5.08.2009

Why the Stanley Cup Matters So Much

I've said it for years and years - the Stanley Cup Playoffs are not an event or a happening, they're a religion. They are the holiest two months in all of sports. There is no other sporting equivalent to the intensity, power, skill and importance of the quest for Lord Stanley's cup. But so many people I know ask me why? Why is it I put off EVERYTHING to see the playoffs, even if my team isn't involved?

Well, as an answer, I ask you a simple question in return:

Ever been ice skating?

I've been a few times. And while I wouldn't say that the actual act of skating on the ice is necessarily difficult -- it takes about 10 minutes to understand balancing on the skates, and another 10 to actually start doing laps around the rink -- I would say that getting beyond those two steps is a feat of athleticism. Going fast, stopping on a dime, skate control... They're skills that take a pretty good amount of time to develop.

Now, add in going backwards, and you've got a whole other level of difficulty.

Put on top of that one-footed steps, stop-and-start skating, the agility required by other sports such as football or soccer, and you've got a sport all by itself.

Now, put a stick in a guy's hand and ask him to control a tiny little four-inch puck with it. Not just move it around a bit, but keep everyone else in the world from getting it while you move it within a micrometer of exactly where you want it to be... While on the ice.

NOW, add the fact that it's okay to smash full-force into you when you have that puck - not to mention the skill it takes me to actually aim at you and hit you.

Combine all of this with the playmaking required to organize five men into an advancing squadron (or a defending squadron) to score points.

You've got a sport that requires the endurance of soccer, the agility of ice dancing, the strength and toughness of football... And we're not done yet - now, we're going to add in a full other sport into the mix -- Boxing. Because when you've pissed me off by taking a bad shot at me, or picking on a smaller player, it's okay for me to drop my gloves and come over and punch the shit out of you.

ON THE ICE.

NOW, do all of that across 82 games across 30 teams during the year to figure out who's going to get a chance to fight it out for this gigantic silver cup, and once you've figured this out, organize a tournament in which you must win AT LEAST 12 games to even see the finals, and have to win 16, against three other teams who also were good enough at hitting, dancing, puck handling, shooting, and fighting ON THE ICE, just to get your hands on that trophy. All in all, you're playing at least 16 games, and maybe as many as 28, to win that cup.

Makes the Super Bowl seem like prom, doesn't it?

And that's why the Stanley Cup matters so goddamn much.