Andrew Gordon: Mission Accomplished!

Gordo's Take

The 2009-10 Hershey Bears celebrate back-to-back championships and their 11th in Franchise history. (Photo by Kyle M.)

The 2009-10 Hershey Bears celebrate back-to-back championships and their 11th championship in franchise history. (Photo by Kyle M.)

It was only one week ago that the Hershey Bears won the Calder Cup in a 4-0 rout.  It was their second championship in as many years, their third in five years, and the eleventh in franchise history.  Andrew Gordon writes to share his thoughts on the championship, the celebration, and  what happens now.

Life has a million ways to make you feel good, and a million ways to make you feel miserable.  In my 24 years, I have found only one way to feel like a champion (make that two ways now).  It’s a feeling that all players at all levels try to put into words but can’t ever find the exact way to express it.

It’s a combination of happiness, excitement, relief, satisfaction, fulfillment and complete bliss all mixed together and topped with a touch of “thank God it’s over.”

A championship win is so much different than a regular-season win because there is nothing left to accomplish after it’s over. There is no refocusing for your next opponent. No pasta meal waiting for you before tomorrow’s game. No more playing through injury or sickness. It’s all over, and you have nothing else to think about. It’s as if half of your brain suddenly has nothing to do, so it just shuts down and lets the 8-year-old in you run wild.

In the championship moment, nothing matters except the guys around you. I know there was some intense crowd noise as the buzzer sounded in Hershey, especially compared winning on the road in Manitoba, but I don’t remember hearing a sound. It is like I blocked out everything else in the building except the pile of players huddled around the crease. As you fly over the bench, all you want is to be there with the boys, celebrating what you have just accomplished.

When my career is over, I might not remember the score of the game, but I’ll always remember the feeling of jumping that bench (and falling on my face, if you watch the tape) and sprinting towards the rest of the guys.

In my three years of pro hockey, I’m not sure if I have ever seen a team play with more fire and determination than we did in game six. It was as if we just decided that enough was enough. We couldn’t let them think they were back in the series, so we had to make a statement in the first period.

I think it was our best period of the year. We won every puck battle, finished every check, shot every puck, and defended with our lives. I don’t know if a single guy made a mistake in that period. After that, it was too late for the Stars.

I truly believe that– the way we played that game– we could have beaten the Leafs, the Oilers, and (for most of the season) the Hurricanes. It was a combination of work and skill that is rarely seen at this level. I think we were virtually unbeatable that night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Andrew Gordon hoists the Calder Cup for the second straight year.

How sweet it is. Andrew Gordon hoists the Calder Cup for the second straight year.

It’s both ironic and fitting that we capped off our last game of the season with another record-breaking performance. In a previous entry, I mentioned my “Fun Fact” of the day– that no team had ever lost games one and two at home in the finals then gone on to win the series. Guess they can erase that one from the AHL color-commentary handbook. But that brings me to another point altogether: HISTORY DOESN’T MATTER!!! Nobody in our dressing room was discouraged by the fact that no team had ever come back from two games down. Who cares if it’s never been done? We aren’t those teams who failed before. We are in control of our own destiny, and we will make it happen our own way.

There is no manual that explains how to win a series. You just win four times before they do.

I remember being interviewed before the playoffs about setting all the team records this year and how I felt knowing that the teams who previously held those wins and points records were upset early in the playoffs. My response: we’re not them.  Nothing in the past affects you in the present unless you are too mentally weak to separate the two. Just because something happened the year before doesn’t mean it will happen again. Every season brings a different team with a different outlook and a different identity. No playoffs are ever the same.

That’s why I believe the Caps won’t have a repeat of what happened this year. They had a great team, but couldn’t get a break. It’s a freak occurrence that happens once in a blue moon. It’s sad that it happened to them, but maybe it’s a stepping stone to greater things. I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. It may be hard to understand at the time, but I bet the Caps getting upset in this year’s playoffs lights a fire in them for years to come.

The Hershey Bears mob Michal Neuvirth after the final horn sounds!

