Playoff hockey is the trashy action movie of sports. You should watch

·3 min read

Sandwiched between baseball’s slow trudge toward autumn and basketball’s interminable postseason deluge, the sporting world’s most underrated tournament glides by essentially ignored. If you don’t live in Canada or one of the 16 cities with a playoff team worth watching, you may never even see a stray game as you flip channels on a random weekday night. But I’m here to tell you that the Stanley Cup will suck you in if you give it half a chance. You may not think you care about hockey, but I guarantee you’ll feel a pang of exhilaration when a late go-ahead goal sets a sellout crowd roaring to life. Just be warned: You may stay up past your bedtime.

For me, the NHL’s postseason tournament is like the movie Con Air. Most days, I’ve completely forgotten about it, but once it passes my TV screen, I’m as hooked as if it’s the first time I’ve seen Nicolas Cage rock a mullet — except that NHL hockey is broadcast virtually every night until July and you don’t know the ending. There is also more than one mullet involved.

When it comes to sporting events, none can match the pure excitement and adrenaline rush of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Watching playoff hockey is like smoking a wasabi pea-flavored cigarette while standing on top of a running Sea-Doo in hell. It’s as insane as it is invigorating. As of June 9, a whopping 22 games had gone into overtime and five into double overtime, and we haven’t even entered the semifinals yet. Even when a team is down 3-0 entering the third period, you know they’ve got a shot to break even at the very end and give the world some free, intense, drama-filled hockey.

There’s a wonderful balance between grace and strength that defines postseason hockey. Players skate with the precision of an apex predator stalking its prey before brutally colliding with one another or stopping on a dime, depending on the situation. There isn’t a dichotomy between modernity and tradition, either. The two blend seamlessly together as if Lord Stanley of Preston himself determined it to be that way before anyone knew what a Zamboni was. Only in playoff hockey can fans sit in the dark while watching an ostentatious light show that cost thousands of dollars before cheering on players vying for a trophy that was commissioned in 1893. There’s something truly charming about the way hockey can seem like the most futuristic sport inside the arena while the grand prize at the end remains the oldest existing trophy in North American sports.

You don’t have to be a fan or even know the rules. Just flip on USA Network on a Tuesday night and enjoy the show. You may even get to catch the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 before the game begins. Does it get any better?

Yes, yes it does. Because they also let you fight in this sport!

Seriously, the referees just stand there and watch as guys pummel each other until one of them falls to the ice, at which point everyone goes to timeout for a few minutes before doing it all over again at the next opportunity. If nothing else draws you to playoff hockey, let some good old-fashioned physical punishment do the trick.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are a sports fan’s greatest gift as we muddle through the swampy month of June. It’s like when your parents let you open up a single gift on Christmas Eve — only in this scenario, the gifts keep coming.

Check the schedule, and turn it on one day. I assure you that it won’t disappoint.

And if it does, take solace in the fact that the channel you’re watching just may turn to Con Air after.

Cory Gunkel is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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Tags: Sports, Hockey, Life

Original Author: Cory Gunkel

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