The Stanley Cup Playoffs are over and have left a lot of fans and analysts debating about whether it was one of the greatest playoffs, from start to finish, in the history of the game. As a Canadian, and a rabid hockey fan, this kind of sticks in my craw a bit. Let me explain why.
You see, just a few months ago, the NHL and its players were depriving me of the game I love so much and it got me angry. It got a lot of fans angry, really. Sports radio in Canada was flooded with bitter fans, calling in to denounce the NHL and promising a boycott upon its return. When the big day came, we fans were ready to teach those greedy players and owners their lesson! The only problem was that nothing ever happened. In fact, the NHL reported higher numbers than it had in years and I was left wondering where all the anger and backlash had gone.
Teams were practically giving away seats to games for the first few weeks, that is, until they realized that people were willing to pay for them, and then they couldn’t take back their offers fast enough. The worst part of it all was that my team, the Montreal Canadiens, were suddenly playing like a Stanley Cup contender and I found myself getting that crazy fan itch. It had happened. I had forgotten all about the lockout, my rotting fantasy hockey team and all the legal jargon I had been subjected to on radio and TV for the past few months and was in “full on” fan mode.
To add insult to injury, the playoffs brought with it a plethora of excitement that made it look like Gary Bettman had hired Vince McMahon to turn the league around. Bitter rivals, Montreal and Ottawa faced off for the first time since the return of the Senators franchise. Boston comes back from a 3 goal deficit with ten minutes left in Game 7 to embarrass the Maple Leafs and their ridiculous “jumped the gun” broadcasters, and Chicago erases a 3-1 series advantage against rival Detroit to advance to the Conference Final. But that wasn’t enough for the NHL, noooo? The Finals gave us triple overtime drama, Patrice Bergeron and Marian Hossa’s toughness, a crazy finish to the final game and one of the classiest things I have ever seen, when the Bruins fans stuck around and cheered for the Blackhawks as the accepted the Stanley Cup.
No one was talking about the Phoenix Coyotes debacle, the cancellation of the outdoor game, the lockout or the many boycotts that were supposed to take place. Gary Bettman wins again and a small part of me is sad that I have been so easily duped. On the other hand, I won that Fantasy Hockey pool, so let’s pop in the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup video and the beers are on me!
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