The Hershey Bears mob Michal Neuvirth after the final horn sounds! (Photo by Kyle M.)

I think the best part of winning a championship is the two hours right after the buzzer sounds. All the players’ families are there on the ice, there are news crews and photographers everywhere.  It’s complete mayhem. You can’t stand still for more than five seconds because you are always seeing someone new who you have to go celebrate with. I was fortunate enough to share this win with both my parents who came in from Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. My father was there last year in Winnipeg, but my mother hasn’t seen me play live too often in the past few years, so it was great to have her there on the ice moments after we won. As I always mention, these opportunities don’t come around every year, so having her there to experience the emotion in person meant a lot to me. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, and I’m sure she won’t either.

After the trophy is handed out and the pictures have been taken, the real fun starts. In the dressing room there is nobody but the team and its officials, so we really get to be ourselves and cut loose. This is where the 8-year-old brain I mentioned earlier comes into play. There are bottles of champagne being popped and sprayed all around the room. We had beer, water, Red Bull, Gatorade, and pretty much anything else you can find in an arena fridge being flung around in the air at all times. Guys were strapping on swimming goggles at one point to save themselves from going blind. Where they got them, however, I have no idea. That’s some serious planning ahead if they brought them from home!

The Hershey Bears drink from the Calder Cup (via The Patriot-News)

After that, things die down a bit. The team is out of booze since we wasted it all in the first ten minutes. We are soaked in our own sweat and stupidity. And we have to get our gear off and showered up before we get to start sharing more moments with our families again. For me, that’s when it really starts to sink in. I realize that I’m taking my skates off for the last time. There is no more knee pain or cut up swollen ankles to deal with. It’s a wonderful relief. I think your body starts to wilt a bit as it knows it has nothing left to give. As you look around the room, there is nothing but smiles and high fives being thrown around. There is music blaring out of the speakers, but you can barely hear it. Again: in this moment, nothing else matters. From that moment till you leave for home its nothing but happiness. Even when you are packed up and saying goodbye to the guys, there is always that little smirk saying, “hell of a season pal,” without the words needing to be said.

I’ve heard that– once you win a championship– you’ll always have a special bond with the guys on that team.  I’ve now experienced that twice, and it’s true.  Everybody on those two teams can now look back and share those great memories together. Once you become a champion, you gain a little immortality. That win can never be taken away from you. You are in the history books. Once you are a champion, you are always a champion.

Gordo waves to the crowd at the Calder Cup Championship Rally at Giant Center. (Photo by Tim Stough)

Gordo waves to the crowd at the Calder Cup Championship Rally at Giant Center. (Photo by Tim Stough)

In closing, I would like to thank the guys at Russian Machine Never Breaks for giving me the opportunity to join their team. It’s been an incredible ride through the playoffs this year and for me to be able to share my thoughts and feelings with so many people has been an amazing experience. I loved sharing stories about our wins and the courage it took for us to climb back into this series, but I think what I’ll remember most is how writing these entries helped me cope with the times when the series didn’t look so good. It was good for me to get my emotions out, and having thousands of people to vent on was really great.

To those of you who read these entries, I especially thank you! I have had nothing but wonderful feedback from all of you, and it was really encouraging for me to hear. I was a tad nervous at the beginning due to by lack of writing experience, but thanks to all those good reviews, I might have a new outlook on my career after hockey! Without readers, blog sites would never be as prominent of a media source as it is today, so I thank you for your ongoing support. Over the past few weeks it’s been a pleasure to help so many see a little deeper into what’s going on behind the scenes and in my head as a player. You as fans make playing hockey the joy that it is, so to be able to give back a few words every couple days is really the least I could do. Again, I thank you.

As my last quote, I only have to go back a couple months to the Olympics in Vancouver. After Canada won the gold medal game in overtime, one of the NBC announcers had this to say, and after going through this season in Hershey, I completely agree with him.

“In sports, one of the hardest things to do is win when you are supposed to.”

Thank you for your time. See you in September!

