NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons Why the NHL Playoffs Are the Best in Sports
The importance of the 34.5 pound silver and nickel Stanley Cup is something that can not be taken lightly.
There is a reason why the intensity of the NHL is kicked up to the fullest extent once April rolls around. Unlike other sports in North America, hockey culture is one of the oldest and most interesting cultures. Here is a list of the top-five reasons why the NHL playoffs triumph over the rest.
The NHL's version of a hug.
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
It is no secret that hockey is a contact sport.
In comparison to MLB and the NBA, the intensity of an NHL playoff game features harder hits, faster play and a higher level of emotion.
Some of the NHL's most memorable checks have come in the playoffs. In the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Mark Hardy unleashed a bone-crushing check on Montreal Canadiens' forward Mike Keane, shattering the glass as he sent Keane a message. And that message was received horizontally through the glass.
If that's not enough, ask recently retired forward Paul Kariya. During the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, hard-hitting Scot Stevens of the New Jersey Devils knocked Kariya, who was then a member of the Mighty Ducks, to the point of unconsciousness after he blindsided him in Game 6.
There's a reason why Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber was fined $2,500 for his cheap shot on Henrik Zetterberg. The hit was classless, but the emotions ran high.
These are only a few examples of how playoff hockey increases emotion and intensity. All in the name of hoisting the Cup.
The founder of the NHL's ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup
Lord Stanley's Cup has been a the premier sought after trophy in hockey since the late 1800s.
Its roots trace back to the old Canadian hockey leagues where Lord Stanley of Preston was first exposed to the sport. Since 1914, the Stanley Cup has been the premier prize for hockey players in North America.
It's funny how a punch bowl originally made in England over a century ago is so highly fought for every season in the NHL. The Cup is a symbol of the origins and early foundations of the NHL.
Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk have become the sound behind he NHL.
With a sport as contact oriented as hockey, there must be great broadcasters in the booth to bring the intensity to life.
Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, Bob Miller and Jim Fox, Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley are just a few tandems of the more popular voices in the NHL broadcasting booths. A great game, whether it be in the NHL or any other sport, can be ruined by horrible commentary. Luckily for NHL fans, almost all of the broadcasters have a strong, burning passion for the game they call so well.
Emrick seems to have a reviving moment every time an excellent scoring chance arises and the emotion in his voice can put you right in the crowd, even from your living room.
There's a reason he's a Lester Patrick Award winner.
2. Endless Overtime
This is ow it feels to lose in a multiple overtime playoff game.
Unlike the regular season where a simple five-minute overtime is followed by a shootout, the NHL playoffs feature unlimited overtimes, 20 minutes apiece.
With every possession played as the last, no team wants to have to wait until overtime to finish the game, let alone on the losing side of it.
In 2007, the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars played nearly four overtime periods to finish their first-round game 5-4, where Vancouver came out on top.
In 1996, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals played 79 minutes worth of bonus hockey. The Penguins won the game 3-2 and eventually went on to win the series.
After playing two entire games in one night, no team wants to go home on the losing end. Teams know they must play the highest intensity of all of their hard work could be for nothing after the multiple-overtime game is in the books.
Just ask the Sharks and the Capitals.
1. Playoff Beards
Mike Commodore's playoff beard at its finest.
Sure, the NHL playoffs feature hard hits, great commentary and fierce emotion, but they also feature one of the most unique and fun traditions in professional sports: the playoff beard.
Although it is a fairly recent tradition dating back to the early 1980s, the Stanley Cup Playoff beard has become one of the most recognizable and colorful and unique customs of hockey culture of the past few decades.
Mike Commodore of the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes was one of the most famous NHL players when it came to donning the playoff beard. Other NHL players that have famously rocked the playoff beard include Lanny McDonald, Rob Niedermayer, Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Zdeno Chara just to name a few.
However, it seems as if nearly every player in the playoffs grows the beard for the sake of tradition. Even Sidney Crosby, who grows facial hair like a 14-year-old even made the attempt to get it on what has become the new trend in the NHL.