It's the best time of year!
The Stanley Cup Playoffs is the best postseason any sport can offer. Aside from the intense on-ice play, there are some other reasons why they are great. Here are five of the best NHL-unique playoff traditions that put this annual tournament over the top.
Disclaimer: These are not team-specific, so the octopus-throwing in Detroit was not included. Plus, I may get fined if I mention it…
1. Playoff beards
Every year at this time, (most) players participating in the playoffs stash away the razors until the season ends – no matter how itchy the face may get, or how disgruntled their wives may be.
Some guys have grown some awesome beards in the past (see: Mike Commodore, above, Scott Niedermayer, Todd Bertuzzi), while others have had trouble hiding their lack of puberty (see: Jonathan Toews’ mutton chops, or Sidney Crosby’s ugly beard/mustache). Patrick Kane took it to a different level of awfulness last year with the mullet.
Not only do players partake in this tradition, but so do fans. Whether they do it for their favorite team or just the NHL in general (and grow it out for two months), I think the fact that some fans join in on the fun is cool and unique.
Playoff beards are a staple to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and are one of the traditions in all of sports.
2. Day with the Cup
Each player on the Cup-winning team gets to do something that no other athlete officially gets to do: spend a day with the Holy Grail. Everyone dreams of hoisting the Cup and, if lucky enough to win it, they are rewarded with a day over the summer to spend time with it. Some will take back to where their hockey-playing started, spend time with their families, or go somewhere special with it.
The Stanley Cup travels the globe every summer. In 2010, Chicago’s Cristobal Huet took the Cup to the Eiffel Tower in his homeland France, while Patrick Kane got stuck with it on top of a fire truck in Buffalo. Also, Kris Draper’s child took a dump in it in 2008. That just goes to show what the trophy goes through each summer!
Spending a day with Lord Stanley is a really sweet perk of winning the trophy.
3. The handshake line
Here is something else you ordinarily don’t see in other sports. Some opposing players (I stress some) in the NFL and NBA exchange handshakes following games. But handshake lines following series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are just different.
For two weeks, teams battle tooth and nail, grow to hate one another, say some rotten things between whistles and with each passing game, flat out cannot stand each other. When it’s all done, though, they meet at center ice after the final game in a single-file line to shake hands with one another after a hard-fought series.
Whether an eliminated player wishes good luck to the winning team, or nothing is said at all, NHLers show respect to their opponents – something that can’t always be said about other sports.
4. Rally towels
Another staple to playoff games are the rally towels (or other giveaways) in arenas around the league. Just about every arena throughout the playoffs features some sort of giveaway, which predominantly are the ever-so-popular rally towels.
It all started during a playoff game in 1982 when Canucks coach Roger Neilson put a towel at the end of a stick, and held it up in the air to signal the waving of the white flag when he was fed up with the officiating. His players caught on, and so did Canucks fans at their next game by bringing and waving white towels. Ever since, rally towels have added a nice touch to playoff atmospheres in the NHL.
Other similar fan giveaways at playoff games have been shakers and thunder-sticks.
5. Color-clad arenas
To go along with the rally towels, one of the coolest promotions that some teams participate in is white-outs (or any other color). They provide sweet panoramic views and add some buzz to the atmosphere.
I understand they are common in all sports, but some NHL teams stick with the tradition. Calgary has the ‘Sea of Red’ where about 99.9% of the fans in attendance are wearing a red jersey; most Philadelphia fans wear orange, known as the ‘Orange Crush’; Phoenix has had white outs for every playoff game, which started during their Winnipeg days; Pittsburgh, nowadays, features the white out as well; also, Capitals fans 'Rock the Red'.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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