Yours in hockey,
Andrew Gordon

  • WashCapsRock

    Gordo – a true champion indeed!! Your blog is thoughtful and well-spoken as usual! Enjoy your summer and congratulations!!!

  • SarahM

    Great read as usual. Gordo is a class act, and I hope he can crack the NHL soon. It’s been great reading all of his blogs. Thank you RMNB for getting all of this to happen. (:

  • amanda

    Love the entry. Been fantastic reading! Really hope to see you in washington next year Gordo! Now all you need is twitter!

  • Holly

    Been a real treat to read Gordo’s entries. Feel like I’m in on something special. Way to go!!!! V I C T O R Y !!!!!!!!

  • “I was a tad nervous at the beginning due to by lack of writing experience, but thanks to all those good reviews, I might have a new outlook on my career after hockey!”

    Gordo, you’re a natural. Congratulations, and here’s to you getting that sweater that’s waiting for you in DC this fall. And congrats to the RMNB team for teaming up with such a winner. Quite a coup, guys.

  • Rich

    Thank you for a wonderful season, Gordo! It is one we, as fans, will never forget either!

  • Your Nation’s Capital

    Rock on, Champ, and have an awesome summer.

  • Bob

    Ah to be eight years old again! Thanks for the trip, forwards and backwards and way down deep.

  • Sombrero Guy

    Fantastic stuff Andrew. I know I’m not the only one who was impressed with the quality of your post. Thanks for sharing, and we hope to see ya in Washington soon.

  • bearsbearsbears

    It has been such a pleasure reading your blog entries, Gordo! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this…you are a born writer – you seem to put your feelings into words with such ease. I hope you’ll continue to do this next season (with the Caps, perhaps? pleasepleaseplease). On behalf of all Bears fans, thank you to you and the entire team for an incredible end to the season. On behalf of all Caps fans, thanks for pulling us through a difficult time!

  • Brian

    Gordo you and the Bears are the best. It is amazing to think what a young core the CAPS have both in the NHL and AHL. Here is to seeing you walk out of the tunnel next year and hopefully the championships will follow!

  • Dee

    Gordo….you are simply the Best! Wonderful person, player and writer! Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. You are an inspiration. Congratulations to you and all the Bears, players and coaches and trainers, etc. Thanks for taking us the fans along on the ride. It was a joy watching the team all season and through to the Calder Cup Championship. Have a great summer.

  • KHtaD

    Wonderful work, both on the ice and on the internet.

  • Brandee

    Your entries have been amazing to read, and you are honestly a great writer. I was really excited that you would be sending in entries about the playoffs, and reading what you wrote just made me an even bigger fan and more into the team & sport itself. I’m really happy and proud of you and the entire team for winning the Cup again! Congrats to you and everyone else. I hope you have a great summer, and hopefully you can continue sending in some random entries next season (Hopefully as a Cap though =D)

  • bz

    No matter what happens, keep writing! You’ve got the knack.

  • Heather

    Gordo you are such an amazing and talented person. Thank you so much for your insights and sharing your time and personal thoughts with all of us. It gives me goosebumps to read these! I hope that we will get to read more from you as you are a natural writer. I wish nothing but the absolute best for you and your career, and thank you for helping to make this season as great as it was! It was so fun to come and watch you play! I hope you have a great summer!!!

  • Ashley

    Andrew, your posts have such an honest expression of the mentality of an athlete. You are simultaneously humble but confident, and that is very interesting and admirable. We knew all along that you and the Bears would win, and congratulations!

  • FedFed

    Thank you, Andrew!
    My congratulations!

  • Lisa

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the playoffs and giving us a little window into the tension and elation you experienced as well as the sacrifices and profound determination it takes to become a champion. Hopefully you can bring some of that to the Caps but in the meantime, congratulations on a great season. Players like you remind us all over again why we love hockey.

