Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lord Stanley's Cup

Until last night, most of the talk about the Stanley Cup finals centered on how small market the teams were, and how much the NHL needed larger market teams to be in the finals to draw an audience.

To that, I say this: If your thoughts while watching last night's opening game between Ottawa and Anaheim centered on how large or small the media markets were, or you didn't watch the game because of the teams involved, you're not a hockey fan. Then again, if you're reading this blog long after your home team has been eliminated, I don't think I have to worry about that.

Last night, two immensely talented teams put it all on the line in a display of pride, passion and will that simply isn't found it most sports. For casual and hardcore fans alike, the game was a reminder of what hockey could be, of how beautiful and powerful it is to see the game played at the highest possible level. Both teams played up tempo, attacking hockey, with smooth transitions from defense to offense and back again. Players teams played the body clean, hard, and often, with hits coming at a pace that can only be found in a finals matchup, when both teams can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and are willing to sacrifice themselves wholly and completely to reach that light. Terms like reckless abandon and discipline generally are not used together, but the players on the ice seemingly embodied both terms at once.

If last night's game was any indication, we're in for an amazing series. There is no better way for the game to be showcased than for these two teams to continue to trade haymakers with one another, to put it all on the line until only one remains.

Gimmicks and advertising can do only so much to create interest in an event. At the end of the day, true, die hard fans are not made by the advertising, or by the location of the teams, or by the size of the media markets involved. Fans are made by the events themselves, by the emotion and excitement generated by the players and coaches literally tearing themselves apart to have their names engraved in that most hallowed silver cup. So invite a non-believer over to your place for game 2 of the finals. Hand them a beer and some pretzels. If the Senators and Ducks can continue to play in this series with the same vigor that they started it with, I guarantee you they'll be stopping by for a lot more games over the years.