Past Season Recap
The 2014-2015 NHL season is over. The Chicago Blackhawks have won their third Stanley Cup in six years to make a case for the first salary cap era dynasty. Perhaps, it is something that must be given serious consideration, but I cannot at this time.
You see, for the last season I have covered the Tampa Bay Lighting. Now, in full disclosure, I was a Lightning fan prior to writing about them and perhaps an argument can be made that at times my pieces are more fan than writer but I check and double-check facts when citing them. My opinions certainly have favored the Lightning and to come two wins from hoisting the Cup, it can be said that, for the most part, my opinions were more often correct than incorrect.
But as both a fan and writer, the loss Monday night at the hands of the dynastic Blackhawks had me reeling. It felt like a death in the family. Not sure of all the steps in the grieving process but there is no doubt like many Tampa fans, I went through many of them since the clock showed zero time left in Game 6.
In order to overcome or speed up this process, I began to think about happier times, better moments from this season. As these thoughts came, an overwhelming feeling of happiness that comes from being a hockey fan overcame me. Looking at the calendar, training camp is still about three months away. With that in mind, let me share my random thoughts as to why I believe we love hockey:
- Stanley Cup – Simply, the best trophy in all sports primarily because when you win, your name goes on the trophy.
- Gordie Howe – Mr. Hockey — if you don’t know about this man, learn. By the way, 40-plus years after his last fight on the ice, Howe is still battling. Yeah, Mr. Hockey is apropos.
- Fastest Game on Earth – Don’t blink or you will miss something.
- 60 minute game – With the DVR, I can watch an NFL game in about 15 minutes because that is the length of time of any action, including incomplete passes or rushes with no gain. In hockey, however, a 60-minute game takes 60 minutes to watch because once the puck drops, the action starts and when the action stops, the clock stops.
- Handshake Line – Teams will battle in a best-of-seven-game series, knock the snot out of each other yet, when a winner is decided, they line up like gentleman and shake each other’s hands. Classy. An NHL fan will never see a Detroit Piston-esque skulking off the ice in a playoff series, ever.
- Winter Classic – Yes, am well aware that this and the Stadium and Heritage Series games are a marketing ploy by the NHL, but the January 1 newer tradition of playing outdoors in front of a larger audience than normal is very cool. Seeing NHL players outside in a game that counts should get all NHL fans amped up. They even had a Stadium Series outdoor game in Los Angeles. Plus, it begins the weekly televised coverage of the NHL throughout the U.S.
- Players are Warriors – This can be summed up in two words: Rich Peverley. The man dies, literally dies on the bench during an NHL game, is revived and wants to get back in the game. This happens in no other professional sport.
- Nicknames – Covering the Lightning, it can be challenging to write about Steven Stamkos rather than Stammer or Ben Bishop rather than Bish, but a long-standing tradition in the NHL has to do with the nicknames slapped on a guy by his teammates. Some of my favorites over the years are Boom-Boom (Bernie Geoffrion), The Bulin Wall (Nikolai Khabibulin), Cujo (Curtis Joseph), The Rocket (Maurice Richard), Super Mario (Mario Lemieux) and The Great One (Wayne Gretzky). There are countless others, some creative, some just a finagling of the players first or last name, but you don’t find this in other professional sports like you do in hockey.
- Team Sport – Yes, the NFL, MLB and the NBA all call themselves team sports and, yes, those sports field teams of players to play their game, but it is usually one man with the ball or at bat or taking a shot that is determining what is going on with those ‘team sports.” In the NHL, five skaters have to work in sync on both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game to either score a goal or prevent the other team from scoring. If any NHL player decides to stop playing defense, the impact on his team and probably his time on ice will be immediate.
- Tradition – Playoff beards and not touching the Stanley Cup or conference trophies are just some of the quirks exhibited by NHL players and coaches. There are many old traditions from individual fan bases, as well, such as the octopus heaving in Detroit and the National Anthem in Chicago. It just seems that NHL players and their fans tend to be a superstitious bunch and that in and of itself is a tradition of the game.
There are countless reasons that we all love hockey and, to a certain extent, this was cathartic for me to recall some of the many things I love about this wonderful game. Forgive any omissions and there were many but space is limited, feel free to add any reasons you love hockey in the comment section below.
A quick look at the NHL calendar shows the NHL Draft right around the corner in 10 days. Then the free-agency period starts and before we know it, after all the player movement that is going to happen will be completed and the preseason will be upon us.
For the Lightning, there is only one unrestricted free agent — Brenden Morrow — who may, very well, be contemplating retirement. All others are under contract for next year. With proper rest, the group that was two games away from the NHL’s Holy Grail will get another chance to go for the Stanley Cup. So will all other 29 NHL teams.
As we head towards next season, the hope and promise for all 30 NHL cities is that this could be their season. This could be their year to hoist the Cup. Yet, another reason we love this game.