  • Taz

    RMNB, what a brilliant notion to get Andrew to write for us, a million thanks. And Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to write these wonderful posts, especially under such circumstances. You’re very gracious in expressing gratitude to us, your readers, but it is we who owe you our thanks for being so generous in taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences. You are a very engaging writer – insightful and eloquent, bringing the experiences to life for us all. (How about starting some memoires? Just a thought….) Have to agree with the posts above, how wonderful it would be if you could write more posts – as a Capital! Thanks to you and the Bears also for helping us Capitals fans climb out of the morass of our despair, giving us something to hope for, cheer for, and ultimately feel exultant for. It was definite balm for the soul. And regarding the Capitals, I think you’ve coined what should be our motto “HISTORY DOESN’T MATTER.” Amen! Enjoy your summer, we look forward to seeing you next season!

  • CapsFan1975

    Great writeup, Gordo. Enjoyed reading all the stories.

    It was a great comeback after a 2 game deficit and down 2 goals in Game 3. You guys on the Bears showed that you were a championship team with character.

    I hope you (and your teammates) can show the big boys (on the Caps) how to win championships.

  • Mike M.

    Best of luck Gordo. Thanks for the memorable season. Hope to see you, Neuvy, Alzner, and Carlson in a Caps uniform next year.

  • Dave

    Thanks for sharing your personal insight, Andrew! In my years of Bears games attendance, I have never felt so connected with the guys on the ice. The fact that you guys enjoyed playing together was obvious during the pre-game warmups and I am convinced that those displays of commeraderie were contagious with regard to the fans in the stands! You guys are awesome and I wish you and all of your teammates the best in the future. Thanks for all of your hard work and thanks for the memories!

  • Gordo,
    I have one question only. Will you be back with the Bears next season? Thanks for all the great moments this year and especially championship night. Wow what emotion from the fans from before the team came out to practice all the way through the final buzzer. It will not be forgotten. Thanks for your part in all of it. Congratulations !!!!!

  • Laich It Or Lump It

    This whole series of blog entries has been fantastic. Many thanks to A. Gordon for his contributions and to RMNB for launching the career of a future hockey writer. No doubt that this partnership has increased exposure for both parties, and that is a great thing.

  • Jim Hershberg

    Thanks and congratulations–I hope you can transfer some of this magic to the Caps in the years to come (and afterwards in a great hockey novel!?). Your line about the inner 8-year-old cracked me up, as my son just turned 8 and made the feeling especially easy to visualize. I’ll tell him about it when he gets home from camp!

  • Thank you for sharing what real will and want that takes place during a championship series. The past two years have been just as incredible to be a Hershey Bears fan as a player. To be in the Giant Center that night, is something that I truly will never forget!

    If that was the last time we see you in a Hershey uniform, I’m proud of the enormous contributions you made the past three years. Good luck as you continue to strive to play full-time in the NHL. Hopefully, you won’t have to wait long to hoist Lord Stanley, I just hope its in the red-white-blue of a Capitals sweater!

    Thank you Gordo for the memories as a Hershey Bear!!!

  • Jen

    These have been wonderful essays–I’m so glad A.Gordon was willing to write, and RMNB thought of giving him the space for it. The insights were nearly as good as the Bears’ season, and I’m sorry that they’re both finished.

  • Andrew, thank you again for a great write-up, and a great season! 🙂 You and the Bears are fantastic, and I’d love to see you continue writing next season – and during the off-season while you train, etc. – it would be great to see you put these thoughts into a book or something. I know it would sell like hotcakes, too. Maybe for your charity of choice? You have an easygoing writing style, and I’m looking forward to reading more next season, and to watching you wherever you play. 🙂

  • Amanda

    Thank you, thank you, thank you….on your terrific season, your amazing blog posts (that gave us a look into the mind of a hockey player during the playoffs) and most importantly giving your all in helping the team keep the Cup in Hershey! What a ride it’s been. Have a fantastic, but short, off-season….hope the Caps give you your shot this fall!

  • xneighbor

    The 2009-2010 Bears have been so much fun to watch. Thank you for such a fantastic season. Andrew, when your playing days are done, I believe you could be a sports writer. Your blog has been very well written and most interesting to follow. Will miss you in the neighborhood, but I hope you get your shot at the big show! Thanks again and best of luck!!!