I tip my hat to the Boston Bruins and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams went through the toughest gauntlet in sports, also known as the road to the Stanley Cup. We live in an era when every child gets a trophy playing amateur sports. I was careful to use the word "playing" not "competing" because if our kids were competing then the powers in charge would have left the previous format in place and only the winners would receive a trophy. Children would learn how it feels to fail and more importantly what it takes to have success. Okay, I got a little side tracked for a second and will hop off my soap box. If there ever was a post season where two teams competing both deserved to be crowned champions it was definitely this one.
If I was in my kitchen and wanted to cook up the ultimate Stanley Cup Final, I would take out a massive bowl and start by throwing in two Original Six teams. Add previous Stanley Cup experience, brilliant coaches who won't be afraid to make adjustments, award winning defense and forwards, and two goalies with a chip on their shoulders. Then I would sprinkle in a few injuries to top players just to add a little seasoning. Mix this creation up and let it heat up for seven games. Even if I took it out a little premature after six games it would still be a masterpiece.
Like millions of hockey fans around the world, I'm still shocked by the way Game 6 ended. This is what makes sports so great, why athletes are so handsomely rewarded, and why the value of sports properties are at an all time high. Go ahead and record the game so that you might watch it tomorrow and speed through commercials. You will certainly find yourself on the outside looking in during the water cooler debate at the office the next day over a blown call or a great play. Whole cities' and states' emotions rise in every victory and come crashing down with each defeat. What other form of entertainment has such an affect? Movies don't have that effect. Scripted television? Doesn't even come close. Music? Maybe some songs will take you back to a certain time and place but even then they don't elicit such raw emotions that can make or break a hockey fan's week. It seems like every cable company or network is trying to develop some sort of reality programming because it's cost effective to produce, a.k.a. cheap. I would have to say that professional sports are the ultimate reality programming. American Idol had a nice little run but even now their ratings are slipping. Viewers are "on to the next one." It was the best Stanley Cup Series I've ever watched and I couldn't think of a better way to cap off an entertaining season.
Toughest Athletes In The World
When I found out what the Bruins and Blackhawk players played through I just smiled like a proud papa. There's a fine line between courageous and flat out crazy and unfortunately hockey players don't know where that is. We are so mentally tough (and stubborn) that we need others, namely doctors or trainers, to tell us when enough is enough.
I remember when I was traded to L.A. from Washington and I tore my abs and injured my shoulder the first game. I was soooo excited to play in L.A. where my offseason house in Marina Del Rey was located, I tried to suck it up and play. The outcome wasn't very good. I was limited on the ice. No correct that -- I was awful; but I always felt if I could "lace them up," I could play. After the season ended I sat across from GM Dave Taylor and Head Coach Andy Murray telling them I played through a few pretty tough injuries. They both just blew off my assessment and tried telling me I "lost my interest" for the game. I couldn't help but laugh to myself thinking how out of touch they really were. I underwent two surgeries and came back and had a pretty good year in Vancouver. Some days I feel like the bionic man with the mesh in my stomach, along with the staples in my wrist and shoulders. I'm just waiting to set off airport security!
So you see Bergeron playing with a punctured lung, Hossa's wonky back, or Campbell finishing his shift on a broken leg wasn't anything special to watch as a former hockey player. That is just what hockey players do because we love the game and more importantly we love to compete. I'm not going to put down athletes in any of the other sports because of the high level of respect I have for people who are able to work at their craft and push themselves to be able to compete at a level that many can only dream of getting to. I will say this. When it comes to physical and mental toughness, I'll put my money behind a hockey player all day long versus any other professional athlete!
Don't forget sleep is for the Off-season. I know the Finals are over but we still have the NHL Draft. See you in Newark!