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Sports Authority

Klonsinski: Hockey’s playoffs dwarf others

| Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sorry March Madness, but the greatest tournament in all of sports is finally upon us: The Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The best-of-seven series

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, simply put, are how a champion is meant to be crowned. The best teams in the world get together, sacrifice their bodies, teeth, spirits and anything else they can for 60 full minutes — more if we are lucky enough to see overtime. After such intense games, I’m always disappointed when a winner is finally decided. It’s OK though. The two teams still might have to do it six more times.

And that’s just to get out of the first round.

The speed

The knock on hockey I always hear and still don’t understand is that it’s too hard to follow the puck. I have no idea what to say to that. I’m sorry the play on the ice is literally too fast for you to keep up with? I’m sorry there are so many things happening at once you get overwhelmed and call it boring? That you think nothing happens because they don’t score every 20 seconds? I’m sorry?

Oh wait, no I’m not.

The blood and sacrifice

There’s a reason hockey’s known as a tough sport, and it’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Andrew Shaw blocked a shot with his face, got knocked out, stitched up, returned to the ice and lifted the Stanley Cup with blood dripping down his face. Joe Sakic lead his team to a Cup with broken ribs he didn’t tell anyone about. Patrice Bergeron played with a hole in his lung. Gregory Campbell broke his leg blocking a shot, skated around on it to help his team kill a penalty and then got off the ice once his team finally cleared the puck — 40 seconds later.

Meanwhile, LeBron James gets carried 15 feet to the bench with a leg cramp.

The traditions

First is the playoff beard. Enough said.

Second, Game Seven. Also enough said.

Third, you don’t touch any trophies in the playoffs until you’ve won the Cup. Whether it be the President’s Trophy for most points in the regular season or the Eastern and Western Conference championship trophies, you don’t touch them. Those aren’t the ones you want. You have a bigger goal in mind.

Finally, perhaps the most underrated tradition in a playoff series is when it’s over: the handshake line at center ice. These aren’t simply an obligatory high-five as you pass each other, they’re a firm grab while making eye contact, like the way a handshake is supposed to be. These are usually accompanied by words of congratulations for a series well-played by both sides or for all the best in the next round.

After all, hockey is a gentleman’s sport.

The Stanley Cup

For some reason, the simple phrase “Because it’s the Cup” seems to be one of the most polarizing in sports. Hockey fans love it for reasons clearly outlined above; everyone else thinks it’s stupid. Yet there is not denying the Stanley Cup dwarfs — literally and figuratively — all other trophies in major American sports.

Most sports fans can name the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the winner of the Super Bowl. Few would get the Commissioner’s Trophy for the World Series winner or the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the NBA champs. Just about everyone, sports fan or not, knows what the Stanley Cup is though.

The Commissioner’s Trophy measures 2-feet and 30 pounds, but let’s be honest, it’s just unnecessary deadweight in an oversized base. The NBA trophy — you’ve probably forgot its name already — comes in a distant third at 14.5 pounds and 2-feet. And the Lombardi Trophy? That flimsy thing is just seven pounds, 22 inches.

The Stanley Cup is a massive 3-feet tall and a perfectly-balanced 35 pounds. It’s a trophy still with actual meaning given the incredibly hard road to finally put your hands on it. Every hockey player knows there’s no touching the Cup until it’s yours.

But when you do win it, and you see the engraved names of all the hockey legends — Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux — who have held the Cup before you, there cannot be a better feeling in all of sports.

Except the one a few seconds later as the Cup defies physics.

It weighs 35 pounds.

Except when you lift it.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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