Playoff Hockey Returns
Despite the NHL season having been abbreviated due to the expiration of the existing collective bargaining and profit sharing deal, playoff hockey has not disappointed. Whether it be the resurgence of Canada in the postseason with the likes of Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa all trying to bring the cup back home for the first time since 1993, or the repeat performance of the Los Angeles Kings defending their championship title, the postseason has had plenty to offer its audience throughout the country, even if your team failed to make the cut at the end of April.
With two series deadlocked at 3 games apiece, viewers will be exposed to healthy doses of Game 7 hockey on Monday night, with Boston hosting Toronto and Washington hosting New York. Will experience triumph over youth, as Detroit prevailed in Anaheim last night taking the series, a team who hasn’t missed playoffs in the last 22 years, as well as hoist Lord Stanley 4 times? Or will they find their future opponent in Chicago too formidable, who reigned supreme in the regular season, only losing 3 times in regulation at home.
While the West has it’s litany of questions surrounding matchups for the next round. the teams from the East are unable to look ahead too much since so much is still undecided. Toronto has refused to quit since their back was put up against the wall in game 5, evading elimination since. Boston hopes to regain their composure in tonights game 7, fearing an end much too similar to the comeback of Philadelphia in 2010. To the south, Washington hopes the home ice trend prevails, as neither New York nor Washington have been able to steal games away from home.
With the sour taste of lockout hockey still lingering, many ask why we care about hockey when we can watch the NBA playoffs, or enjoy the early season of baseball, and even go so far as to say NFL training camp isn’t too far away with the Draft concluding a couple weeks ago? Unfortunately, many of these people haven’t experienced the Stanley Cup Playoffs live, and have never truly committed to watching it on TV unless their hometown team is competing. In the case of the NBA, 16 teams make the playoffs, but all 16 aren’t contenders; the same can’t be said for the NHL. To summarize, seeding doesn’t matter in playoff hockey; the Los Angeles Kings made that clear last postseason, going 16-4 on their way to winning it all. They were the 8th seed from the West, and they were the last team to get in.
I have experienced the playoffs for many sports: MLB, NFL, NCAA basketball, and the NHL. It doesn’t get any better than hockey. Maybe it’s the continuity of the game, maybe its the pump up video before the National Anthem, or maybe its the moment when you recognize the speed, ferocity and skill these young players skate with to win, sacrificing bodies to the shot from the point, standing up for their teammates summarily ending in fisticuffs, and deking opponents out of of their shorts as they dipsy doo the goalie.
Looking at the success of last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and how many fans it brought back to the sport, it isn’t simply a coincidence. With NBC finally taking the reins and broadcasting the sport throughout the country (despite the millions lost during the lockout, which is an altogether different story about the stupidity of the lockout), hockey is back to becoming a household item and that makes this fan very delighted at the things to come in the future.