Today I’d like to talk about one of my absolute favorite events of the year; the NHL (National Hockey League) playoffs. To the dozen or so people still reading this entry, allow me to discuss why this time of year is so special for me.
Hockey, like every sport, is essentially a religious following. How else could you explain superstitious rituals every time your team plays? How else could you explain devoting a few hours a night to riding the emotional rollercoaster that is your team playing a game? How else could you explain hugging or high-fiving someone in the seat next to after your team scores that you met only moments before the game began? These things don’t happen if you’re not passionate about your cause. Hockey is less of a sport but more of a belief.
Over the last few years or so, I can remember gathering a group of friends together to watch the St. Louis Blues play their game that night. There is energy in the air when this happens. Knowing that I am surrounded with individuals sharing the same passion, the same desire, and the same hope is an experience hard to describe. Moments of joy are sweeter, moments of defeat are easier to handle. The playoffs have always brought a sense of oneness out in my group of friends.
Another reason I love the NHL playoffs is because of what hockey embodies. Hockey is all about toughness, grit, sacrifice, and teamwork. It truly is a blues collar sport. It is almost a given that after every playoff series, a press conference will be held to update the media and fans on injuries that players played through. It is not uncommon for half a dozen players to require surgery after their team is eliminated from the playoffs. This plays directly into the grittiness and sacrifice that hockey displays. In the playoffs, if you can walk, you can play. Taking a night off is something that doesn’t happen. Sure, you may have a nagging injury, but you’ve decided that your team comes first.
Speaking of your team coming first that leads me to my next point about the playoffs; teamwork. Hockey is a sport full of superstars, but it is different from many other sports. Teams usually consist of 4 offensive lines and 3 defensive pairings. I love this aspect of hockey because while your team might have an elite talent, you have to have a team filled with depth. A superstar usually plays anywhere from 20-30 minutes a night. This is a ton of time to play in a hockey game, but at the same time your best player is on the bench for at least half of the game.
Finally, the most impressive part of the NHL playoffs has to be the Stanley Cup. I will argue that it is easily the most majestic trophy in sports history. One reason I believe this is because there is 1 Stanley Cup (3 actually, but I will spare you the hockey geek explanation). In other sports, replications are made and presented to the champions, but not in hockey. In hockey the champions from the previous year have ownership of the Stanley Cup until a new champion is crowned.
The presentation of the Stanley Cup has also lead to many memorable moments. Instead of listing all of them, allow me to let this video doing the talking.
A lifetime spent working towards a single goal, and yet when that goal is reached, words are lost. Year in and year out, you see players who have played nearly 2 decades get their first chance to hold the Stanley Cup. The presentation of the Stanley Cup to the winning team is even special. It begins by the commissioner passing the cup off to the captain of the winning team. After receiving the Cup, the captain will pass it off to the player on the team most deserving, usually an individual who has never experienced the joy of holding the Cup. As expected, this leads to some pretty emotional moments, and often times leaves fans with some tears in their eyes. Instead of rambling on for a few hundred words more, let me leave you with a Stanley cup presentation that gives me chills every time I see it.