Hockey and I have had a roller-coaster of a relationship over the years. Growing up in Colorado in the 1990s, the Colorado Avalanche came second ONLY to my beloved Denver Broncos. Yeah, it was a great time to be a Colorado sports fan; the Avs and Broncos were downright dominant in the mid-to-late 90s. It was also a great time to be an NHL fan; fantastic rivalries, star players, and excellent attendance made the NHL a force to rival the NBA for viewership.
But then, in the early 2000s, the first lockout happened. An entire season was missed altogether. Fans lost interest. The league lost credibility. And my beloved Avs lost talent permanently – notably, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote – as they new NHL collective bargaining agreement had imposed a much more strict salary cap. Things weren’t the same, and the Avs began to fade into mediocrity; slowly becoming an afterthought for Colorado sports fans. My rooting interests shifted more towards the upstart, Carmelo-led Nuggets, and miraculous Rockies of 2007. The Avs missed the playoffs in 5 of 7 years, while the NHL endured ANOTHER lockout (albeit a shortened one) in 2012-13. My interest in hockey was firmly behind basketball in the winter sports hierarchy, and I was hardly alone – the NHL had alienated far too many fans with its all-too-frequent “work stoppages.” I watched the NHL playoffs most years, but without skin in the game, without a team to really root for, I never regained the real passion I had for hockey in my childhood.
But then, this season happened. Out of nowhere, my Avs, with all their young talent and a familiar-face-turned-head-coach in Patrick Roy, climbed out of the 2012-13 season’s cellar to win the third-most games in the league this year. With a likeable core of young, selfless studs (led by 18-year old sensation Nathan Mackinnon), this Avs team is impossible not to root for. Finally, my passion for hockey has returned in full. And you know what? I had forgotten how incredible the NHL Playoffs are.
This time of year, with so much going on in the sports world, it’s hard to pick what to watch. But I’ll make it a little bit easier for you – playoff hockey is the best entertainment that your television can possibly have on it. The MLB season is young and there will be plenty to watch. The NBA Playoffs are predictable and oftentimes more flash than substance. But the NHL Playoffs? They are everything a sports fan could possibly ask for.
Here is why the NHL Playoffs are MUCH better viewing than the NBA Playoffs:
The Excitement and Drama
Not many sports can match the parity of the NHL. So much of the game comes down to lucky bounces, poorly-timed penalties, and ill-advised line changes that any team can beat any other in a given game. The same cannot be said for the NBA, where teams like the Heat dispatch the Bobcats with ease. Better still, the NHL Playoffs rarely give rise to blowouts; unlike the NBA, NHL contests are almost always close games.
Ok, this kinda ties into the last one. But is there anything more exciting than overtime in playoff hockey? One goal decides it all. They play as long as it takes. All or nothing. Do or die. Any second could be the end…unlike the NBA, where the last 10 seconds of a game take about three minutes.
The Toughness of the Players
The fact that this has been posted all over doesn’t make it any less true. Hockey players are tough. Basketball players are soft.
The coaches are just a little more badass than the NBA coaches, too…
In the NBA, we know who is going to win already. Just like we did last year. And the year before that. So who cares about watching the other NBA teams try really hard to beat LeBron and Friends? In the NHL, everyone has a decent shot. Lord Stanley’s Cup is truly up for grabs.
No (Openly) Racist Owners who Incite Enormous Scandals
Yup. Best of all: No Donald Sterling.
Now do yourself a favor and watch as much hockey as possible these next few weeks!