Anyone happier than USA Hockey that the Conn Smythe voters went with Crosby over Kessel?
I thought Crosby had a heck of a series at both ends of the ice, and he was certainly more impactful than Kessel in the last two games of the Stanley Cup Final, but over the course of the entire playoffs, I think Kessel did enough to earn the trophy, so when Sid’s name was called, the group running USA’s World Cup 2016 entry had to breathe a sigh of relief. Can you imagine having an ex-Olympian, Conn Smythe winning, American born player left off the USA roster for the World Cup? Bullet dodged, USA. Bullet dodged.
Overall, I thought this year’s Stanley Cup final was ok—though the final two games were great—and it was certainly better than what the NBA is offering, but it would be nice to get two teams in the final with a rivalry, or teams who could start a rivalry quickly, at least. I mean, the Blackhawks and the Penguins aren’t necessarily rivals, but the storylines (Crosby vs Toews; Crosby vs Kane) going into a Stanley Cup Final between those teams would create some friction on the ice pretty quickly. This year’s offering lacked that, and really the Penguins dominated all six games, so the season wasn’t nearly as close as the final scores dictated, but the games were fast paced and quite honestly watching Martin Jones perform was worth the price of admission. That guy is really, really impressive. San Jose has a good one in him for sure. When you think about it, the Penguins beat Braden Holtby—the regular season’s best goaltender—in six games, and Martin Jones—the playoffs best goalie—in six games; hard to argue the Penguins didn’t deserve the Stanley Cup. They were a team possessed from the start of the post-season to the finish.
From a Canadian perspective, it’s really great that Sidney Crosby won both the Conn Smythe and his second Stanley Cup. With it being our sport and our pastime, having the greatest player in the game come from our soil is very important. Having that greatest player validate his greatness with individual trophies and championship banners is just as important. In the last seven years, though he scored the golden goal for team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, Crosby—on the NHL stage—has been upstaged by the likes of Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar, so it’s great for us to have Crosby’s name back on the front page, so to speak.
From a hockey player’s perspective, the Stanley Cup celebration is such a rollercoaster of emotions when you’re on the outside looking in. Typically, I don’t watch every winning player lift the Cup, because I get extremely jealous. Yes, I still dream about winning the Stanley Cup. There’s not a player, former or current, out there who doesn’t feel the same way. However, as a Maple Leafs fan, I wanted to watch this year to see Phil Kessel hoist Lord Stanley (yes, despite what most media members will tell you, the bulk of Leafs fans, myself included actually like Phil Kessel and we’re rooting for him. To note that he is not best served as a team’s best player—and that has nothing to do with personality or anything; it has to do with he’s not terribly good at defense and as such can be on the ice at some of the most important moments of a game—and to think he stinks are entirely different scenarios. Leafs’ fans believe the former while media try to push the later…but I digress).
As the Cup goes from player to player, you feel envy or jealousy—however you want to describe it—and you actually also feel extremely happy for those guys who get to raise it above their heads. Every hockey player knows how badly every other hockey player wants to win that Trophy, so you can’t help but feel happy for the winners. We know the sacrifice to get there, the time, the patience. We can appreciate that.
On the flip side, once the camera pans to a losing player, it’s sudden heart break. This year, as soon as the camera showed Patrick Marleau, my eyes welled up. He waited so long for his opportunity and was really dragged through the mud for much of his career for no reason on the path to this opportunity just to come up short. The look in his eyes showed that he recognized he might not get another chance at it, and for all of us sitting at home who’ve never and will never get a chance, we know the feeling in his eyes. His lifelong dream may continue to be just that: a dream forever unfulfilled. The pit in his stomach was so tangible sitting at home on my couch. Just complete heartbreak.
For the non-sports fan, it must seem so bizarre that we dedicate so much of our lives to the game, even when we are long done playing. It is sort of hard to explain, why we care so much about something that, in the grand scheme of things, means so very little. Winning the Stanley Cup will not cure a disease or end poverty or bring about World Peace, but there we are, forever living and breathing that dream and our sport.
The best I can say is this. Sports, in their essence, is an heirloom. Something passed down from generation to generation. Why do I love Hockey? Because my grandfather watched it and loved it. And because he loved it, my parents loved it. Because my parents loved it, I watch it, and I love it. Every family has heirlooms; for some it might be some kind of jewelry, passed down from one family member to the next. But for sports fans, the heirloom is the sport in its entirety. It isn’t something we can physically possess or hold, but the emotions and the devotion is passed down from generation to generation.
I have a couple physical heirlooms. A ring that my dad’s dad made when he was in high school; a gold watch which belonged to my grandfather, given to me by my mom’s mom after he passed. Those are things I cherish with all my heart. But more than that, my family made me a sports fan, a hockey player. For every opportunity that the sport has given me, that heirloom, though I cannot hold it in my hands, may be my most prized possession. The dream, the rollercoaster of emotions, everything that comes with the game, I have because my family before me felt that all as well. It’s an heirloom that can’t be broken; only experienced.
Today, the Penguins sit at the peak of the rollercoaster; the Sharks at the bottom. I can’t claim to know the complete exhaustion both those teams must feel as their season has come to an end, but I do know that the rollercoaster doesn’t sit dormant for long. Soon enough it’ll be up and running again and the entire NHL, its fan base along with it, will be travelling up and down the rollercoaster as someone new will get to fulfill the dream of winning the Stanley Cup.
This year’s ride was certainly memorable, but still—even as just a fan—I can’t wait for the ride to begin in the fall.
Long live the dream.