August 20, 2018 | ° F

NHL’s Playoffs put competition on ice

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

If you’re a sports fan — even a casual one — this few-week period is one that must be circled on your calendar. The NBA playoffs are underway, Major League Baseball is rolling, the NFL Draft is finally almost here and the most highly-anticipated boxing match in any twenty-something’s lifetime is just a week away.

However, the most exciting thing happening on the sports calendar right now is one that may not be the most popular: it’s the NHL playoffs.

I’m not here to tell you that hockey is the greatest sport ever created. There are some hockey fans out there who will try and guilt and berate you into thinking that their sport is God’s gift to the earth — I won’t do that. I do happen to be a huge hockey fan, but I know most people could not care less about the NHL’s regular season. This is obvious when you consider how much attention the league gets from mainstream sports media for the majority of the year.

If you haven’t been locked into this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, I suggest doing so pronto. If your immediate response is “I don’t care about hockey,”— well that’s OK, but I do think you should reconsider.

If you consider yourself a sports fan by any measure, I find it extremely hard to believe that you can’t get behind a fast-paced sport that features back and forth contests, young superstars, insane skill and, let’s be honest, violence. Anyone who says that violence doesn’t sell in American sports should check the NFL’s TV ratings and then get back to me.

The first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series that are currently happening are incredible. For one, there are two local teams that are competing against divisional rivals. The New York Rangers, who absolutely dominated this regular season after losing to the LA Kings in the final last season, are taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose roster features two of the most talented players on the planet in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

A few miles east, the young upstart New York Islanders are in a dogfight with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. That series is currently tied at two games apiece, with Games three and four going into overtime. To add some extra spice to that series, this is the final season the Isles will be playing at their home arena, Nassau Coliseum. The crowds are big, loud and trying to will the Islanders to their first playoff series win since 1993.

If each of the New York teams advances to Round 2, they will play each other. Trust me when I say that would be absolute must-see TV.

As for the Devils ... well, sorry Jersey. They missed the playoffs this time around.

Another thing that makes the NHL playoffs great is that there is always a chance for an upset — no matter what the regular-season records say. Just a few years back in 2012, the Stanley Cup Final featured the Western Conference’s 8-seed (the LA Kings) against the New Jersey Devils, who were the 6-seed in the East.

Anything can happen in the NHL playoffs. A quick glance at how people react to upsets in March Madness shows you how much America loves Cinderella stories. In the NHL playoffs, Cinderella stories abound.

So if you’re not a big hockey fan (and don’t lie, most of you aren’t), I would strongly consider flipping on the NHL playoffs over the course of the next few weeks. It’s a great sport — it’s fast-paced, and I promise you this: Missing a LeBron James or Tim Tebow story once, for the sake of watching some playoff hockey, won’t ruin your life.

In fact, you may thank me. 

James Stumper is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and history. His column, “Stumper’s Sports,” runs monthly on Thursdays.

James Stumper

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