I’ll never understand the NHL’s desire to drag out the playoffs for as long as they possibly can. Why was there a three day break between the Conference Finals and the start of the Stanley Cup Final? I assume that it had something to do with television - this has to be why there are two more days off between tonight and Game 2 - but surely there is a way to make the TV networks happy without also playing hockey in the back half of June. Of course the NHL does this every year, and since we all know that those in the league offices look out for the fans above all else, there must be a reason, one that I’m just not smrt enough to understand I guess.
With that soapbox moment out of the way, and with puck drop just hours away, it’s time for me to pick a team to root for in this year’s Final. Since I don’t like or dislike either team, and I’ve got no money bet on the series, I’m going to have to actually come up with a reason to cheer for one over the other.
By default, I like cheer for any players who have been liberated from the Oilers. I might still be suffering through the never ending (or at least what seemed like it a couple months ago) rebuild and nine years without any playoff hockey, but I’m always happy for those that have moved on and I want to see good things happen to them; unfortunately that’s not an option in this series so I’ll have to dig a little deeper and come up with something else.
I could conceivably be swayed by my love of the "fancy stats," becoming a temporary fan of the one that is superior. Just my luck though, both teams just happen to be quite good by these measures (shocking, isn’t it), so that’s not going to work. Seeing the league’s best players win is always nice but both have legitimate superstars in their lineups, so that doesn’t separate the two either. If the two teams had animal names I could choose the one that would win in a fight, but a fight with lightning sounds Stan Lee would know more about than me.
As it turns out, this is tougher than I thought. I have come up with a couple of reasons though.
Why Tampa Bay?
Because they’re from the Sunbelt, that’s why. That probably sounds crazy to some, like grounds for deportation to others, but after two decades of putting up with fans from traditional markets, especially those in Canada, who look down their noses at these teams and their fans I’ve come to root for them just because I know it’ll drive a lot of people crazy if they win. What can I say; sometimes I just like to watch things burn. This is why I like ask cab drivers what they think of Uber, it’s guaranteed to be entertaining.
Because it’d mean three Stanley Cups in six years, that’s why. The NHL loves parity, the salary cap encourages it, the draft encourages it, and even the absurdity of the Bettman point encourages it. And there is a reason for this, parity is good for the NHL’s bottom line, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Personally I like watching a team be built into something great and then dominate for years (unless that team is the Patriots). So seeing a team like the Blackhawks continue to win like they have, even with these obstacles in their way, is something that I really enjoy. Seeing it rewarded on more time would be nice.
So Who Am I Cheering For?
In the end, I think it has to be Chicago. Continued excellence trumps laughs in this case. I now, I’m a little surprised too. But fear not Lightning fans, I’m kind of cheering along with you too, well at least I’m cheering for Tamp to win three games so we can enjoy as much hockey as possible before we close the books on another season. Even if that end doesn’t come until we’ve past the midpoint of June.