The best time of a fan’s life is when he or she gets to see all of the hard, diligent work as an avid supporter of a team pay off in the form of a potential championship run.
Yes, I am talking about playoffs — the magical moments where a season-long struggle culminates in jubilant cheers or ends tragically in Crying Jordan meme-esque tears.
All playoffs are fun to watch, but this year ice has surpassed hardwood for the most exciting surface to host postseason play. We broke down the differences a few years back, thanks to our resident Reverend, but here are a few reasons why this year’s playoff hockey is far more scintillating than its ball-bouncing competition.
This season, the NBA has desensitized us when it comes to scoring points. I blame the Warriors. While they are insanely fun to watch and incredibly talented, the amount of points Steph Curry alone puts up causes fans’ expectancy levels to soar to all new, unsustainable heights. The Splash Brothers have warped our sense of self and of splash zone. Sure, buzzer-beaters are still worth their weight in gold, but hockey goals are fewer and farther between (save for last night’s games in Nashville and St. Louis), making them much more valuable. Also, hockey overtime goals are greater than NBA overtime buckets. Just saying.
Fans complaining about refereeing is universal, a language that transcends sport. But professional basketball fans’ shouts of injustice ring louder than most, partly because NBA players have mastered the art of the flop and partly because one bad, ill-timed foul can change the course of an entire basketball game.
In hockey, fouls are accepted as part of the game. In fact, they are almost welcomed with open arms by fans who love to see opposing players in penalty boxes, short-handed and power-play goals, and most of all bench-clearing fights on the ice. The referee’s whistle is a welcomed part of game, keeping complaints to a minimum and making playoff hockey more fun to watch.
The opening rounds of NBA playoffs are steeped in predictability — for the most part, the same teams beat up mercilessly on their opponents, and the real basketball doesn’t begin until the conference finals or even the actual NBA Finals. Although the Stanley Cup had passed around between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings over the previous four years, seven teams have lifted the Cup over the past 10, adding a bit more unpredictability. This June, Lord Stanley will have a different home for the first time since 2011 (Boston) with both the ‘Hawks and Kings knocked out of this year’s playoffs. Also, instead of courtside celebrities, hockey fans get ice cats, playoff beards and post-game interviews with guys missing multiple teeth.
Much like the point above, playoff hockey presents sports fans with outside-the-box entertainment. And with live emotion and more freedom to act on those emotions, hockey games get pretty lit. Hockey players don’t shy away from contact or confrontation. But instead of the drama you get in an NBA game, hockey players resolved their issues on the ice and shake hands afterward. You rarely see a hockey player take to Twitter to criticize an opposing team, coach or fan base. Playoff hockey appeals to our need for basic conflict resolution in its purest of forms: fist first.
This is pretty self-explanatory: These NBA playoffs have a lot of Drake, while the NHL playoffs have almost none. Not zero Drake, of course, because wherever there is an unexpected triumph in sports, Drake is close behind it buying a new T-shirt. But at least in the hockey world he is not courtside serving Jay-Z and Beyonce lemonade.Photo by Reuters
Granted, it was kind of, sort of funny. But also no.
In closing, as Jim Armstrong once said, “Real men don’t flop. They skate.” Playoff hockey this year is more exciting, less drama-filled and is in tune with our primal human urges, making it more fun to watch than playoff basketball.
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.