So, once every year — let’s call it, “spring time” — people remember that not only is hockey going on, but it’s playoff time. Now every sport’s playoff time is better than its regular season (take note, BCS) due to the increased stakes and the ratcheted-up intensity that results from it. Out of all of the major sports postseasons we see in North America, the Stanley Cup Playoffs stand out above them all as the best.
Don’t buy it? Let me count the ways.
1) That marathon quality
Both the NHL and NBA have postseasons that last four full rounds of best-of-seven series that whittle 16 teams down to one, and there is certainly an argument to be made that the NBA is a physically grueling experience. Just ask a 6’7″ man how it feels to pound his knees by jumping for 48 minutes every night on a hardwood floor for two straight months. But all that said, the sheer exhaustion and physical nature of the game of hockey truly creates a situation with speed, strength and durability, which allow the cream to rise to the top over those two months. It is a brutally exhausting experience to get through four rounds of postseason hockey. And that’s probably why seeing the smiles — and frowns — on the faces of the teams in the Finals is that much more remarkable once its over. Oh, and these guys are all making these world-class moves on quarter-inch thick pieces of metal. Food for thought.
2) Playoff beards
Is there any postseason superstition cooler than the refusal to shave until you’ve been eliminated or won it all? Not only does it provide some of the best beard and hair combos ever, but in the game of hockey it’s nearly impossible to see a player looking whiskery and not know it’s playoff time. It can accentuate the experience of the greats and sometimes, it just looks so damn awesome.
3) Multiple overtime games
There is almost no postseason that brings overtime to such a fever pitch of excitement quite like the NHL’s. The difficulty of scoring in the NHL, as well as its sometimes precarious nature, combine with sudden death rules to make marathon events in that can sometimes reach a level of greatness. Sometimes, you never want them to end, and sometimes it feels like they never will end. Games reaching double overtime are so common place in the postseason that it almost doesn’t warrant a mention, but every year has a game or two with four or five overtimes that bring an epic importance. And what’s even greater, the cathartic explosion when a team finally ends one of them is a moment unlike any other in sports.
4) The Stanley Cup
I mean, come on. What sport can boast a trophy like this? There is no other prize in professional sports that can come close to the beauty, grandeur and the symbolism embodied by the Stanley Cup. Does anyone remember how uncomfortable Raymond Berry looked when he awarded the Lombardi Trophy to the New York Giants after they won the Super Bowl this February? Well, you should since it was hilarious, but you probably don’t and that’s because no matter how hard the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball try, there is simply nothing on this level.
So there you have it. These are four solid reasons why this is the greatest postseason in professional sports and if I were you, I’d be trying to watch as much of it as humanly possible. And in case you were worried, you’ll get to watch as much as you want this time around because for the first time in NHL history, every single playoff game will be broadcast live on a national network … Read more...