No game tonight so I'm going to re-post something I originally wrote for HLoG. Okay, technically it is now Tuesday which is indeed a game day but just work with me here. I'm itching for the playoffs (when oh when are my tickets going to arrive?!) so this post seemed fitting.
The question, inspired by one of John Buccigross's columns was, "What is your favorite thing about the NHL?" Here goes:
The playoffs. No other sport's playoffs come close to touching the NHL's. We get four rounds of skilled, physical, intense competition. I love the way the playoffs are like a whole new season, the slate wiped clean. I love the surprise of the 8th seed that had to scrap its way into the playoffs upsetting the 1st seed that coasted through the regular season. I love the way guys like Chris Drury get that extra shine in their eyes that time of year. I love the extra effort guys seem to put out - the pounding hits, the hustling after loose pucks, the diving in front of shots. The last team standing at the end of the NHL playoffs absolutely deserves the title of champions. (Unless you're the '99 Dallas Stars. And you probably deserved it a little though I will deny having ever said this later.)
And then the winner is presented with the Stanley Cup, the greatest trophy in sports. I love that it's given directly to the captain and not the owner or the GM. They're important but in the end, it's all about the guys on the ice and I love that the NHL gets that. I love that every member of the team gets his moment with the Cup on the ice and during the off-season. And I love that the trophy is so rich with history and tradition that every player in the NHL has dreamt about what he's going to do with the Cup when he gets it whether it's drinking beer out of it with his childhood buddies or eating cereal or popcorn out of it with his wife and kids. Even when it's not my team doing the celebrating (hopefully that day will come very, very soon) I can't help but get a little teary-eyed and sentimental watching all those grown men skating around willy nilly looking for someone to hug, laughing and screaming and dog-piling in the middle of the ice. For a moment, they're all little boys again. Totally awesome and the best ending in sports.