I was fortunate to have experienced and lived the full playoff spectrum and the ride is better than any roller coaster in the world and lasts a lot longer! I am also a huge fan of the sport and naturally this is my favorite time of any hockey season.
For my first "Blogdown"...
#10 The Beard
It's nice to see the tradition of "The Beard" make a comeback. It shows the focus and grit of the game. Paul Mara's looking pretty mean and I'm not sure how Chris Mason even gets his mask on!
I hope Mike Commodore has a chance to grow his out so he can raise money for charity as he's always done in the past.
Looking at some of the St. Louis players as well as Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane of Chicago they look so young that they may want to grow "The Beard", but might not have the ability....yet!
Fans are also following the tradition. People have told me that their bosses aren't too happy but they reply: "It's the Playoffs!"
#9 The Weather
Playoffs indicate warmer weather!! It's always been kind of nice to walk around in shorts, go for a blade, drive a convertible and don the shades before stepping into a cold arena.
It's even better to have the Stanley Cup Parade in the warm June weather....The Canyon Of Heroes ticker-tape is one great example of just that!! I remember the slow motion of the ticker tape in 80 degree weather and then getting the key to NYC at City Hall from then Mayor Guiliani.
The warmer weather used to put a smile on Grant Fuhr's face. He is a scratch golfer and nothing relaxed him more than a round (or two) of golf on game day. Goalies...they sure have their own unique ways of getting into the zone.
Sure it seems like a cliche, but you have got to play through pain. If you can skate, you can play. You take a puck to the face, get stitched up, and get back on the ice. Your team needs you out there and you do whatever it takes.
For example I got hit in the face by Sergio Momesso in the second period of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. There was a possible concussion. When the blood finally stopped, I received several stitches. I stared at two black eyes and faced my fourteenth broken nose, but I still hit the ice for my next shift and finished the game that ended the Rangers 54-year Cup drought.
Hoisting the Cup is worth every ounce of pain.
You learn from your mistakes. In the case of the playoffs, that means tasting what it is like to lose before winning. When you lose, you don't want to lose the lesson.
As part of Team Canada in the 1980 Olympics, I tasted defeat at the international level. That was when Team USA won the Gold Medal: The Miracle on Ice.
The Edmonton Oilers didn't win right away either. We lost to the NY Islanders in '81 and '83, and in '82 to the LA Kings. We learned from each lesson. That pain is so deeply etched into your gut that you never want to have that feeling again. I hate losing more than I love winning and I really love to win!
#6 The Ride
The best of the best thrive under pressure and rise to the occasion. As a team you ride the emotional roller coaster and the highs and lows can be extreme.
The ride is only over when you are hold the Cup over your head!
#5 Your Eyes ARE Your Ears
You must watch with 360 degree vision. Feel and anticipate everything happening in complete synchronization, from the second the puck is dropped to the final buzzer.
The volume level in the buildings makes it impossible to yell to your teammates. At the same time the vibe and energy rocking the house are fuel that add to the adrenaline rush.
Your 7th Man in the Flesh
The support of the fans who sport their teams' colors and wear their favorite players' jerseys, while chanting until they have no voices left, is just an example of how far they will go to rock their teams' BARN.
The fans are the seventh player - when they are your fans - but they can also get under the skin of some players. For instance, when they taunt a goalie it can be unnerving.
# 3 The Keeper
The Netminder... the Goalie... your best penalty killer. He is THE single player who has the capability of winning a game and a series.
The media have been riding Osgood saying he's average. But, like Billy Smith or even me, we took it to another level in the playoffs. Some call it a "clutch" or "money player". I just called it the best part of my job and loved overtime even more!
It's What We All Play For.
No matter what gets printed in the papers... No matter what the announcers may say... No matter how much the fans may get down on you at times... Nothing matters more to the team than the brotherhood. We learn as brothers how to eliminate all that "outside noise."
Nothing and no one can penetrate our band of brothers as we rely upon each other to do our jobs, be in position, know the assignment, and as the saying goes..."All for One and One for ALL".
We always had eachother's backs. The minute we put on our sweaters, we are gladiators prepared for battle. We bleed for the crest on our chest. In the run for the Cup, you cannot explain the close link between every guy in the locker room, and every guy with whom you step out on the ice, and even every guy behind the scenes.
The Stanley Cup means more than anything. It is the Holy Grail. You get to walk the walk of life forever with your teammates. Your brothers are always going to be your brothers!
No one can ever take that away. All the names etched on the Cup will live on as part of the greatest trophy in professional sport. That feeling is unmatched.
I AM PROUD to say that to get there I battled alongside with the guys I still refer to as MY BROTHERS.