Game 6 of the Semi-Finals had ended an hour ago. Cole had done the post-game interviews with Phil, getting a slice of pizza at the same time, and then some celebrating with the rest of the team for a while. Now, he was sitting alone, on the players bench, just looking around, where only an hour ago, history was made. The 28 years streak the Montréal Canadiens had suffered without ever entering the Stanley Cup Finals was over. When Cole first stepped foot in the Bell Center, a few weeks ago, the first thing he looked at was the ceiling. The 24 banners for the 24 Stanley Cups the team had won were hanging there, waiting for a 25th. The last Cup was won in 1993.
Now, Cole was looking at those same banners, thinking that everything was possible. This year could really be the year a new banner comes up. And he could be a part of it. Well, him and the rest of the team. Him, Nick, Jesperi, Romy, and all the veterans too. He could have his name on the big Cup on his rookie year. And not even a full year at that.
What a year. 30 goals in 31 games with the Badgers, a gold medal at the World Junior Championship and now, 9 points in 15 games played in the NHL's playoff. And that last stats could still go up.
Cole was looking around the now quiet arena, just taking it all in, when he felt some movement on both sides of the bench. When he looked down, he saw Nick and Jesperi joining him, smiles on their faces.
"Gerv told us we could find you here. Everything alright?" Nick asked softly, as to not disturb the silence.
Cole laughed softly before answering: "Alright? Everything's perfect actually. Gold medal in January with the States, Hobey Baker the same day I scored my first goal in the pros with Laval, Stanley Cup Finals tonight, on the Quebec national holiday too. It's amazing."
"Mind-blowing." Jesperi said, drapping an arm on his younger teammate.
Cole placed his head on Jesperi's shoulder, taking advantage of it to turn, once again, his eyes on the banners.
"Am I the only one nervous as hell right now?" He asked, quietly, not taking his eyes away from where he was looking at.
"Nervous about what?" Nick asked, looking at him, then turning his eyes up too. "The finals?"
"The fact that we could contribute to adding one up there. At 20 and 21." Cole whispered, not trusting his voice anymore.
"I am. Or maybe it's excitement. However, I know that I can't put all the pressure on my shoulders. I'll do my thing, we all will, and everything can happen now." Jesperi said, shrugging a little.
"Yeah. I'm just scared. I mean, I'm young, the three of us are, so if things go South and we loose, at least we have another 15 years to chase it. Shea, Carey, Corey, Eric, Phil, Gally... They don't have much time left if they want to win it. I feel like I have to step up my game even more to win it for them."
The sound of a clearing throat made all three boys look behing them, to the tunnel next to the bench. There stood the rest of the team, the guys they spent most nights with, looking at them and smiling. Shea got in front the bench, coming up to Cole and squatting in front of him to make it easier to talk to him.
"You really are special, kid. But you have to listen carefully here. The job isn't done yet. We don't even know who we'll play against. We only know we made it to the Finals. Being scared is totally normal, but don't feel like you have to be perfect so we can win. If we win, we win. If we loose, too bad. Right now, I am proud to say I made it to the Finals for the first time of my career. You get to say you made it to the Finals on your rookie year. Enjoy that moment. You deserve it. And that goes to all three of you." Shea said, with a tap on the head as he got up.
Shea went back to the tunnel and looked up too, before looking back behind him.
"We'll win this thing. As a team." He said before retreating back to the dressing room.
With that, all the guys followed their captain, except for Tyler, Nick, Jesperi and Cole. Tyler took a step forward, getting closer to his fellow winger, until he stood right in front of him, not saying a thing. Jesperi and Nick looked at eachother over Cole's head, Nick pointing the tunnel, suggesting they left the other two alone. Jesperi clapped a hand on Cole's back before getting up and around the bench, leaving with Nick, who fistbumped his right winger.
"I think it's the first time I see you nervous. Even before each rounds, you haven't been so nervous or scared. What changed?"
Cole sighed. He knew he couldn't hide anything from Tyler. He might not have been on the team for long, but both wingers became close fast.
"I don't know. I guess now it became real. I guess I'm scared of hoping, in case the bubble of hapiness around me bursts. Or I'm just not ready for this amazing year to end." Cole said.
Tyler nodded, understanding what the rookie meant.
"You know, this year might come to an end, but the memories will stay. You never forget your first playoffs, or your first finals. Just like you never forget you last junior year, or your first pro goal. You'll make new ones, for sure, but the old ones are never far in your head." The 29 years old said. "Now come on, we can leave. Day off tomorrow, and then back to practice on Saturday." Tyler said while standing up and going to the tunnel, waiting for his young teammate.
Cole looked once more at those banners, making sure he had the year of the last banner glued in his memory. 1993. 28 years ago. The wait was over. The Cup would be back this year.