To the author of Almost DailyBrett, hockey has become a spring/summer sport.

LOS ANGELES, CA JUNE 11, 2012 -- Center Brad Richardson kisses the cup after the  Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES, CA JUNE 11, 2012 — Center Brad Richardson kisses the cup after the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Forget the frozen pond.

Forget the Montreal Wanderers.

Forget the Toronto Arenas, winners of the first Stanley Cup in 1918.

Today there is the Winter Classic, a made for television event that over-glorifies just another regular season game, usually staged in a freezing football/baseball stadium at strategic times during the short-day/long-night winter months.

And every four years, the NHL shuts down for two weeks to permit its players to represent their respective countries in the Winter Olympics (e.g., Sochi 2014), and hopefully for the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Both the Winter Classic and the Winter Olympics represent public relations victories for a league presided over by villain commissioner Gary Bettman, who seemingly was separated at birth from always fun-and-happy Harry Reid.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in New York.  The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expires Saturday at midnight.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in New York. The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expires Saturday at midnight. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The league most likely will never completely overcome the tarnish associated with the 2004-2005 lockout season, when no hockey was played and no Stanley Cup was awarded.

And yet the league now has three 10-figure franchises (i.e., Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens) and a reasonable $71 million salary cap for the 2015-2016 season. The average team is worth a respectable $490 million and only one-third are actually losing money, but you can be assured there always will be rich people who want to buy these teams.

Just as important, the NHL does a better job in staging its playoffs than any other professional sports league on the North America continent. The Stanley Cup finals begin this Wednesday, June 3 with the Chicago Black Hawks playing the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In a sense the Stanley Cup is the strength and the weakness of the No. 4 sport both north and south of the longest undefended border in the world. The NHL’s playoffs mean everything/the regular season virtually nothing.

Just ask the New York Rangers, the latest President’s Cup winners (regular season best record) to watch the Stanley Cup finals on HDTV.

Has anyone actually seen the President’s Cup?

The World Series vs. The Stanley Cup

Baseball, which used to be our national pastime until it was systematically usurped by college football in the late 20th Century, celebrates its so-called Fall Classic, the World Series, in which 30 teams from only two of the world’s nations are invited to participate (29 from the USA and one from Canada). Seriously, how can anybody call this overhyped best-of-seven, a “World Series.” Give us a break.

In contrast, football (UK), fussball (Germany) or futbol (Spain and Latin America) holds its real World Cup every four years, which is financed through a series of bribes, kickbacks and money laundering schemes from sheiks and oligarchs located in exotic locations (e.g., Russia, Qatar) spread across the shady corners of the planet. There are 32 teams from (gasp) 32 nations that are permitted to participate in a month-long tournament in which all the profits are sent to FIFA in Switzerland and its supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, … oops, Entschuldigung Sie, Sepp Blatter.

The NHL refreshingly does NOT declare that its champion is indeed the world champion. After all, only 23 USA teams and seven Canadien teams are eligible to play, so the NHL spares us the fallacy that its champion is a global Wunder.

Hoisting the cup is good enough.

Here are the reasons why the Stanley Cup is by far the best post-season in North American professional sports:handshakeline

  • There is a true salary cap in the NHL, which means that any of the 16 teams, which qualify for the playoffs, has a chance to win. The Los Angeles Kings were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference in 2012 and rode a hot goaltender, Jonathan Quick, through a gauntlet of four-rounds without home ice to win the cup.
  • HDTV has been a Godsend to the NHL. Hockey with its small whizzing disc of vulcanized frozen rubber is not easy to follow on standard-definition television. And yet Emmy winner announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick and his mates are as good as any in capturing the excitement and raw force of ice hockey, and the game is much easier to watch on high definition.
  • A Canadien team has not won the cup since 1993 and that obviously is the case once again this year. Even though Canada invented the sport, it is not longer just a Canadien game. Hockey in many ways has become an American game. The NHL is considering its next round of expansion, and rumors are pointing to Las Vegas and Seattle, not Moose Jaw or Kamloops
  • When someone is checked into the boards, slashed, hooked, held, elbowed, cross-checked, interfered etc., the referees do not award free-throws (how wimpy). Nope the offender is sent to the penalty box, and a two-minute or longer power play unit takes on the penalty killers. Special teams all the way, baby.
  • A team going down three games to none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is most likely toast, but not in every case. There are four NHL teams that have accomplished this feat of coming back from three down, the last being the Los Angeles Kings against the San Jose (cough, choke) Sharks in 2014. This feat has only been accomplished once in beisboll and never in the NBA.
  • The ceremonial handshake at the end of each series is more than just for show. These are real warriors who skate, check, scratch and claw … not including firing the puck … around the ice for as many as seven games, only to respect each other when all is said and done.
  • And then there is the cup. The winners get to skate the Stanley Cup, the Holy Grail of hockey. No sport does pageantry better than the NHL. Bettman is greeted with boos when he emerges to present the Conn Smythe to the playoffs’ best player, and then the cup to the champions. When the booing/cheering is over, each-and-every player will have his name inscribed on the 35-pound trophy, and a special day when the cup comes to his hometown regardless of where or how far.

Now that is something truly special to tell a granddaughter or son, sitting on your knee.

.http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?page=cupchamps11

http://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations/list/

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/nhl-richest-teams-forbes-toronto-maple-leafs-montreal-canadiens-new-york-rangers-1-billion/

http://www.detroithockey.net/nhl/timeline.php

http://espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/12929596/commissioner-gary-bettman-expects-nhl-salary-cap-climb-71-million-2015-16

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Bettman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Cup

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Emrick

http://www.puckreport.com/2009/04/nhl-playoff-comebacks-trailing-3-0.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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