Like a lot of sports fans, I've been lucky enough to see teams I root for win championships, at least on television.
Who in my generation could forget the Immaculate Reception, and the Steelers going on to win four Super Bowls before a decade passed? Both the baseball teams I've cheered for at different times - the Pirates and the Dodgers - have won World Series titles while I was tuned in. In fact, a distant relative was co-MVP of one of those.
I've attended a few memorable games in my life, too.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
The Hershey Bears celebrate after winning their second straight Calder Cup — and 11th overall — at Giant Center Monday.
The Chicago Cubs made my 21st birthday especially pleasant in 1983, turning a triple play while I was in attendance at Wrigley Field. My first baseball game, as a young boy, was in Oakland, Calif., where I saw a rookie named Vida Blue win his 20th game.
I've been to an AFC championship game, and was at the last game played between the Steelers and the real Browns at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. And I saw Dr. J play twice.
None of those will match up to Monday night in Hershey.
Oh, I've been to some great hockey games in Chocolate Town, with a few unforgettable moments in the five years since the Washington Capitals became the parent club for the American Hockey League's oldest franchise.
Before this year, we thought Giant Center reached its pinnacle when the Bears upended Portland in overtime in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals in 2006. The team went on to win the Calder Cup, but did it in Milwaukee.
Last year, it seemed the Bears would win it at home, but Manitoba had other ideas - and it was in Western Canada where the team again clinched a championship.
From the beginning of this season, a repeat seemed almost too easy, despite the fact it hadn't happened in two decades. The regular season brought three AHL records, including 60 wins in 80 games (76 out of 101 with the playoffs). A handful of franchise records, and individual AHL records.
And then, with a pair of upset losses - at home - to an expansion team as the Calder Cup finals began, the armor showed its first chink. A few days later, in the suburbs of Austin, the first period ended with the Texas Stars holding a 3-1 lead over Hershey. It seemed the magical season was over.
Not this team. Not this time. The Bears surrendered only three more goals to the Stars for the remainder of the playoff run, rattling off five unanswered tallies in Game 3 to start the rebound.
The team that scored a record six goals in one period during the division playoffs, the one that came out on top of a record eight overtime contests in the playoffs, the one that allowed one opponent only seven shots on goal in a game, returned.
With Monday's 4-0 win, the Bears won a record 11th Calder Cup, and became the first team to come back from an 0-2 hole and win it all in the American Hockey League.
And for the first time in 30 years, the winning team got to accept the trophy on its own ice.
We thought it looked good when the Bears took a 2-0 lead in the first. We breathed a sigh of relief when it became 3-0 after two. We knew it was over long before the clock expired.
The crescendo had to be reached well before the final seconds, as 11,002 fans - yeah, that's a record, too - were raising the roof at Giant Center. Inside the final minute, the Bears took possession of the puck behind their own net, and sat on it.
There was nothing Texas could do, and no one tried.
Defenseman Patrick McNiell, who scored the last two of the season for Hershey, started jumping up and down in front of defending Calder Cup MVP goalie Michal Neuvirth, ripping off his helmet and throwing his stick - and the clock still had a few precious seconds on it.
It didn't matter. It was over.
AHL president Dave Andrews and his white-gloved assistant recognized Chris Bourque, son of an NHL legend, as the postseason MVP. It was a deserved honor for the only player who has been on the Hershey roster for each of its past three championships, and made one other trip to the finals.
And then the captain, Bryan Helmer - the oldest man on the team - hoisted the Calder Cup.
For all of us.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at email@example.com.