The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the definitive best postseason in professional sports. Oh, sorry, me stating it as fact isn’t enough to convince you? Here are six reasons to prove it:
Playing through the pain
When the playoffs come around, common sense, along with any instinct for self preservation, is tossed aside in pursuit of the Cup. Lower body injuries become a formality on every team’s injury report, and it’s not uncommon to learn after-the-fact that someone skated on a broken leg through the playoffs. Hockey players boast a level of pain tolerance that puts every other sport to shame.
The New York Islanders are credited with starting one of hockey’s greatest traditions. As a sign of team unity, players forgo their right to shave during the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Playoff beards are a perfect symbol of the commitment it takes to win it all.
Forget the shootout, in the postseason a game does not end until an outright winner emerges. Nothing in sports comes close to matching the edge-of-your-seat tension of an NHL playoff overtime. For 20 minutes of commercial free, non-stop action, one shot, one bounce, one missed check can be the difference between victory and defeat. If no one scores in the first overtime period, viewers are blessed with another one. Mistakes are made, legends are born, and more often than not there is another game to be played just two days later.
There is nothing like a little bad blood to add to the intensity of a playoff series. Hockey is a sport defined by it’s greatest rivalries (Rangers-Islanders, Penguins-Flyers, Bruins-Canadiens) and when those teams cross paths in the playoffs the animosity reaches another level. Whenever rivalry teams meet in the postseason, we are blessed with must-watch TV.
The playoffs are commonly referred to as ‘hockey’s second season’, because once a team punches a ticket to the postseason, anything can happen. It is not uncommon to see a low seed knock off a top-ranked team. The 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings and 2016-2017 Nashville Predators are prime examples of teams no one thought would get past the first round, let alone reach the Stanley Cup Final.
The handshake line
There is no other sight quite like it in professional sports. After leaving it all out on the ice for two straight weeks, the winning team and losing team line up to shake hands. The handshake line shows that sportsmanship always prevails, even in the wake of heated battle.