After watching last night’s Super Bowl, a well-played but somewhat unspectacular repeat victory for the New York Football Giants over the New England Patriots, it occurred to us that a similar rematch of, say, the Detroit Red Wings versus the Pittsburgh Penguins or Vancouver Canucks versus Boston Bruins would make for much more compelling and emotional television.
1. The Stanley Cup presentation holds a zillion times more weight than the Lombardi Trophy presentation.
And not just literally.
Watching Sunday night’s little receiving line, in which Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Berry walked stiffly past the victorious New York Giants, who touched or pecked Lombardi’s ultimate game ball as it passed by, was a little awkward. Grown men petting an oblong piece of metal. Then the presentation of the trophy to Giants president and CEO John K. Mara reminded everyone during the happiest moment that the league is about commerce, detracting from the on-field accomplishment.
Not that NHL champs don’t benefit financially from a Cup run, but the unbridled joy of a captain receiving Lord Stanley and passing it to teammates cannot be equaled. Not to mention the 24-hour party each individual champion gets to spend with the Cup in the offseason.
2. Hurt hockey players are more likely to cowboy-up and come through in the clutch.
The Patriots’ prized but banged-up tight end, Rob Gronkowski, made two catches in the Super Bowl. It was his second-worst statistical performance of the year.
In Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Bobby Baun suffered a broken ankle blocking a Gordie Howe shot with 10 minutes left in the game. Baun took some painkillers, taped up his ankle, hopped back on the ice and scored in overtime. Then he played every shift in Game 7 for good measure.
3. Bye-bye bye weeks.
As physically taxing as the NFL playoffs are, they cannot even compare to the endurance test that is the Stanley Cup run. First off, most of the true contenders (not the Giants, we know, so kudos to them) get the first week of the playoffs off while the wild cards smash each other up. Then they get a second week off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
The NHL gives no byes. The playoffs last practically two months long. When they’re finally finished, scores of secret injuries (often serious) are revealed and beards are Darwin-esque. Which is appropriate since, in the NHL playoffs, only the fittest survive.
4. More eggs, more baskets, more fun.
If the Super Bowl is a clunker, casual fans have seven months to complain about the anticlimactic finish to the NFL season. If the Stanley Cup Finals result in a lopsided 4-0 sweep, fans can still reminisce about the other great series. For it is a virtual guarantee that the NHL playoffs will produce surprise heroes, double-overtime thrillers and seven-game barnburners every year.
5. NHL wives seldom sound off after big losses by their husbands.
Mind you, we’re not certain anyone in the NHL is attached to anyone quite as high-profile as supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who aired out her frustrations after husband Tom Brady’s Super Bowl defeat.
“You [need] to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot [expletive] throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,” Bundchen was caught saying to Giants fans in a post-Bowl video. “I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”
Would Carrie Underwood say something along the lines of “My Mike can’t score once every three games and be expected to stop the puck. Pekka needs to step his [expletive] game up”?
6. A 79-year-old Bob Cole is more entertaining than a 53-year-old Madonna
Yes, both representatives stumble occasionally, and seem to be relying more and more on cameos from younger talent, but no one ever accused Cole of lip-synching.
7. The best player in the game’s brother would not have more championships than him.
Can you imagine Anton Stastny or Brett Lindros or Valeri Bure coming into the league and having better careers than their older brothers?
Of course not.
The NHL is a world that makes sense. A world where older brothers reign supreme.