Tonight, the London Nationals take on the St. Thomas Stars, opening a best-of-seven series against their most hated rival. In the six games that the two teams played against each other this year, St. Thomas came away with four wins. It's a team that the Nats have hated for a long time, and know that this upcoming series will be a war.
"We know it's London and St. Thomas, it's a big deal in Jr. hockey," says Nationals head coach Kelly Thomson, who has been with the club since 2010. "Yes, there's a lot on the line. We haven't forgotten that they ended our season in game 7 two years ago, those feelings don't go away."
Strong words from Thomson who, despite winning the GOJHL championship last season, still hasn't forgotten about the end of the 2010-11 season.
"There's hate there -- genuine hate -- I'll be the first one to admit it. Losing to them is not an option for us."
Now, this isn't the typical hockey column where you look at both teams and why they might win. I'm writing this because this isn't going to be the typical playoff series. This is going to be a war. The words that I'm typing on this page don't even begin to describe the hatred that these two teams have for each other. Every game I've seen them play, a man's 45-second shift turns into a 45-second fury of aggression and rage. You're not out there to finish your check and try to make a play -- you're out there to hurt someone and send a message. No matter what the outcome of this series, there are a few guarantees that come with it: someone's getting lit up, someone will drop their gloves, and you won't be coming off the ice un-scathed.
I'll be honest, I haven't been this excited for a hockey game since I was playing. I know how much this playoff run means for a lot of the players; some of these guys know that once the season is done, so is their careers. And I know that sinking feeling of stepping off the ice/field/court and knowing that you'll never play again. It sucks. And considering the amount of games I have seen this year, along with the battles that I've watched these young men go through, they've found a way to get me on their side.
I want them to win. And, against this St. Thomas squad that they have grown to hate over time, I want them to crush them. I want blowouts. I want them to punch them in the mouth. I don't want those classic OT-wins that people rave about; I want the games in their house to be dead silent, with fans leaving before the end of the second to be the traffic that doesn't exist in St. Thomas. I want this to be the opening of Apocalypse Now.
It's going to be a war. Blood will be spilt. Words will be exchanged. Hits will be thrown.
Just another day at #ManCamp