If only the Stanley Cup Final was like the Super Bowl in that everyone watched and every partisan hockey fan picked a side regardless of whether their own team was involved.
It need not take much convincing for a hockey fan of any degree from any corner of the continent to take an interest in the 2012 championship round between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.
After all, this is the last of live professional hockey action before three-plus months of inactivity, and possibly a longer period if a new CBA is not formulated on time. And regardless of when all 30 NHL teams resume play, there is nothing much like watching someone else’s glory to derive inspiration and hope for one’s own team the next season.
More specific to the Cup final, here are four reasons for every NHL market to bolster NBC and CBC television ratings.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick saw no action when he joined Team USA for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But based on the seasons he has woven together since then, the Connecticut native is on a reasonable pace to supplant Ryan Miller as his country’s top stopper by the time the Sochi Games roll around in 2014.
Participating in a Stanley Cup Final is certainly not a bad way to gauge Quick’s big-game aptitude.
In addition, the contesting captains, Dustin Brown of Los Angeles and Zach Parise of New Jersey, both wore an “A” over their hearts for the U.S. in the 2010 tournament.Both will still not quite be 30 years old in the 2013-14 season, meaning either one of them could be in the right position to assume a greater leadership role at the next Olympics.
For prospective Canadian viewers, the Kings pack a pair of 2010 gold medalists in Drew Doughty and Mike Richards. Both are fair candidates to return for more if the NHL sends its players to the Olympics once again.
On the other bench, the Devils could be boasting a key element of Canada’s international future in the form of Adam Henrique, who is seeking to add a Stanley Cup to his two relatively recent Memorial Cups.
And then there are the free agents such as Parise, who technically still have the potential to convert to any of the NHL’s 29 other crests this summer.
Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers fans can watch this series looking at the Devils in one of two lights. The same goes for Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes fans concerning the Kings.
Because their teams were eliminated by the eventual finalists, those six fanbases can resentfully root for their respective conference champion to crash. Or they can take their rival’s success as a source of pride, claiming it shows how good their own team is.
Then again, that notion could just rub in what might have been for one’s own team.
Regardless, at least six fanbases, in addition to those of the finalists, ought to have some sort of an emotional investment in this series.
Any loyal NHL follower who is old enough to remember the mid-1990s has recognized the Devils’ goaltender as a household name for the longest possible time.
Having just turned 40, the future Hall of Famer could call it a career within the next two weeks, especially if he garners one last Cup ring to go with his other three.
In other words, at best, this is a cautionary last call to tune in and watch Brodeur partake in a meaningful game.
Who would want to miss that?
For the first time in its current playoff format, the NHL’s last two teams in the fight for the Cup lacked home ice for each of the first three rounds.
In a way, the Devils franchise has done this once before, having won its first title in 1995 after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference. That was essentially where this year’s team finished as well, although the policy reserving the top three spots to division champions relegated them to sixth.
Meanwhile, the Kings are trying to become the first eighth-seeded team to win the title and raise L.A.’s first banner in 45 years of existence as an NHL franchise. If they pull it off, then St. Louis will be the last surviving member of the ice-breaking 1967 expansion class still without a Cup in its annals.