People, are you amped yet?
Are you ready for a showdown as scintillating as one can get before an actual puck has been dropped?
Yeah, me too. But there’s one little thing that would really have put this year’s Stanley Cup final over the top for me.
Or at least some sort of media blowout. I don’t even have to be invited; I just want it to happen. Could be in Detroit, where the series starts, could be in Pittsburgh, home of the first team to clinch a spot in the final, could be in New York where they have all sorts of reporting-type folks and the NHL’s head office, to boot.
Now, I know the anti-fun militia won’t like this, but let’s take a cue from the most successful sport in North America – NFL football – and schedule some sort of pre-final Stanley Cup extravaganza. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, you can’t turn around without hearing about some sort of event hyping up what usually turns out to be a mediocre game (and in Canada, we don’t even get to see the good commercials).
Let’s have a fanfest. Bands will play, the Cup will be there, Mark Messier will sign autographs and give out bags of potato chips – it’ll be fun. This year, an event in Detroit could have featured Kid Rock and Bob Probert. Pittsburgh could counter with Mario Lemieux and a reunion of his buddies from the 1991 and ’92 Cup teams. Bring the kids, we’ll party until at least 9:30.
In the four days since the Red Wings iced Dallas, the anticipation of the final series has been palpable, but not frothing. And we need frothing.
Some folks have been kicking up a fuss that the final didn’t start sooner. Others point out having the first three games scheduled for the same nights as the Detroit Pistons-Boston Celtics playoff series was moronic. Now, I’m OK with the teams having a rest before the ultimate showdown, but there’s no reason something couldn’t have been planned for one of those days.
Sure, the NHL didn’t know exactly when the conference finals would end, but the league would have had an approximate idea and again, if you throw your funfest in New York, it doesn’t matter who makes it to the final.
On top of that, hockey players are the most accommodating athletes in any major sport. While some may think showing up in the parking lot of Mellon Arena for an afternoon could wreck a player’s mojo before the final countdown, it’s really not that dire: Top players from both teams have been readily available for interviews this week and no one’s been spooked like a racehorse when it came to our requests.
The NHL’s slowly building some steam this year. The stars are in the final, both teams come from strong hockey traditions and even ESPN’s Bill Simmons said he was loving the playoffs.
Time to capitalize on the momentum and make sure the Stanley Cup stays in the public eye as much as possible before the puck drops.
It’s fun, people. Get into it.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appear Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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