CALGARY – It wasn’t what Mark Giordano had signed up for.
Snagging last-minute tickets to Game 5 of the NBA Finals last week, Giordano and his wife, Lauren, presumed they’d be watching the Toronto Raptors make Canadian sports history with a championship-clinching win.
The Golden State Warriors had other plans.
"The Raptors should have won easily, so at the end, the wind just got sucked right out of the building," said Giordano of the loss that delayed Toronto’s first major sporting triumph since 1993.
"It was like a million people walking home, just quiet. No one was talking."
It was an all-too-familiar silence for the captain of a Calgary Flames club that punctuated a regular season conference title with a five-game playoff exit.
Such high expectations, followed by such devastating lows.
Only recently, two months after his team’s season ended, has the veteran been able to take stock of 2018-19 as a whole – a year in which he and his club made unfathomable strides.
"Now it’s time to move on, for sure," said Giordano.
"After the season ended the way it did it felt like such a disappointing year. But looking back now, we do have a lot to be proud of. We had a great season we should be proud of, myself included.
"To be up for two major awards – it’s pretty cool. I’ve had time to reflect and I take a lot of pride in it. It’s a cool time in my life."
This week is a celebration of his accomplishments with his wife, kids, parents, sister and plenty of friends joining him in Las Vegas where they’ll attend the 2019 NHL Awards.
A finalist for the Norris Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership Award, he’s a good bet to win both given the career year he had.
In fact, Vegas oddsmakers pegged him as a massive favourite to claim his first nod as the league’s best blueliner at -1000.
That means a $1000 wager on him nets a gambler just $100.
Brent Burns is +650 (paying $650 for a $100 wager) and Tampa Victor Hedman pays 14-1.
Both are recent Norris winners.
"I didn’t see that, but I’ve heard about it because I got about ten text messages telling me – everyone is excited," laughed the 15-year pro from his Toronto home.
"I’m trying to convince them it doesn’t mean anything. Sure, I’m looking forward to it and I hope I win, but you never know until it actually happens."
It likely will.
In what is well documented as one of the most prolific seasons a 35-year-old has ever posted in the NHL, Giordano finished second only to Burns among defencemen with 17 goals and 57 assists.
That’s more points than star forwards like Auston Matthews, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mark Stone and Evgeni Malkin.
One of the few NHL D-men deployed for every possible situation, Giordano logged 24 minutes a night, led the loop at plus-39, had four shorthanded goals and was the leader of the league’s biggest regular-season turnaround.
"My numbers bumped up a bit because of our style – up-tempo is really good for me and our team," said the humble, undrafted Torontonian who would be the first Flame to win a Norris and just the fourth player 35 or older, joining Nick Lidstrom, Doug Harvey and Al MacInnis.
"I’ve always been kind of a late bloomer. I haven’t played that many games for a guy my age because I came into the league a little later. I take a lot of pride in my off-season work and staying in shape.
"The last two or three years my legs have felt really good and that’s what you worry about as you get older, that the speed will go. I really feel like I have a lot of hockey left."
To no one’s surprise, his off-season workouts resumed a long time ago.
"Oh yeah – I can’t take too much time off," he chuckled.
"If I do, I’m too old, I’ll never get it back."
Although he’s finished top 16 in Norris voting each of the previous five seasons, it’s his first nod as a finalist.
It’s the second time he has been nominated for the Messier Award, this time alongside Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds and Carolina’s Justin Williams. The award is for those who demonstrate leadership qualities on and off the ice, as well as community involvement to grow the game.
"Pretty cool for me to be nominated – that’s a guy I grew up watching and admiring for his competitiveness and leadership, and so many other things," said Giordano of the longtime Edmonton Oilers captain who picks the winner.
"I got a chance to meet him last time and he’s such a great guy."
So is Giordano, who is revered by teammates and admired by the media, whom he so graciously faces every day of the season.
His status as one of the game’s great ambassadors was solidified two years ago when he won the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.
He anticipates feeling similar nerves at Wednesday’s gathering.
"You’re anxious – you’re hoping and preparing to have a good night and win," said Giordano.
"At the end of the day getting nominated is huge, for any of these awards. It’s just a fun time.
"Obviously, the best award is the [Stanley] Cup. But it also means a lot to be recognized when you put hard work in and have a great season. It’s a feeling you can’t explain."
On Wednesday, he’ll undoubtedly have to try.