When The End Is Soon, But Uncertain

Art history is one of my main loves, but only my love for my wife surpasses that of hockey. Growing up in suburban Maryland, when my town was nothing but a bedroom community for D.C., I was a Washington Capitals fan ever since attending my first game at the Capital Centre in Landover at the age of 4. Not just a fan, I’ve been playing organized hockey basically straight since then, only taking a few years’ break during college.

Last night, the Caps lost a second round playoff game in triple overtime. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, games that are tied at the end of 60 minutes of regulation then proceed to sudden death overtime: 20-minute period after 20-minute period of hockey until a player finds the back of the net with the puck and the game abruptly ends. In this game, it happened at 14:41 of the third overtime period, almost double the length of a normal game. In almost a century, only 19 games have lasted longer.

Many overtime games end early. The average length of the previous 20 or so OT games in the 2012 playoffs was about seven minutes, but with no official end time, teams can’t prepare for a final 30 minutes of game action like in soccer.

Players have to focus on giving their best effort, while also preserving themselves for future shifts. Most forwards play 12-18 minutes in a 60-minute game, most defensemen 15-24 minutes. On the Capitals, whose coach Dale Hunter prefers to utilize all his players, the low man in terms of ice time was Keith Aucoin, who was on the ice for 17:21 of game action. Dennis Wideman skated over 40 minutes. On the other bench, Rangers coach John Tortorella prefers to use some players heavily. Top defenseman Ryan McDonagh was on the ice for 53:17 of game’s 114:41 length. By comparison, sixth defenseman Stu Bickel played 3:24 – he spent over an hour-and-a-half of game time sitting on the bench after his last shift early in the second period.

Earlier in the afternoon yesterday, my department hosted a retirement party for my advisor, who is leaving the university after 25 years. That occasion was the genesis of a lot of conversation between myself and others about the process of completing my dissertation, now that my advisor is moving several states away.

It strikes me that overtime is an apt analogy for the completion of a dissertation, even though I’m still in the first period of mine. Often the phrase used is “the end is in sight,” but really it’s only sensed, not seen. You know it’s there, but there’s still tweaking, editing, re-writing, refining, and all those other processes. Add to that the fact that it’s only really done with someone else – your committee, but really just your advisor – pronounces it “done”, and the comparison makes sense. Try your best to give every aspect your all and put in the necessary work, while not getting too high or too low. It’s about pace – how quickly and efficiently you can complete tasks – and pacing. And sometimes, luck.


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