I know plenty of people quit watching hockey when their team is eliminated before or during the playoffs, but I’m not one of them. I certainly understand the desire to—it’s just basic psychology, after all, to want to end one’s suffering—but there’s more to playoff hockey than wanting to see my team win the Stanley Cup. (Which is a no-brainer, I suppose; I’m a Canucks fan).
But if you don’t have a “2nd favorite” team you automatically root for, how do you decide on your heroes for the next 3 months? Who deserves your pain and frustration, elation and cheers?
There are some basic, accepted rules many use to decide this sort of thing (i.e. Canadians automatically cheering for Canadian teams; or Gary dreaming of that day he can have an LA Kings/NY Rangers Final) but rules are boring. My own approach is much more simplistic: Who do I hate the least?
So I decided I should break it down.
The Western Conference is tricky for me. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t be all that disturbed if the whole lot of them just suddenly ceased to exist—some massive earthquake, for instance, that somehow manages to wipe out 8 teams across 3 different time zones.
Gosh, such a happy thought…
Anyway, since that’s not an option (and because being that bitter is just… disturbing) here’s how I wipe out the west in a less violent fashion.
Detroit/Nashville— While making fun of Nashville is something of a sport unto itself (i.e.Bill has made a lifestyle choice out of it) I’m partial to them. Especially over Detroit. Partly because it would upset Bill so much, and partly because it would make the brains of all the NHL’s experts explode. Good times.
Calgary/San Jose— Surprisingly, I’m not nearly as bitter about Calgary’s presence in the Playoffs as I should be. I mean, I can still hate Mike Keenan, but Jarome Iginla almost makes up for it. And that team showed a great deal of class in their final game of the season against the Canucks. Ripping my team apart 7-1, they managed to do so without acting like dicks, which is quite an accomplishment. And Iginla’s handshake for Linden was a highlight for me. (Flames fans: you don’t deserve Iginla; give him to us).
I also don’t particularly hate San Jose. So as far as that series goes: may the best men win.
Colorado/Minnesota— I’ve thought this through long and hard, and for the first time in my life I’m cheering for the hated Avalanche. First of all, it’s time that Jacques Lemaire just goes down; good karma if he did. Secondly, the Avs have a couple of players I really love—Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth. And thirdly, I have a serious weakness for beleaguered NHL goalies (flashback: my years of cheering Dan Cloutier), and I’d love to see Jose Theodore make a big statement in these playoffs. He’s had a very tough couple years—a great playoff run would be cool.
Anaheim/Dallas— While I’d like to throw them both under a bus, beggars can’t be choosers. So I guess I’ll use the “beleaguered goalie” theory again, and hope for Dallas to survive a bit longer. Marty Turco could probably benefit from a good playoff performances. And I’m happy to wish him well in a year he’s not playing my team.
When all is said and done, if the Ducks, the Stars and the Wild all go down in flames, I can live with any of the other five winning a few games. I’m sure I’ll develop a bit more passion for someone as each series progresses.
The east has something the west doesn’t have: high-flying, really-fun-to-watch hockey teams. I would be thrilled to see one of those kind of clubs take over the playoffs. I want someone out there to have the guts and talent to prove you CAN win the Stanley Cup without playing ‘defense first’ shite hockey. Teams with a flare for scoring are what I want to watch.
The Washington Capitals (and p.s. give Bruce Boudreau the Jack Adams award this year) and the Pittsburgh Penguins are pretty easy to cheer for, after some abysmal recent seasons. But barring that, I think my sentimental choice would have to be the Montreal Canadiens.
They’ve quietly built a great team and no one expected it. Even when it was happening, most pundits figured it was just temporary. If they were to win the Stanley Cup, I doubt there’s a single soul out there (besides their fans) that could ever say they saw it coming at the beginning of the season.
I love an underdog story. And weirdly enough—despite 104 points—the Canadiens sorta make a pretty good underdog story for the 2007-08 season.
I’m not ready to pick a favorite to win the Cup yet, but it’s a start.
So, basically I’m a Hockey Fan for Sale—anyone want to sell me on their favorite team? :)