Why you should watch the NHL Playoffs (no matter who you cheer for)

by Mike Brock

I am not going to tell anyone how to enjoy sports, but…

The NHL Playoffs are in full swing, and Sportsnet is betting billions of dollars that most of you are watching.  I think you should be, too.  In honour of Walt Podubny here are 8 reasons to watch the NHL Playoffs every year.

Something for Everyone

I believe that the NHL Playoffs are one of the truly great sporting tournaments of the world and they have a little bit of everything to offer everyone.  Action, competition, comedy, inspiration.  Speed, strategy.  Need a decent excuse to have a few pops?  Yes, you can get all that out of the NHL playoffs.  You can also get experience sleep deprivation (Triple OT win) and holes in your drywall (Triple OT loss), but the point is there is something for everyone, and that makes it perfect for watching in a big group.  Some folks might be cheering for one off the teams to win.  Some might be cheering for a certain team to lose.  Some might be just there for the nachos.  But, at least you’re together.

You Don’t Even Have To Like Hockey

I can hear some of you asking, “But what if I have never liked hockey, Mike?”  Well, that shouldn’t have anything to do with it.  Let me tell you why.  I am certainly not a fan of scary movies.  Every once in a while, though, I will commit to watching one.  I guess it’s a little like when you’re afraid of heights but still walk on the glass floor at the CN Tower.  So, when I do watch a horror film, I always try to get the most I can out of them.  I make sure to let myself feel completely scared.  To enjoy the “uncomfort” of the moment.  The same way that I made sure to try the fermented horse milk while in Mongolia for my honeymoon.  Why would I do that?  Because that’s living, that’s why!!  The visceral factor of fear is real, and it is human.   Feeling uncomfortable is something that, biologically at least, humans would be wise to experience once in a while.  Just like the way that you should watch the NHL playoffs even if you don’t like hockey.  This, of course, is a ridiculously random example, and doesn’t make any sense at all.  Speaking of random…

Random Stuff Happens All The Time

The unpredictability of sports is never more evident than during the NHL Playoffs.  The Playoffs are like the Kentucky Derby, but instead of two minutes, they take two months to finish.  In those two months, anything can happen, and usually will.  In 1986, Edmonton defenceman Steve Smith famously scored on his own net to cost Gretzky and the Oilers a chance at five straight cups.  In the third round of the 1993 Playoffs, Kerry Fraser decided not to call a certain high stick that would have given the Leafs a power play.  The Stanley Cup favourite Tampa Bay Lightning got swept in the first round just three seasons ago by Columbus, and already this spring, we’ve seen Triple Overtime, Third String Goalies and even a few Hat Tricks.  Random, stupid, crazy things happen in the playoffs, and we could use more of that kind of stuff in our lives. 

Inspirational

Here’s something else that you can do when watching the NHL Playoffs – be amazed!!!  Who doesn’t like to be amazed.  Every night during the NHL Playoffs, you will witness unbelievable feats by humans who are the very best in the world at what they do.  A few times every game, I promise that something will blow your mind.  We should be inspired by what is made to look possible by impossibly talented athletes.  Unthinkable saves.  Perfect passes.  Circus dekes.  Monster hits.

At The End Of The Day, It Doesn’t Matter

When the Leafs lose a playoff game, it affects me.  And that’s OK, because if it didn’t affect me, then the wins wouldn’t matter.  All of us have all spent too much time in the last few years worrying about what is happening in the real world, and these hockey players get paid significant money to make us forget all that.  To paraphrase a wise man, we might as well use them for what they are supposed to be used for.  Allow yourself to ride the emotional roller coaster of cheering for a team in the playoffs.  Be confident that, no matter how the playoffs end, how heartbroken you might be, it will not change your life, really.  Escape with the magic of the NHL Playoffs. 

Shared History

My favourite thing about the NHL Playoffs are the stories that are forged and the history that is made.  On the ice, on barstools and Family Room couches everywhere, record books and legends are written and rewritten every year.  The stories are what keep us coming back.  But it’s who you’re able to share those stories with that matters. Remember watching games with your kids, your parents, your best friends. Especially now.  Root for the same team, together. Or, root for different teams, together.  It is what it is all about.

Feel Old

Nostalgia is a fancy way to say that you’re feeling old.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re lucky, all of those great memories you build now will eventually make you feel nostalgic. For instance, the mere mention of Doug Gilmour or Curtis Joseph makes me think of the double overtime wraparound that Killer scored on CUJO when I was home from my first year of university.  A Lyubushkin hit the other night reminded me of Dimitry Yushkevich in 1999.  And that made me smile.

Conversation Starters

In Canada, the NHL Playoffs, like the weather, are an easy way to get a good chat going.

For instance, here is a text thread that I started this week with a group of my old swimming buddies, some of whom happen to be huge Montreal Canadiens fans:

Me: Boys, I’ve been super busy lately.  Any of you know when the Habs’ playoffs start? Hope you’re all well!! Yours truly, Mike

Banger McGoon: Nice.

Three Eye: Easy Killer… it’s still round 1 for the Leafs. When did they last see round 2? I believe they were up 3-1 in round 1 last year!

Me: What are you still doing up, Three Eye? There’s nothing for you to watch on TV.

I was lying to Three Eye, of course, because when the NHL Playoffs are on, there is something to watch for everyone.  Enjoy, and Go Leafs Go!