Why Is This Game So Special? Thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Image c/o Amy Irvin

Image c/o Amy Irvin

This game is special. This time of year is special.

Take it in. Relish it. Be consumed by it.

In just a few short weeks (maybe days), the Philadelphia Flyers will in all likelihood be eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoff race. And yet, this time of year is still special.

There’s something about the springtime and the concept of re-birth that goes hand-in-hand with the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting. It’s this odd, somewhat counterintuitive marriage that is nothing short of magical. The weather is getting warmer and a game played on a frozen surface takes center stage. Every morning is like Christmas Eve and as the sun begins to fade into the horizon, each evening bears gifts as though it were Christmas morning. History is both made and quickly forgotten. Dreams are dashed and realized. Heroes are made and those heroes become villains in one fell-swoop. The dichotomy of the sport is never more present than right now.

What happened last year is inconsequential for the 16 teams that have gained the right to compete for the coolest trophy in professional sports. For 16 teams, the regular season vanishes into the ether. For 16 teams, the spring means a chance at immortality.

Men will line up each night at center ice and go to war. They will fire blindly and throw themselves willingly in the line of fire. They will soldier on through bruises and cuts and broken bones. The game always means something to those that want it to and yet now, it feels like it means even more.

Every game, every shift, every second is a battle and yet there are beautiful moments. Moments like the one in the picture at the top of this piece. Artistic passes, seeing eye-shots, unbelievable dekes, miraculous saves, performances that will be remembered and passed down through generations. Playoff hockey is transcendental. It’s moving and gripping. It’s game seven. It’s overtime. It’s all of the things we love and hate. For the next two months, the best show on Earth will be on display starting April 15th.

There’s nothing like the theatre of a playoff hockey series, especially one that goes the distance. It’s hard to watch and yet impossible to look away. The game becomes something more. Somewhere between the first puck hitting the dot and the last puck hitting the back of the net, an unforgettable journey will take place. Who will get in is still undecided, but when it is, all bets are off. Anything can happen.

In the playoffs, tomorrow is never guaranteed and it is not given. It must be earned. It must be taken. That is something that the Philadelphia Flyers and 13 other teams will have a long summer to ponder, while the 16 that have proven they understand will continue to do so. And while they do, we’ll be watching.

Hockey is unlike a lot of things. It’s intuitive, yet brutal. It’s unrelenting, yet wholly forgiving. It’s hard, yet brings grown men to tears. In the playoffs, these things rise to the surface. These contradictions are where the game thrives.  A game that doesn’t translate so well on television absolutely flourishes on the big stage.

I know this because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it every year. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us and we will witness great things. Prepare to stay up late for multiple overtimes. Prepare for the upsets. Prepare for the triumphs. Prepare for the games in the East and the games in the West and the one series between a team from either side of the continent that will decide which team will achieve immortality; even if it only lasts for a summer.

This time of year is special. This game is special. Remember that. Cherish it. Relish it. Be consumed by it.

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