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What was it like watching game six in Maple Leaf Square

Lukas Bernasiewicz
Lukas Bernasiewicz

What was it like to witness history? What was it like to be in such a special atmosphere?

What was it like being in Maple Leaf Square for last weekend's game six?

Those were some of the questions people asked me when they found out I was at the tailgate party outside Scotiabank Arena during the Toronto Maple Leafs' historic playoff victory Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Questions like those should be easy to answer, but for some reason, it's hard to describe how incredible that experience was. The entire day felt like a dream.

First of all, getting admission into the tailgate party is almost impossible. To get into the tailgate party you need to go on the Maple Leafs app and sign up for a ticket the day before the game and the tickets open up at 1 p.m. ET.

Every time I have tried to get a ticket in the past, the event has filled up in minutes. But by some miracle, my cousin was able to get us a ticket to the event in hopes that we could be the Leafs' good luck charm in their quest for their first playoff series win since 2004.

We arrived at the Square the next day, waiting for security to let all the fans into the event. Once all of the fans were allowed in at around 5 p.m. ET, the real waiting began.

I stood still in my spot for what felt like an eternity - but ended up only being two hours (still a long time.)

Once it was puck drop, my heart was racing. Everyone else's was too; we all knew what was at stake if the Leafs lost this game.

But with six minutes left in the second period, Auston Matthews scored on a patented one-timer to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead that they took into the second intermission.

In that intermission, all Leaf fans did not feel good because the Leafs were in a similar position last year. Toronto was up 3-2 in game six in 2022 but surrendered a goal in the third period and eventually lost in overtime and ultimately lost game seven and the series.

Although we had hope the Leafs could pull off the win in regulation, Steven Stamkos crushed that idea as he banged home a rebound to tie the game 1-1.

Though both teams tried to end the game in regulation, this game was destined for overtime.

During the intermission heading into overtime, I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. I was so nervous and so stressed that I wanted to scream: "I JUST WANT THIS TO BE OVER."

Luckily, John Tavares was able to read my thoughts all the way from Tampa. It must be that Oakville telepathy we share.

John Tavares swung around the Tampa net and threw the puck on goal - and it took a fortunate bounce off of a Tampa Bay player in front and trickled into the back of the net for the Leafs' first playoff series win in 19 years.

Everyone in the square jumped in euphoria. We all started screaming, we all started yelling, and we all started hugging each other even though we didn't know anyone personally.

But that didn’t matter, because we all had one common love and that was the love of our hockey team that was finally able to do what some people thought was unthinkable.

Everything after the Tavares goal was an absolute blur, all I remember was hugging complete strangers and cheering "GO LEAFS GO" and "LEAFS IN SIX."

Everything else I can’t remember. All I knew was that my team - Toronto's team, the team I have followed since I was eight years old - WAS now moving on to the second round.

So what was it like to be at Maple Leafs Square for game six?

It was the greatest sporting moment I have ever witnessed in my entire life and I hope this team gives me more moments like this as they now march on to face the Florida Panthers in round two.

The first game in the second round of NHL playoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers begins tonight at 7 p.m. EST.