It’s (almost) the best time of year. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner.
The NHL season is winding down, with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. There is still plenty to be decided as far as who will qualify for the playoffs, as only five out of sixteen playoff spots have been clinched. I shouldn't get too ahead of myself here, but I can’t help but dream of playoff hockey.
Playoffs are great regardless of the sport, but none are better than the NHL playoffs. Hockey’s postseason represents what sports are truly about and reminds fans why they are so addicted to them. It creates a feeling of awe like no other and provokes nerves in ways that other postseasons never can.
Here’s a few reasons why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best in all of sports.
After grinding it for an everlasting best of seven series, each team puts its differences aside and takes part in one of hockey’s most inspiring traditions: the handshake line. The teams line up at center ice and each player shakes hands with every player on the opposing team, congratulating them on a terrific series. No other postseason has anything like it.
A New Season
Upon reaching the playoffs in early April, after enduring a grueling 82 game schedule, it would seem as if the end of the year is approaching. Instead, the start of the playoffs signals the beginning of a brand new season.
The playoffs continue through the middle of June, making them the longest playoffs in all of sports. And there are no easy series in the NHL, with competitive balance at an all-time high. In order to win the Stanley Cup, teams must truly earn it. No path to a championship is more rigorous than the one to the Cup.
More so than any other sport, hockey teams need to play like a cohesive unit in order to succeed. As players fight nagging injuries and fatigue heightens, teams come together and become a family.
The brotherhood of playoff teams is represented in the playoff beards they all wear. It is a symbol of unity and triumph. After all, the players that sport the longest beards come June will be the ones hoisting the Cup.
Hockey is the only sport where players play through every injury and all sorts of pain. Oftentimes, players will be bleeding from being hit in the face with a puck or stick, go to the locker room to get numerous stitches and be back out on the ice for the next shift.
But when it comes to the playoffs, players take playing through pain to a whole new level.
They dress for countless games with broken bones, forgetting about necessary procedures and surgeries until their team is eliminated. Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins once even played through playoff games even though he had a punctured lung.
In Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final, Bobby Baun of the Toronto Maples Leafs blocked a slap shot that broke his ankle. Despite this, he chose to play on and ended up scoring the Cup - winning goal later in the game. In the 2003 Final, Paul Kariya of the Los Angeles Mighty Ducks took a giant hit from legendary defenseman Scott Stevens. He was knocked out cold, seemingly done for the game, and maybe the series. But he came right back, and scored the game -winning goal to help extend the series. This provoked Gary Thornes famous call “Off the Floor, On the board!”
Overtime during the playoffs provides instant stress, joy and despair. The back and forth nature of hockey makes sudden death one of most exciting components that the sport has to offer. The game could be over in seconds, or last hours more. The “next goal wins” idea only works in this sport, and is nothing short of thrilling.
Any team can win. Regular season records never translate into the playoffs, as the best playoff team always requires something extra. The Washington Capitals are evidence of this, as they have finished with the regular season with the league’s best record multiple times in recent years, yet they have not won a single Stanley Cup. They have not even made it to the Final during this period. On the other side of things, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 as the lowest overall seed.
It’s the most distinct and glamorous trophy in the sport world. Unlike other championship trophies, there is only one Stanley Cup. Each year, the single trophy is passed along to the new recipient.
Upon winning the cup, each player on the championship winning team hoists it, skating across the ice in their moment with it. Each player then gets their own day with it during the following summer, usually bringing the trophy to their hometown or sharing it with family.
To cap it off, every player on the team gets their name engraved on the Stanley Cup, etching their names in history forever. It’s no wonder why the NHL uses the slogan “Because it’s the Cup” throughout the playoffs each year.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.