Ive said before on this blog, hockey hasn’t been the top sport on my list before and it’s still not my top sport. I know the least about it and my interest in the sport is, at least for now, a parochial attachment to my school, BU, and my pro team, the Bruins. While I do hold a nostalgic attachment to the Hartford Whalers and I wish the NHL would return to Hartford.
Hey, I can dream, right? We have the Wolf Pack here and as fun as they are, it’s not NHL hockey.
Anyway, while I don’t put hockey at the top of my sports list and while neither of my teams are in the finals, I still have some good reasons to watch these finals.
1. High Quality Hockey.
Yes, I know I just said hockey isn’t my favorite sport, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. It’s fast paced, intense, and a unique sports experience. Hockey is the most physically demanding of the four major team sports in North America. It calls for more of its players, coaches, and fans than any other sport emotionally. There’s a good reason why hockey players are known to be tougher than any other athletes in the world: their sport demands it. They have to skate, take huge hits, give big hits, speed up, stop on a dime, shoot a puck, stick handle, and do remarkable athletic things on ice. It’s such a fun sport to watch at any level. It’s at another level in the NHL. It gets better in the playoffs and is at its best in the Stanley Cup Finals. As much as I love baseball’s opening day, the NBA postseason and finals, and the Super Bowl, very few things top the Stanley Cup Finals. I wrote up a piece for TRL Hockey, where I discuss the best 10 Stanley Cup Finals Series, and these moments show how wonderful the Finals can be. I’ll let them make my case for me.
The first series I ever watched was the 2006 Finals between the Hurricanes and Oilers. I enjoyed it so much and I’ve watched almost every finals since then. I got into it big time in 2010, when the Flyers played the Blackhawks. I rooted so hard for the Blackhawks because the Flyers had beat the Bruins after being down 3 games to 0 in the earlier playoff round. I wanted Phili to lose so badly, and I was sweetly rewarded. Thank you Patrick Kane. When the Bruins made it in 2011, I watched every second of every game and loved the result, with my team winning a championship. Washington knocked out the Bruins the next year, but I still watched the Finals between the Kings and Devils. It was entertaining hockey, and I enjoyed it. I knew then that I was a hockey fan. I’ll happily watch today.
2. Potential Dynasty?
No team has won successfully defended the Stanley Cup since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998. There have been some consistently good teams in recent years, and one of them is trying to win their 3rd championship in the last 6 seasons. The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in hockey, rivaled only by the LA Kings, 2 cups in the last 3 years, and the Bruins, 1 title and 2 trips to the finals. The Hawks have a chance to seal their reputation as a dynasty in the NHL with a victory in the Finals this year. Patrick Kane seals a spot in the hall of fame if he helps his team to a title, and will be considered among the greatest players of the age.
3. Boo Chicago!
While the Hawks have a great story on their side, I still don’t like them much. They gave me one of the most painful moments in my total fandom when they knocked the Bruins out of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. Yes, I’m pulling the parochial fan card here. I do it all the time in choosing a team I pull for. I did in the NBA finals! I don’t really like the Blackhawks after the 2013 finals and I don’t hate Tampa. In fact, the first NHL game I ever went to was in the 2006 season in Tampa when the defending Stanley Cup Champion Lightning played the Florida Panthers. The game went into a shootout, and Tampa Bay won. I’ve had a small spot in my heart for Tampa and I will root for them to win. I think Chicago is a better team, and I think they will win the series in 6 games(checkout the predictions of the TRL Hockey people, including me, here). But I want Tampa to beat the Blackhawks!