It's the best time of year!
Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
April 13th is finally here! You didn't think it would get here, did you? With the Stanley Cup Playoffs ready to commence, it's time to look at a few reasons why they are so great and cannot be matched by any other sport.
If you ask die-hard NFL fans, they’ll say the NFL Playoffs cannot be matched. If you ask any big baseball fan, they’ll say the same about October. If you ask NBA fans, they’ll say – well, let’s not kid ourselves here!
We hockey fans have something that blows that stuff away: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s not as much a sprint to the finish as it is a fast-paced marathon. From mid-April through mid-June, not one sport can match the excitement and intensity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs over such a long period… not one! Here are some reasons why:
Let me paint you a picture here. You’re the goalie. The clock on the scoreboard in the arena strikes 2:00 before they sing the anthem(s). Seconds later, the players will come streaming onto the ice. You’re sitting in your locker, staring at the ground, in your zone where no one says a word to you. Your knees are shaking in your pads. You reach the door of the locker room, and hear the crowd roaring. You start walking down the runway and you see the light at the end of tunnel where 20,000 screaming, towel-waving fans are awaiting. You reach the ice, and the adrenaline rush is exhilarating. And as the game goes on, everything is cheered on by your fans… the penalty kills, the checks, the scoring chances – you name it! No other sport can match the atmosphere of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s how the Cup changes everything.
Playoff intensity is almost indescribable. Rivalries can be born in the postseason. Battles ‘n brawls after each whistle; one man hating the other. The hits are harder, the crowds are louder, the battles along the boards are fiercer, and the stakes are higher. The face-off circle is where games can be won or lost. As a road team, it’s not 5-on-5 anymore… it’s 5 against 20,000. Every shift is treated like your last. Players will play with injuries just to help their team win the battle. And when you finally reach your goal of raising the Holy Grail, all the intensity that you poured out for two months feels that much sweeter.
The 2006 Edmonton Oilers
The team that shocked the hockey world in 2006 by reaching the Stanley Cup Final is what the playoffs are all about. The eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers, possibly the most unlikely conference champion ever, were a fascinating story. On the strength of Chris Pronger and Dwayne Roloson, they knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings, red-hot Sharks and Mighty Ducks on their path to being one win from the Cup. Whether it was Ales Hemsky’s pulsating game-winning goal to finish off Detroit, Ryan Smyth losing teeth and coming back to set up a goal in the third overtime, Fernando Pisani’s overtime winner in Carolina… there were so many memorable moments. On top of all that, I don’t know if anyone could have beaten the atmosphere in Rexall Place that spring. And the Oilers did all of this as an 8-seed after sneaking into the playoffs in Game 81. Best Cinderella run this league has ever seen? I think so.
Playoff overtime… where do I begin? Every shift has the capability of changing the series. You can be down in the series 3-2. One mistake, one letdown, one bad shift change, one bounce of the puck, and you can either force Game 7, or watch the rest of the playoffs from home. When the winning goal is scored, the arena will either be pandemonium or so silent you can hear the other team yelling in joy. Heroes are made in overtime. The Rangers have Stephane Matteau, Carolina has Scott Walker, the Avs have Uwe Krupp; the list can go on and on! It can last until the wee hours of the morning, or end in a blink of an eye. It’s what makes these playoffs so unique!
The Stanley Cup
It’s the only trophy out of the four major sports where your name is etched on that trophy forever if you win it all. It’s what every hockey player dreams about – getting your name etched into that Cup. It’s the most beautiful prize in sports. As a player, you don’t touch it until you’ve won it. The first three rounds are stepping stones to this prize. Every goal, every save, every shift, every penalty kill moves you an inch closer. And when you finally win those 16 games, men act like boys. They live their dream right there on the ice… skating around lifting 35 pounds of silver over their head.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us. Soak it all in, hockey fans!
Photo credit: Getty Images
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