It’s always weird waking up the day after the season is over. It’s the same sensation as waking up on the first day of summer vacation from a school year. You feel a mixture of relief, exhilaration, nostalgia, and of course your mind settles upon the inevitable question of “now what?” For some reason, even though you are aware that it’s going to come to an end, when it finally does, it always feels like a surprise. The 2010-2011 hockey year ended a week ago today. And I am still processing the fact that my seventh season is over!
Though Valpellice was swept in the semifinals, their efforts in the four games were better than their 4-0 record in the series would suggest. Each game was lost by only a goal, two of which ended in overtime finishes. Referee favoritism was an unfortunate component to at least one of those decisions. (This is often just a lame scapegoat in athletic competitions, but, in this case, was an undeniable problem for Valpe.) Players were hurt, and bounces were bad. And in a few periods, they were straight-up out-played. But at the end of the day, all of these obstacles are as much of a part of playoff hockey as the underdog victories that categorized the quarterfinals. While the players were obviously disappointed, at least they can say that they did all that they could. And for the fans and management, this was more than enough. The crowds stayed well after the Saturday night loss to applaud the team on a job well done.
Which brings us to last Sunday morning, where I woke up with the mixed emotions of another season gone by. But this time, a whole new dimension was added to the hang-over (literal and figurative) of the last night of a hockey year. Because this time, the end of the hockey season marked the beginning of the end to my time in Italy.
The week that followed was a whirlwind of gray rainy days brightened by team dinners and farewell visits with new friends. By the time the sun came out on Friday, our flights were booked for the upcoming Tuesday and I was officially excited about heading to our next home. Seven months ago, I had a similar feeling. Except, then, I was excited about experiencing something new. Now, I’m excited about returning to familiar faces in the settings I’ve always known. Just as I was excited to see the little Italian villas when we set out for Italy in September, I’m now looking forward to the seeing a little yellow house at the bottom of a dead-end street. A day of skiing with Kevin in Sestriere, another of packing and cleaning, plus one more full of travel, and that’s where we’ll be!