Today is the beginning of the most wonderful of all sporting events – the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
- Goons stay home – When it comes time for the top 8 teams from each conference to battle, you would think the nastiest and meanest guys would be the most valuable. But they’re not. It’s all about scoring and defense, not fighting. The most talented and toughest team wins, and that’s all that matters.
- Sounds – There is no more beautiful sound than a skate blade cutting into the ice, the pop of a goalies catcher, and the ping of the struck goal post.
- Goal horns – And there is no finer sound in hockey than the sound of a hometown goal horn. The deeper and foggier the better. Among my favorites are San Jose’s and Buffalo’s. Check them out here. If only the old pipe organs were still around, then it would be auditory nirvana.
- Overtime – No silly shootouts during the play-offs. This is the land of triple overtime where endurance and depth matters most. Every goal is earned now, and in overtime it’s sudden death.
- Winners – In order to advance you have to beat the other team 4 times. Not once. Not twice. Not thrice. Four times. There is never any doubt about who the better team is. And after four rounds of that, you have the undisputed champion.
- Nicknames – Every player has a nickname, and most are abbreviated names or Xer (Tim become Timmer, Holmstrom becomes Homer). But the best are the more descriptive – Boom Boom, Gump, Terrible, Pocket Rocket, Dominator, Great One, College Boy, the Professor, and the best of all time – Little Ball of Hate.
- Every game matters – There is no coasting or taking it easy since every game counts. Over the course of a season, guys will be given breaks or shorter shifts to save their legs or nurse injuries. They do that so they can play now.
- Beards – Superstition takes over and grooming becomes inconsequential with the focus just on hockey. Now is the time for the playoff beard.
- Tradition – More than just growing bears, there is no sport with more or better traditions than hockey. Whether its the Winnipeg Whiteout, the Detroit Octopus, Kate Smith singing God Bless America, or not touching the Conference trophy, hockey corners the market.
- Handshakes – And the best playoff tradition is the handshake between the two teams at the end of each series. No crying or temper tantrums when you lose – you just line up with your team, shake hands and congratulate the victors.
- It’s hockey.