Also, I don't see how people can continue to sit on the Tiger side of the Phil-Tiger debate after reading things like this. Tiger cheats on his wife; Phil takes his family to Krispy Kreme. Just don't tell Phil that he accidentally dripped some glaze on his green jacket. He knows damn well what he did -- he's just saving it for later.
Those of you who know me well know that I'm a big hockey fan, specifically one who roots for the New York Rangers, and that I love talking about hockey. However, I'm well aware that the majority of readers here aren't big hockey fans. So here's what's going to happen: there will be one big post right now about why you should be watching the NHL playoffs, which start tonight. After that, I'll make some hockey references throughout the rest of the playoffs, but if you're not watching, I won't cram it down your throats.
[steps onto soapbox]
The argument that most people have is that hockey isn't fun to watch. There aren't enough goals. The game has too many intricacies for a casual fan to pick up on. If you're not a true fan, you don't really know what's going on out there, except that the puck should go into the net. To most people, they'll just summarize all of these thoughts by saying, "hockey is boring."
I hope that most of you most watched the Olympics a few months ago. If you watched the USA-Canada gold medal game, you understand that hockey can be incredibly exciting, if only because you had a strong rooting interest. My assumption is that people who aren't NHL fans without really giving it a chance aren't fans because they don't really have a team to root for. I agree, I'll put on regular season games where I don't have a rooting interest as background noise sometimes, but they don't really capture my interest the way Ranger games do.
This all changes when the playoffs come around. Come April, I'll watch any game, if only because once they playoffs begin, the intensity reaches a whole new level. Yes, it's definitely a clichéd thing to say, but there's a reason for this happening. When you're playing between 4 and 7 games in a row against the same team, in the only major sport where fighting is legal, you'll have some series where the two teams come to legitimately despise each other. It's even better when there are two top teams who play each other year after year, as the Red Wings and Avalanche did in the late 90's. When you keep playing the same hated team over and over again, things like this are bound to happen:
Whereas big upsets are rare in leagues like the NBA, they happen all the time in the NHL playoffs. Is there any doubt that the Lakers and Cavaliers are going to breeze through the first round of their series? In the past decade, four 1-seeds have lost in the first round of the NHL playoffs -- more than the total number that have lost in the first round in the history of the current NBA Playoffs system. And it's not only the first round where upsets happen. Last year's Eastern Conference Finals saw the fourth and the sixth seeds actually playing for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the NHL Playoffs, there are no easy series.
One of those teams in last year's Eastern Conference Finals was the Carolina Hurricanes. In the first round, they were losing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in game 7 with less than 2 minutes left, before they scored back-to-back goals to win the game, and the series. The next round saw them facing the Boston Bruins in another game 7, where they won in overtime. One bounce the other way in either of those series and the Hurricanes are going home.
And there's nothing quite as exciting as overtime playoff hockey. In the regular season, they play five minutes of overtime and then go to a shootout if no one has scored yet. In the playoffs, they play until someone scores. It's the equivalent of playing "next basket wins." Even if the game has to go to four overtimes. That's the equivalent of playing more than another whole game. And yes, I stayed up to watch that Stars-Canucks game in its entirety, even though it was a west coast game that started at 10PM out here. Listen, I'm not asking you to go this far, but there's a good chance that if you start watching, you're not going to want to go to bed until it's over.
Before, I said that many of you aren't watching because you don't have a rooting interest. For me, since the Rangers have been eliminated, I'm going to be rooting more against teams that I don't like than for teams. But what you need to do if you're not a fan is adopt a team. The only request I make is that you steer clear of the Devils, Flyers, and Penguins; their fans kill small children and have sex with animals. You could always put money on a team to win it all -- that's definitely a good, borderline legal (depending on your location) way to get into it. But I'm going to do something I really don't want to, but something that I think will help you get into hockey. I'm going to suggest that you root for the Washington Capitals, and here's why:
The Capitals are one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin is, in my opinion, the most fun player to watch in the league. They score a lot of goals. Most importantly, the majority of their fans are bandwagon fans anyway, so you'll fit right in. Plus, if you start watching hockey, you'll need to take a side on the Crosby-Ovechkin debate, and Crosby is a bitch.
I hope you'll at least give these playoffs a chance. If nothing else, when there's nothing else on late, instead of watching Sportscenter for the second time, switch over to Versus and catch the end of the west coast game. And if you come across one that's in overtime, put down your remote and don't change the channel. You can thank me later.
[steps down from soapbox]
[steps down from soapbox]