Campbell’s Cuts: A greybeard’s perspective on this year’s playoffs

I believe it was during the Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh crazes when I first noticed the generation gap. When my boys first came home with these cards and began talking about them in what seemed like a foreign language, I feigned interest, but quickly discovered I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

As time passed, I realized not only did I know nothing about this phenomenon, I didn’t want anything to do with it.

That general attitude has since extended to Facebook, MSN (lol), Wii and how kids can’t possibly realize that Avril Lavigne basically copied Girlfriend when she recorded The Best Damn Thing.

Yup, I’ve become a rather grumpy old man, just ask the 20-somethings who work in our Toronto editorial office. Or ask my hair stylist, whose key tasks include clipping excess hair in the eyebrow area and superfluous strands in my nostrils and ears.

So I figure I’ve earned the right to complain about a few things I’ve seen during this season’s playoffs. If you agree with me, give me a call and perhaps we can further discuss our issues over a glass of prune juice.

In any case, I remember when…

• Coaches didn’t go nuts behind the bench celebrating big post-season goals. Give me the steely, jut-jawed reaction of Scotty Bowman any day of the week.

• The NHL didn’t feel the need to pander to a bunch of Americans – who don’t watch the games anyway – by showing marquee playoff games on Sunday afternoons.

Note to NHL: Hockey is not a Sunday afternoon sport, particularly when there are yards to be raked, garages to be de-cluttered and cars to be washed. I love hockey, but I love my sons more and they need some work on handling ground balls. That’s why I saw about 20 seconds of the Pittsburgh-New York game Sunday afternoon.

• The NHL didn’t feel the need to pander to corporate sponsors by endorsing a contest where an NHL legend – in this case Mark Messier – brings the Stanley Cup to your house.

The news release for the Bring Home the Stanley Cup promotion reads like this: “Known as ‘the Holy Grail’…the Stanley Cup ™ (sic) is one of the most celebrated sports icons and is the ultimate goal of hockey’s greatest players.”

Then leave the Stanley Cup ™ to them, not to some painted-up slob whose fingers are greasy from eating too many potato chips. They play. We watch them play and dream. That’s the way it should be and shame on the NHL for cheapening its ultimate prize.

• Guys didn’t pull spitty mouth guards out of their mouths during every stoppage in play.

• We knew the Stanley Cup playoffs were on without having “STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS” painted into both ends of the ice.

• Players realized they were no longer 17-year-olds playing junior hockey and didn’t get stupid haircuts during the playoffs or run along their bench high-fiving everybody after a goal.

• Linesmen didn’t miss five offsides a game.

• Referees put their whistles in their pockets in the third period and overtime. While I welcome the notion that a penalty in the first period is also a penalty in overtime, I often find myself scratching my head at how two referees can ignore/miss blatant infractions for long stretches of time, then call a cheapie during OT.

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• Hooligans in Montreal didn’t torch the city after winning the first round of the playoffs.

• You knew exactly who would be playing each night of the playoffs.

• Guys didn’t break sticks on crucial faceoffs in the last minute of a game.

• NHL teams didn’t feel compelled to hand out thousands of free T-shirts and towels to create a sea of (insert color here). In Detroit, they’re accomplishing that quite well with all the empty seats in the lower bowl.

But not everything has been bad. There have been a couple of aspects of this year’s playoffs that have improved from years gone by…

• A playoff lead used to be secure as Fort Knox, but in 55 playoff games this season, there have been 25 lead changes, including two where teams were behind by three goals at one point in the game.

As Sidney Crosby said after Game 1 against the New York Rangers, “There’s a difference between not being happy and giving up.” Good for them.

This no-lead-is-safe thing is very encouraging, almost as encouraging as seeing ultra-defensive zealots such as the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild defeated in the first round.

• Overtime used to be death. It used to be that if you hunkered down for OT, you could often count on being treated to three or four periods of mind-numbing rugby on ice that often became a personal battle of attrition.

Not this year, so far. Through Sunday night’s game just one of the 10 overtime games went beyond the first extra period and the average OT lasted just 8:07. Three of those 10 overtimes were completed within the first three minutes and seven of them had produced a goal within the first 10 minutes.

It’s not often the good people in my hometown get to celebrate anything when it comes to hockey accomplishments.

But that all changed Sunday afternoon when the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves defeated the Winnipeg Thrashers 5-3 in the Telus Cup, emblematic of midget hockey supremacy in Canada.

As near as anyone in Sudbury can tell, it marks the first time any Sudbury team has won a national hockey championship since the Sudbury Tigers won the Allan Cup in 1936-37, a team that went on to represent Canada and win the World Championship a year later.

In fact, the 1932 Sudbury Wolves, who won the Memorial Cup, are the only other team from Sudbury to win a national championship of any kind. Sixty-one years between national titles in a town as hockey-crazy as Sudbury is almost as bad as the self-described Center of the Hockey Universe going more than four decades without winning the Stanley Cup.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.

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