Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings sprays teammates with champagne as they celebrate with the Stanley Cup in the locker room after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena on June 4, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup Finals 4 games to 2. (Getty Images)more pics » Elsewhere on Zimbio
It's that time of the year again. Time to grab your styrofoam hockey puck shaped hat, favorite team jersey and a couple of beers to root on your favorite post season team. Oh yes, it's time for NHL playoffs.
16 teams will begin their race for the cup this week, in a sport that usually sits in the back of most sports fans' minds. Still, it seems the number of self-proclaimed hockey fans more than doubles come playoff time, and really why shouldn't it? Hockey is one of the few sports that truly demands endurance and natural skill, that is played on ice, that has players so dedicated they'll take a slap shot to the face and beg for more and, oh yeah, that allows fighting.
So if you're an occasional hockey fan, or not a fan of the sport at all, here are 10 reasons why the 2009 playoffs are seriously worth your time:
10. Playoffs Are a Whole New Game
People say this about every sport, because it's true. There's nothing that ignites an athlete more than the hope of a post season, and the fear of elimination. With the promise of your name on a Stanley Cup so close, it's no wonder hockey players pull out all the stops for playoffs. Players skate harder, hit harder, pass faster and play with so much intensity you'll seriously questions whether this is the same team you watched in the regular season. It is. Welcome to playoffs folks.
8. Upsets Are So Much Sweeter
Most sports enthusiasts are used to single elimination playoffs, where upsets are so much easier. In hockey you need to win the best of seven games to move onto the next round, making upsets that much more difficult. So when an eighth place team demolishes a first place team in for games, fans go crazy, and it's really not an easy task.
Montreal Canadiens fans congregate before the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs.
7. Hockey Fans Are the Coolest fans
Hockey fans are literally some of the most enthusiastic sports fans you'll ever meet, which makes going to your local sports bar to watch a game a totally awesome experience. While some sports have reserved fans and others have obnoxious and border line rude fans, hockey fans are loud, happy, usually drunk and will offer up interesting hockey facts while inviting you to share their next pitcher of beer.
6. The Suspense of Over Time
During the regular season ties are decided by a single round of overtime and, if necessary, a shoot out. But a shoot out just doesn't cut it in playoffs, and it's common to watch games go into single and often multiple overtime rounds as teams fight the chance of elimination. Last year one in five games went to overtime, and this year's post season will most likely be the same.
5. The Hits are Harder and Fights are More Intense
It's safe to say many non-Canadian North Americans were turned onto hockey by the promise of an occasional fight and lots of hitting. With testosterone at it's height and the promise of a Stanley Cup on the line, players' tempers flair, and during playoffs the hits come harder and the players get dropped.
4. Alex Ovechkin
The Russian that has won the hearts of millions, with his toothless grins, show boating tendencies and mad skills is set to tear it up for the Washington Capitals. He's arguably the most charismatic player in the game of hockey, so expect him to not only step his game up during playoffs, but to pull out some crazy movies and make some interesting comments. Everyone loves Ovie!
3. The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks
With 11 Stanley Cups, the Detroit Red Wings are always a team to watch. They're a part of hockey history and their roster boasts some pretty legendary names. Coincidentally, the Red Wings may be the only thing that stands in the way of the San Jose Sharks' first ever Stanley Cup win. Add to this their already heated rivalry, that the Sharks stole first place in the Western Conference while Detroit took second and the fact that the new head coach of the Sharks, Todd McLellan, helped lead the Wings to their 2008 Stanley Cup win, and you've got the makings of an epic possible match up. These are definitely two teams to watch.
Chris Chelios drinks from the Stanley cup after the Red Wings' 2008 win.
2. The History
The Holy Grail of hockey actually has a long an interesting history that makes winning the thing even more of an honor. It's the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, and has the names of every player, owner, manager or coach ever associated with a Stanley Cup win. Various fluids have been sipped from the cup, it's been dropped in pools, dragged to bars, had babies place in its chalice and was even accidentally abandoned on the side of the road.
1. Honestly, what else are you going to watch?
It's impossibly for any sports fan to durn down playoffs, and when it comes down to it, there's really not much else sports wise to watch. Baseball just started, but each team has about 130 more games to go, so you won't miss much. Sure, there's NBA playoffs, but other than that, what is there? Golf? Tennis? Maybe curling? Come on, NHL playoffs are waiting.