Monday, April 9, 2007

Lord Stanley's Cup- the chase starts Wednesday


It's the time of year hockey fans love most, the two-month marathon that culminates with one victorious team hoisting the Stanley Cup, the most difficult team trophy to win. To claim the cup, a team must win 20 games (four best of seven series).

No other sport playoff structure is as grueling as the path to winning Lord Stanley's Cup. Hockey players are the toughest athletes on earth, so it stands to reason they would have the most challenging path to the championship.

This year's playoffs are particularly exciting to me, a long time fan of the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo is a small-city, by major professional sports standards, and it has been declining economically for several years. The job situation there is tough and more people are moving out than moving in. Still, there are no fans like Buffalo fans. Period. Buffalo fans have endured losing seasons (mostly the Bills, the Sabres have always fielded competitive teams, only missing the playoffs a handful of times in their 37 year history), lost championship chances (four for the Bills, two for the Sabres, and all sorts of bad calls to rub it in (ask someone from Buffalo what "no goal" or "The Immaculate Deception" refers to). Despite this, in the April 9, 2007 issue of ESPN the Magazine, the Buffalo Sabres ranked first of 122 major professional sports franchises in North America. Buffalo was cited for its player accessability, low ticket prices, and exciting brand of hockey.
Buffalo came very close to making the Stanley Cup Finals last season. They lost to the eventual Cup winners, Carolina, in the seventh game of a grueling series. Buffalo had four of their regular defensemen out for that series, there is no doubt they would have won if at full strength. They began this new season with a chip on their shoulder. They were out to prove last year was no fluke- and prove it they did. This entire year has seemed like a march to the Stanley Cup for Buffalo fans. The Sabres amassed the best record in the NHL and have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They have ferocious speed and a full, healthy line up going in to the opening series against the NY Islanders. Everything points to a run to the finals and their first Stanley Cup.

Still, when you're from Buffalo, you know not to celebrate early.

14 comments:

shanaclan said...

i do agree hockey has the toughest men...on ice skates. scott hamilton is some tough competition for that one :-) i do enjoy a good match of curling (blueneck bowling)

i am thankful for some great wing sauce that buffalo has given us as well as some superbowl entertainment back in the early 90s.

AJF said...

Come on now! Hockey players are modern day gladiators. Rugby players are a distant second, followed by LaCrosse.

Buffalo has contributed more than the sauce, don't forget the wings themselves- also- Beef on Weck, italian sausage (with fennel seeds), various subs, Verner's Ginger Ale, Loganberry, etc. etc.

If you want to pick on a whimpy sport, try golf....not that there's anything wrong with it.

LO said...

Buffalo schmuffalo . . . it's Tampa Bay all the way, baby!

AJF said...

Tampa Bay...that's cute dude.

Anonymous said...

This is Kansas, who cares? The lakes don't even freeze around here!

Hockey is for pansies, real men play tennis!

Jab, Jab.

Frontier Forest said...

And just think, during one of Pastor Tony's Leadership Institutes, his words, spoken in love and in truth, put the old guilt trip on me for attending a Chiefs game on Sunday! Haven't been to a Chief's games since!

AJF said...

real men play tennis? Are you serious? ouch

Anonymous said...

LaCrosse?

is that the one where girls skip around in a field with butterfly nets chasing something? i heard that in the northeast, they let the boys play that game too at all the "brainy" schools.

jdogg said...

I don't know, man. Take away the pads and sticks and ice skates and hockey players are just normal, somewhat above average athletic dudes. As far as pure toughness goes, in an off ice brawl I'd take the rugby players, hands down.

AJF said...

Regarding LaCrosse-It was invented by native americans and not intended for he squimish (or cowardly "Anonymous" posters)-Early players concentrated on first injuring their opponents with their sticks, and then moving easily to the goal. Games could be played on a pitch over a mile wide and sometimes lasted for days. Often players were gravely injured or even killed. Early balls were made out of the heads of the enemy, deerskin, clay, stone, and sometimes wood. Lacrosse has played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for many years. Early lacrosse was characterized by deep spiritual involvement, befitting the spirit of combat in which it was undertaken. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes, and as a religious ritual.[9] The game was said to be played "for the pleasure of the Creator."

AJF said...

Regarding JDogg's contention-

I give high props to Rugby players, however, hockey involves players with similar physicality only add skating at super high rates of speed, then hitting your opponent. Still, I won't quibble with the toughness of a rugby player. I do think Hockey's a heckuva lot more exciting as it only takes a wedgey to stop play in Rugby...

GUNNY said...

Get that lumber in his teeth. Let 'em know you're there!

Doug Larson: "Ice hockey is a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept."

DROP THE PUCK!

Puttin' on the foil,
Gunny

GUNNY said...

Shaping up to be an interesting post season.

Hey, this was interesting ...
"Because Hull had possession of the puck before he entered the crease, the play was legal."

Before our very eyes.

GO STARS!

Mark Davis said...

Growing up Bama, we had three full sports seasons: football, just finished football, and fixin to play football. Any competition on a lake or pond would have to involve catching fish, insanely fast boats, or some conbination of the two. If you ever noticed some ice on a pond, the last thing to cross your mind would be strapping on some blades and stepping out on it. As kids, we looked forward to the POIT sound our BB guns made when we shot through it. So much for a pick-up game of hockey.

There was a minor league hockey team in town when I was growing up, and they had a minor following, but left in the 90s for places more familiar with the rules. We never could figure our how so much attention was paid to creases and slashes and sticking and what not, but you could throw off the gloves and wail the snot out of each other two or three times a game with only minor repercussions.

Hockey never stood a chance in Birmingham. The competition was too tough. Many weekends, there were big name rock concerts in town. Then there was NCAA football. And don't forget NASCAR. And last but not least, a bug zapper light and a cooler of beer. Yea, hockey was a hard sell in the deep south.