After the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight to become the 2007-08 Stanley Cup Champions, I came to a major realization: Hockey is the only sport where everyone, even the losing fans, can be happy with the outcome.
As the Conn Smythe trophy was presented to a deserving Henrik Zetterberg, the only boos that were heard were those directed toward a deserving commissioner, Gary Bettman.
The Pittsburgh fans were respectful of the Red Wings. They applauded when the Cup was raised because they understand the tradition that lies behind it. They understand that the Red Wings were not raising the Cup for just Detroit, but for the entire NHL.
Just like last year when Scott Niedermayer gave the Cup to his younger brother Rob, an amazing moment always comes from the Cup being raised.
This year’s moment could have been when Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European-born captain to raise hockey’s “Holy Grail.” Perhaps it was when Dallas Drake was able to lift the Cup for the first time in his fourteen-year NHL career. Maybe the special moment was watching the 46 year-old warhorse Chris Chelios raise the Cup.
The fact remains that moments like these happen every season in hockey, and hockey is the only sport where they can happen.
Sure, milestones are reached in every sport. One team in every sport eventually has to win the championship. But watching every player on the championship team skate around the ice with Lord Stanley’s Cup is a magical moment in and of itself.
On a personal note, my favorite moment of the night was Bettman’s first steps on to the ice, because his face spoke the very same words I’m sure he was thinking: “I certainly don’t have the popular vote.”
I thought Henrik Zetterberg was a great choice for the Conn Smythe trophy. He proved to everyone just how valuable he is in these Stanley Cup Finals. He played defense just as well as he played offense.
The Penguins still have some learning to do. Marc-Andre Fleury got Pittsburgh to the Finals, but seemed to revert back to his old self in several of the games, giving up some big rebounds in the process.
Sid “the Kid” looked very impressive throughout the playoffs, including the Finals.
Malkin seemed to come to life in Game 6. Unfortunately for him, that is the definition of the term “too little to late.”
Regardless of the outcome, when the Stanley Cup is raised, it is a great day for the NHL. If Crosby had led Pittsburgh to a championship, it would have been great for the NHL’s publicity, but the fact that he made it the Championship will suffice for now.
Comparisons of the Penguins’ team are being made to the Oilers’ team of the early 80’s. If that is the case, the NHL’s future is indeed bright. But for now, the present is just as bright.
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for representing the NHL so well and congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings on becoming the 2007-08 Stanley Cup Champions.