!* echoes in the air, the Ookies find themselves standing alone in the pitch dark on their front step, with nothing but a broken flowerpot to prove what just happened. They exchange an eyerolling, “What in the hell?” glance, then silently retreat back to bed.
To Be Continued…