It has been a sport I shouldn't love...but I do. I did not grow up in an area with a National Hockey League presence, but nonetheless, I found myself drawn to hockey. It started when I was a young child-- 7, 8 years old-- and I started listening on the radio to the old Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA. After the Stingers folded in 1979-- along with the WHA-- hockey left my life, until I found the St. Louis Blues-- again, thanks to radio-- in my high school junior year, 1984. Legendary announcer Dan Kelly was my entre into keeping up with the Blues in the old St. Louis Arena.
I said all that to say this. I love the Stanley Cup... and especially the Stanley Cup Finals. Last night put that affection on display. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks-- two of the "Original Six" in the NHL-- played close to two full games in one night. Final score-- Hawks 3, Bruins 2... in triple overtime. They played almost five hours of hockey before coming to a decision-- and guess what... it was only the FIFTH longest hockey game in history.
Playoff hockey is a different animal. First, players in the playoffs grow beards until their teams are eliminated-- that is the reason for all the post-season facial hair. Second, there are no ties, no shootouts, no replays in overtime.. you just play until you get a winning goal. One of these days, there will be a "Breakfast with Stanley" game that will go five, six overtimes-- of 20 minutes each. You heard it here first...
Third, the Stanley Cup is the sole property of the CLUB who wins it, until the NHL season starts again in October. Each player gets at least a day with Stanley, to use it however he wishes. Try doing that with the NFL's Vince Lombardi Trophy. The most famous Stanley celebration? The New York Rangers, after winning the Cup in 1994 for the first time in 54 years. That thing was so beat up, they had to set new rules for its care. How wild was the Stanley party that year? Even Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin stuck a snout inside the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
Finally, it is sport's only true pan-North American competition-- at least in the U.S and Canada. It was-- and is-- really Canada's game, but it was absorbed down here, and Americans have dominated the Cup competitions in recent years. Can anyone remember the last time a Canadian team won Lord Stanley's Cup? The Toronto Blue Jays won baseball's World Series in 1992 and 1993, but that has been the only time it has been taken outside America. Canada at least has a fighting chance of bringing their most famous trophy back home. How crazy is Canada about the Cup? Vancouver's most famous park is Stanley Park-- named after... yup, you guessed it... former Governor General-- and original cup provider-- Lord Stanley.
Last night was a great start to the Stanley Cup Finals. Let's hope the other games live up to the promise-- and longevity-- of Game 1. Oh, and by the way... I am still a Blues fan to this day. All condolences are welcome...
That's my take...I:m Tom Lee.