The NHL Playoffs started last night and instantly reminded us why they are the greatest postseason of any major sport. There were two overtime games and the defending champs lost. If this is any indication of how the rest of the playoffs is going to go then we are in for a treat. So what makes the Stanley Cup playoffs so awesome?
No other sport has a trophy as glorious and revered as Lord Stanley’s Cup. You don’t hear NBA players saying “I’ve been waiting my whole life to touch the Larry O’Brien trophy”. Most fans and players probably don’t have a clue who Larry O’Brien is (you can get caught up on Larry O’Brien here) or what the trophy really looks like (unless it pops up on the screen during one of those Sports Illustrated commercials commemorating the nearly crowned champions). The Stanley Cup is without a question the most iconic trophy in all of sports.
The Stanley Cup has the lure or having a threesome with two Maxim models. Guys dream about it, only a select few will ever experience it, and the ones lucky enough to do so will never forget it. To make things that much better after you are done with this dream threesome your name will be etched alongside other great men such as Wilt Chamberlain and Russell Brand that have also accomplished this amazing feat.
Speaking of touching the trophy, NHL players won’t touch the Stanley Cup unless they have won it. Eric Staal won the Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and none of his brothers dared touch the Cup. You don’t touch it until it’s yours. It’s more sacred than One Eyed Willie’s treasure from Goonies.
In baseball, teams go wild like they are at Coco Bongo in Cancun on Spring Break after they win a divisional series. I get all the celebrating, I’m not an emotionless robot like Bill Belichick, but with hockey it’s different. There is such a singular focus on winning the Cup that nothing else matters. Each series win is seen as a stepping stone to being that much closer to the Cup. Winning each series is crucial but as soon as it is done you move on to the next. There will be plenty of time to celebrate when you win the Cup.
There is more drama in an overtime playoff hockey game than there is in all of the Real Housewives of Atlanta seasons combined. Unlike any other major sport, the NHL overtime rules are golden goal. One mistake, one penalty, one momentary brain fart can result in the game, series, or even the Stanley Cup Finals being lost. That’s what makes overtime in the playoffs so unbelievably amazing. Every second and every play matters and everyone is most certainly on tilt.
The longest overtime game in NHL playoff history went 6 overtimes and lasted 176 minutes and 30 seconds. There was also one Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals that went into double overtime (1950, the Red Wings beat the Rangers). After watching one period of overtime hockey none the less numerous overtimes I am emotionally drained. It’s either going to be the highest of highs or the lowest of lows…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Here’s what I want you to do. Find your most annoying coworker who is also going for the same promotion as you, sit next to them all day for a week straight, physically run into each other numerous times a day, and then at the end of the week tell me how you feel. I have to imagine that after that week of sitting next to the person you can’t stand the last thing on your mind is shaking their hand when they get the promotion instead of you. Take that scenario, amplify it by about 100, and then you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be in an NHL playoff series.
Despite the fact that these men (in the truest sense of the word) leave it all on the line and physically and verbally abuse each other, they have enough respect for the game and the quest for the Cup to shake their opponents hand, win or loss, when the series is over with. Think about that when you remember the 1991 Detroit Pistons walking off the floor without shaking the hands of the Chicago Bulls when they lost in the playoffs. Weak sauce Bad Boys.
The Playoff Beard.
If a team is going to make a deep run into the playoffs then they have to play like a team in every sense of the word. There will be grueling, heart wrenching series, overtime games, times when things look bleak, and through it all everyone needs to keep the faith, continue to play as a unit and do their job. There’s no room for prima donnas like Dwight Howard. There is a singular focus and that is winning the Cup. That’s why seeing players from all teams and fans from most of them (including myself) growing playoff beards is one of the coolest things in sports. It’s a constant reminder of the quest and the hope that at the end of it you look like Brett Keisel.
For those of you that are growing playoff beards for your respective teams we want to see your progress. Feel free to tweets us @BaconSports or shoot an email to email@example.com showing us your playoff beard. We’ll be publishing them on a weekly basis.
So here’s to what is going to be an unbelievable journey for all of us. Let the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begin!
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