Recently got into a Twitter disagreement over which sport has the best playoffs. Naturally, I said without any hesitation that the NHL playoffs are hands down the best. I think I even used the word ‘unequivocally’. In the Twitterverse, when you have a 140 characters limit, to use 13 of them on one word should show that you mean business. Alas, it did not.
Since in this format, Bolts By The Bay, doesn’t limit me to 140 characters, I want to flesh out why I state that the NHL playoffs are the best. I think the other major sports wish their post season was as thrilling as the NHL game in and game out.
When an NHL playoff goes into overtime, that is when the excitement is heightened to unbelievable levels.
Next goal wins. Period. Next goal wins. On the ice, many want to be the player that scores that goal. Many more don’t want to be the guy that makes the smallest error in a split second that costs your team the game.
A pass that is off by centimeters finds an opponent’s stick who then makes a tape to tape pass to an open teammate who fires one by your goalie. Game over because next goal wins. I pity the person who thinks they can get up, take a needed bathroom break or get a beer or a snack to eat that misses the OT goal because game over, next goals wins.
That just doesn’t happen in other sports. In baseball, overtime is called extra innings. Both teams will get a chance to win the game. First the away team, then the home team. The closest equivalent to “Next Goal Wins” would be the walk off home run. In the World Series, there have been just two walk off home runs that have actually won the world championship. In over 100 years of the American and National League Champions playing each other, only two walk off homers have won the series.
In the Super Bowl, the overtime period now has both teams with an opportunity to score unless the opening kickoff is run back for a touchdown. No Super Bowl has ever gone to overtime. In fact, in the 48 Super Bowls, the winning team scores an average of 15 points more than the losing team. Most Super Bowls are more snoozefests than Clash of the Titans. Last year, the Seahawks had the game won by halftime.
As far as the NBA, if a game goes to overtime, they are still beholden to the clock. Whichever team scores more than the other in the entire overtime period will win. Last basket made doesn’t necessarily win the game. Since 1951, the NBA has had only two championships decided in overtime. In 1957 and in 1962, the champion was crowned by winning an overtime game in game 7.
The NHL is different. Fifteen different times the Stanley Cup was won on an overtime goal. In last year’s Cup matchup there were three OT games out of six when Chicago beat Boston including a game 1 triple overtime. The year before, there were two OT games when Los Angeles beat New Jersey in six games. So far this year the first two games went into overtime with LA beating the Rangers in OT in both games.
I have converted many NFL and MLB fans to the NHL simply by taking them to a game. Regular season. Imagine if I take a non-believer to a playoff game? A Stanley Cup game? I did that. I was at the first two games of the Stanley Cup in 2004 when our Lightning played. In the nosebleeds with a friend who had never been to any hockey game in his life. The Forum was so loud that standing less than a half foot from my friend, I was screaming at him and he couldn’t hear me. The sound, the feel and elation after the Bolts won the Cup was unforgettable. Needless to say, that my friend who grew up in the desert of Las Vegas is a diehard Lightning fan today.
I know the NFL, NBA and even MLB fans will tell me about TV ratings and how those sports are more popular than the NHL. Perhaps they are correct, but for the level of intrigue, the amount of action, the sheer intensity of an NHL Playoff game is without equal. I know over a billion people watch the Super Bowl around the world but how many of them are watching for the commercials?
So, @thomas08G, you can keep your TV ratings, I’ll keep the NHL especially on the run to the Cup. I’ll stick with what I tweeted to you: NHL Rules! Besides, can 34 million Canadians be wrong?