Really Tom, you’re asking me to fill out a bracket for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
No way in hell.
I don’t watch hockey.
I can’t name a skater to save my life.
Is hockey even a real sport?
Just bear with me here.
In Sports Illustrated’s Point After (March 26), Phil Taylor wrote about how people love filling out brackets.
“Bracketology is everywhere,” he writes. “I’m tracking the Ultimate Southern Food tourney and religiously following the Favorite Saints bracket.”
Filling out brackets is fun and exciting and there’s nothing like rubbing a victory in somebody’s face—even if you do so admitting you knew nothing about the teams in competition.
Hell, my mom makes her picks based on locations she’d like to visit and usually ends up dominating our family bracket.
So America, why not fill out a hockey bracket?
If you don’t know anything about hockey make your picks based on your favorite sweater, team name or location*.
*Get off your high horse coastal elites, there’s nothing wrong with the Midwest and Canada. Plus, there’s teams in California, Florida and New York too if you can’t bear to have any vested interest in a non-coastal team.
I’m not asking you to fill out a Frozen Four bracket, I know you have no idea who Union or Ferris State are*. But come on, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers or Los Angeles Kings. So help me god if you haven’t.
*To be honest, I didn’t either.
Playoff hockey is phenomenal.
The players play pro bono.
There’s no fights, no shootouts* and the physical sacrifices these players make for each other are almost incomprehensible.
*Twenty-minute sudden death overtimes are played continuously until a team is declared a winner.
Plus, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are unpredictable, but the best franchises always seem to rise to the top—an element of March Madness that I love.
Despite having years like 2010 when all three top seeds in the East went out in the first round, the same teams appear to emerge on top when all is said and done.
In recent history, the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009 Champions, 2008 runner-up), Chicago Blackhawks (2010 Champions) and Vancouver Canucks (2011 runner-up) have been perennial contenders and the Detroit Red Wings (11-time champions), haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season and most recently won in 2008.
Carolina and Anaheim’s championships in 2006 and 2007, respectively, may seem random because of their location, but the Hurricanes were runners up in 2002 and the Ducks (then the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) were there in 2003.
The sweet thing about professional hockey is that teams from all over the country* have won the Stanley Cup recently.
Small market teams like Detroit (2008) and Pittsburgh (2009) have a chance against big-city teams like Chicago (2010) and Boston (2011).
And our sunbaked friends have not been neglected. Tampa (2004), Carolina (2006) and Anaheim (2007) all have brought home Lord Stanley’s mug.
*And by country I mean America. Sorry Canada. The last team from north of the border to win a Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. They beat Wayne Gretzky’s Kings 4-1. Barry Melrose and his sweet mullet were sent home crestfallen.
I know by now you think I’m a nut, but I’m not alone in thinking that the Stanley Cup Playoffs could capture the nation like March Madness.
“The Stanley Cup should be, and could be, as big as March Madness from a ratings and advertising standpoint,” NHL COO John Collins told AdAge in an interview (via Grantland).
Collins also told the Los Angeles Daily News that his goal was “to elevate the playoffs as a unifying force and get people together with friends watching games.”
These games are no longer on the obscure Versus network. They will be aired nationally on NBC proper, NBC Sports Network, the NHL Network or after-market CNBC.
So c’mon FanMan Nation:
If you’re in an NHL city with a playoff team get to a game,
If you’re not, cuddle around the couch with your buddies and turn on the tube,
If you’re Joseph Healy, root for the Blues*,
If you’re in the Nashville area (I’m looking at you Jesse), check out Cell Block 303,
And Andy, my man, keep the faith.
*This pains me to say because I’m a Wild fan and I know you have that Aeros connection. I’m not going to make you bear with me. Rooting for Minnesota teams can be like being shoved into a wood chipper at times. Yes, Vikes (1998), Wolves (2004), Twins (stupid Yankees) and Wild (generally) you are turning me into a bitter person.
And if you’re like me and your team is long gone from playoff contention, just enjoy the show.
Tom Schreier writes for TheFanManifesto. He can followed on Twitter at @tschreier3. Email him at email@example.com.
The entire FanMan team can be followed on Twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on Facebook by clicking here.
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