Most of you don’t watch hockey and I would like to change that.
Think of the worst parts of playoff basketball so far. The complaining is ratcheted up to a 10. Players like Draymond Green, Luka Doncic, and Karl Anthony-Towns stomp around the court like pudgy toddlers anytime they are whistled for a foul. Their disbelief in any/all calls could rob Daniel Day-Lewis of his Oscars. Players like Patrick Beverly and Marcus Smart flail into the third row anytime an opposing player breathes in their direction. Video reviews overtake crunch time with regularity. Ben Simmons watches games in a green suit made of lamb, a fitting ode to the docile creature he mimics his game after. The Utah Jazz always break your heart.
The Stanley Cup playoffs offer something different. If you complain too much, somebody kicks your ass. If you fall down too easily, somebody kicks your ass. If you even mention a lamb, you better be prepared to sacrifice one to the bearded hockey gods or somebody kicks your ass. It is the most grueling two month window in sports. All players make unsanctioned donations of teeth and blood. There is no greater adrenaline rush than overtime hockey. It is the purest essence of sports—I see the words SUDDEN DEATH in my dreams and nightmares. The only similarity to playoff basketball is, unfortunately, your favorite team will probably break your heart.
This week marks the beginning of the chase for the Stanley Cup. Twenty-one years ago, the Colorado Avalanche won their second championship in franchise history. I celebrated when Ray Bourque hoisted the Cup and clung to a piece of driftwood representing fandom at its best, the feeling that the future extends to infinity. They have not made the Finals since. They cratered five years ago as the worst team in hockey. The front office has spent the last half decade building a team that is deep, talented, and spectacular to watch. If you want an introduction to the sport, watch this team. If you want to solidify your belief that hockey is amongst the finest sports in existence, watch this team. Most of them have teeth and I say this from personal experience: you cannot find a more electric pairing of athletes than Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon.
This is where the uncomfortable truths of fandom enter the picture. It is impossible to predict when promise turns to stagnation. It is impossible to know how quickly a championship contention window will open and shut. The Colorado Avalanche enter the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a magnetic force, representing the best qualities of modern-day hockey, filled with young talent that whispers promise of a multi-year Cup window. Despite this (or maybe because of this), I will be hyperventilating every other night because I know that promise doesn’t always end in fulfillment. I might drop dead from the stress. I will be weeping tears of joy or sorrow when it ends. So enjoy your hockey and hyperventilate a little on my behalf. Know that if Colorado is raising the Cup in two months, I will overturn at least three parked cars and light them on fire. And if the Avs flame out before then, expect a sad, sad newsletter in your inbox the following Wednesday.