The NHL playoffs are, just like Chris Simon’s stick, in full swing. They have been great, but that doesn’t surprise nobody because well, the NHL’s playoffs rule harder than any other playoffs the world has to offer. I write to you as a completely and unabashedly biased hockey fan, but I am also swearing an oath before both the old gods and the new that the NHL Post-Season is the best stretch in sports every year. Sometimes the Olympics and World Cup make it close, but still NHL Playoffs >.
Need evidence of the power of the NHL Playoffs? Just take a walk into the busy part of town, some city middle, or a college campus. ZOMG! Hockey Jerseyz EVrYWHR! Living on a small college campus smack dab in the cross hairs of several fandoms, I can report back to ya’ll that since tax day, I have seen more hockey jerseys than Elisha Cuthbert’s floor.
Last year, I watched the advent of Bruins Nation. This year I live in a hellhole full of tools wearing Ranger Jerseys from the “Glory Days.” Whatever, I’m not here to complain about bandwagoneers, I try to be as welcoming as I can to new hockey fans. Fair-weather faithfuls are essential for the survival of any sport in this country. Hockey fans try not to accept that, but we need casuals the way Kathie Lee need Regis. Even so, hockey fans tend to be the most hipstery-pretentious-you-get-my-point fans of any sport in America*.
We love our sport. We were deeply and permanently damaged when it went away for a whole year and during and for a period after the lockout, the NHL was the laughing stock of the sporting world. We were bullied by other fans and it wasn’t fun, but we knew it would be worth it to stand by our quirky little league.
A few years ago, hockey fans started noticing something. All of a sudden, it was hip to be a puckhead again. Those who were once throwing stones at NHL fans were now willingly taking the lumps in their Patrik Elias jersey. Some of those who stuck with the league through thick and thin began sticking their nose up at the new wave, and though I was tempted to do the same at first, I knew it was for the better of the league to take the good with the bad.
Admittedly, I still do get mad when I see the worst offenders of bandwagonry (you know who you are and I still don’t know how you live with yourselves), but at the same time I have been like a proud mother watching some of my friends who never gave hockey a chance before they came to college really, truly fall in love with the sport.
It’s hard to get someone to actually listen to you when you’re like, ‘Yo dude, you should watch hockey.’ It’s like trying to get someone to listen to The National or to watch Deadwood, you know that if they put in the time they would come out better people for it and would thank you in the long run. But The National isn’t Coldplay and Deadwood isn’t Friends and the NHL isn’t the NBA. What I mean by these self-fulfilling metaphors is this: the NHL doesn’t stick themselves in your face and make it hard for you not to watch it.
Hockey has always been that way. If you don’t want to join us, don’t. Because to those who know, those who do not, matter not.
In closing, to all my fellow NHL fans I leave you with this, next time you walk past someone sporting threads they didn’t earn, try to stray from scoffing. Give them the nod and in your head, just think about how amazing the playoffs are.
*-Not including soccer fans who are a different breed.