I have a friend named Tyler, and he’s a Stanley Cup champion.
One of the most amazing things about Tyler is that number on his sleeve. Nineteen was not only the black and yellow number flying around the ice when the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven to win the Stanley Cup, it is also Tyler’s age.
Born on Jan. 31, 1992, this season was his first in the NHL after spending two years with Plymouth in the Ontario Hockey League. Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 entry draft, had 22 points in 74 regular season games before being scratched for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Seguin’s first playoff action came in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay where he filled in for Patrice Bergeron, who was injured during the Boston-Philadelphia series. Inserted for offense, Seguin provided just that. The third-line center put up six points in his first two playoff games — a goal and an assist in Game One, two of each in Game Two — and was the hero of Game Two’s 6-5 victory when his line scored three second-period goals.
Whatever edge Seguin had on the competition — beginner’s luck, fresh legs, you name it — disappeared after his four-point performance in Game Two. As his scoring dropped off, so did his playing time, and Claude Julien replaced him in the lineup with enforcer Shawn Thornton for Game Three of the Stanley Cup final.
He returned for Game Four after Nathan Horton was crushed by Aaron Rome and had an assist in Boston’s 4-0 victory, his first and only point of the series. Seguin played just over 11 minutes in Game Seven, another 4-0 Boston victory, before taking a victory lap around Rogers Arena with the Stanley Cup.
I have two friends in Boston who were pretty ecstatic for the Bruins’ victory, but here in Buffalo, all it meant was we had to watch the GEICO caveman himself, Zdeno Chara, carry around Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In the days since I’ve been trying to figure out what else Boston’s Stanley Cup victory means, 450 miles away. Because the game itself — Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals, what this site is named after — was a letdown. There has to be something more. Vancouver came out flat and all the hype for the best single event in all of sports was too much for a team that started the offseason three days too soon.
The more I thought, the more I kept coming back to Tyler Seguin, for one simple reason: He’s the first person younger than me to ever win the Stanley Cup.
For every Game Seven I played in my driveway growing up, he lived it; and for every Stanley Cup I won in my dreams, he kissed it.
I remember the first time I was ever on the ice, at a learn-to-skate clinic at the old Sabreland, now Hockey Outlet in Wheatfield. I wanted to go as fast as I could every step I took, and about five minutes into the three-day clinic I decided I was going to win the Stanley Cup someday.
After the garbage man/truck driver/policeman phase of a little boy’s career plans usually comes the professional athlete phase, and if a hockey player was the athlete you chose, winning a Stanley Cup has been your life goal since first grade. It’s funny how fast you realize you don’t want to be a garbage man but how long your next career plan, athlete, stays with you.
For every youth hockey player across the country, what might be the first real reality check of his young life comes when he starts to realize his NHL dreams are, well, just that. More often than not it comes in the form of a teary-eyed ride home from a tryout. When someone tells you to your face (assuming the coach has a pair) that you aren’t good enough, it does a number on your confidence.
As every hockey player gets older and goes through high school and into college, it becomes more and more apparent that the NHL isn’t for you. That makes it slightly easier to deal with, but despite all rationale, every kid still clings to a sliver of optimism that maybe, somehow, there’s still a shot you could win the Stanley Cup.
The one very last excuse there is to hang on to is drawn from the very last piece of logic kids can pull from the situation: Yeah, I know I haven’t made it to the NHL or won the Stanley Cup yet, but that’s because they’re all older than me.
Despite how low your chances are even as a great player on a great high school team (try zero), age is the last thing you have that nobody can deny.
But now that Tyler Seguin has won the Stanley Cup, I’m fresh out of excuses.
He started playing in the OHL at 16 and the NHL at 18. The only team he’s probably ever been cut from in his life was the Canadian squad for the World Junior Championships, but even that is understandable — he was 17 trying out for Canada’s under-20 team. The fact that he could even show his face at that tryout lets you know he’s probably going to the show.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Tyler and I aren’t really friends, and besides Y chromosomes and a love of hockey we probably don’t have that much in common. Because of him there are no more excuses for why I’ll never be in the NHL, nothing left to hold on to.
Seguin never had any of these problems like the rest of us. I was thinking about that the other day when I rhetorically asked myself where I went wrong. I was half-joking when I said it; but that means I was also half-serious, and that stuck with me.
Truth is there is no one defining moment that me or any of the thousands of kids my age who were better than me can look back on and say I would be in the NHL right now if that did or didn’t happen. Getting injured sure didn’t help, but even with two good knees I probably still end up right here writing about this kid named Tyler who became everything I’m not.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe that’s the beauty of it: I didn’t. This is where I’m supposed to be, Stanley Cup ring or not.