Joey Tenute has seen some things during a hockey career that’s taken him from Sarnia to South Carolina, Hershey to Helsinki, and featured stops in Germany, Austria and Sweden along the way.
But the Hamilton native has never played in anything remotely resembling the 11-period playoff game that started at 6 p.m. in Hamar, Norway on Sunday night and didn’t finish until after 2:30 a.m. Monday morning.
“I can’t describe the feeling of really thinking the game would never end,” Tenute told Sportsnet in an interview. “I can’t imagine that that could even exist. Playing in something like that, it’s surreal. The longer it got, it almost seemed like it was dangerous to an extent.
“Guys are getting their groins taped, guys are battling, everyone’s cramping up – it was just something I’ve never experienced before.”
It’s being hailed as the longest game in hockey history, outpacing a 1936 playoff matchup between the Montreal Maroons and Detroit Red Wings by more than 40 minutes.
It ended – mercifully – at 17:14 of the eighth overtime when Tenute’s Storhamar Hockey teammate, Joakim Jensen, beat Sparta Sarpsborg goalie Samuel Ward on a solo rush for a 2-1 victory.
Prior to that, it was merely survival.
“You don’t even know what to do: Guys are eating pizza in between periods,” said Tenute. “You’re just kind of doing what you’ve got to do to get through the game. The trainers are coming around and passing out fruit and bread and peanut butter and jam. There was pizza and pasta in the dressing room.
“It was kind of like a blur in the moment.”
One way he managed to track the passing of time?
There are normally 20 or 30 kids hanging over the railing for high-fives when the Storhamar players take the ice. By the end, it was down to one or two.
“Their parents had to take them home to bed,” said Tenute.
He remembers how desperately he wanted teammate Lars Lokken Ostli to score on a penalty shot in the sixth or seventh overtime.
Alas, the defenceman was denied.
Both teams also failed to covert on multiple power plays after regulation time.
Incredibly, they’ll be back at it again on Tuesday night with Storhamar now leading 3-2 in the series and trying to close things out on the road at Sarpsborg.
The morning after a Game 5 that seemed like it might never end, Tenute and his teammates were on the training table getting treatment. There was also a short team meeting, but they didn’t review any game tape.
“It’s tough to break down 11 periods of hockey,” he said.
There was still a hint of disbelief in Tenute’s voice when we spoke almost exactly 24 hours after the marathon game started.
The 33-year-old centre has carved out a well-travelled and varied playing career. He’s a former Ontario Hockey League standout who appeared in one NHL game with Washington during Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season, and still has two years left on his deal with Storhamar.
“You come over here and they treat you very well and you get to play hockey for a living and get to experience the world,” he said. “I’ve never really thought about [doing anything else].”
Hamar is a city of about 30,000 people and has provided a nice home for Tenute, wife Najah and son Jacksen, who is almost two.
The couple is also expecting a baby girl.
“People are crazy about hockey here,” he said. “You go to the grocery store, you go to the mall, and everyone knows you. The people are really friendly and really into hockey.”
Over the years, Tenute’s been both a Sting and a Stingray, not to mention a Bear, Lion, Colt, Bulldog, Redhawk and Freezer, among others.
He won a Calder Cup with Hershey in 2006 and realized his dream of playing in the NHL. He called 15-year-old Sasha Barkov a teammate in Tampere, played alongside a young Brendan Gallagher in Hamilton and has shared a dressing room with numerous other current NHL players.
However, when his playing days are eventually behind him Tenute figures the 11-period game in Norway might end up being the fondest memory of all.
“To experience something like that last night with these guys, that’s a story for your grandkids,” he said. “Playing in a game like that, it’s hard to see that ever happening again.
“If it does, I’ll be amazed.”