It’s that magical time of the year! And by that I mean dark magic, blood magic, evil magic, the kinda magic that is in the voiceover at the beginning of a horror movie. The time of year when your team has been eliminated from the playoffs. The best Hockey of the season is being played and it’s hard to get motivated.
This year’s playoffs have been an unmatched rollercoaster of emotion for me. Unfortunately, it’s one of those log rides where yeah, it was fun but it was just way up once and now I’m at the bottom soaking wet. I’m an orphan this playoff. I don’t think I’ve watched a single second round game. The main reason was going 0-8 in my first round picks. The secondary reason is that I don’t have an alternate team to cheer for. All the Canadian teams got bounced. Once the Leafs are gone I’m generally happy to cheer for Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Calgary. I can even cheer for whoever’s playing against Montreal or Ottawa. Vancouver’s a funny case, I was a huge fan of the Canucks during the Markus Naslund/Ed Jovanovski/ Sedin Twins era. However, after living in BC for a year I decided I hated the Canucks. They are super rude to Toronto fans. They think we have a New York-LA sort of rivalry but really we don’t think about them that much. So my hideous yellow Big V Vancouver jersey is relegated to the back of my closet unless I need to bust it out for shock value.
Who else could I cheer for? I still had a lot of affection for Nashville. It’s a great city, I’ve seen 2 NHL games in their barn and I’m a big PK Subban fan. Nope, bounced. The reigning Champs in Washington would be cool, I love Alex Ovechkin and TJ America’s antics are amusing and occasionally wholesome. Nope, mad upset.
So where does that leave me? The Leafs have huge beef with the Islanders and Bruins. I actually have a lot of respect for many of Boston’s players, and we look less like chumps if we lost in 7 to the eventual champs. That said, I can’t exactly cheer for Boston, especially when Ratface Marchand is up to his old shenanigans. I like a lot of Columbus’ players – Seth Jones, Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson and Sergei Bobrovsky – I could actually list more! But I can’t stand John Tortorella. Apparently Panarin and Bob agree with me too, even if they haven’t let it affect their on-ice play at all. I’m also not too fond of Matt Duchene, he seems to bring losing and controversy with him wherever he goes. That leaves Carolina in the East. I love a good Hartford Whalers reference more than the next guy but they’re too nondescript and expansion-y for me to get behind.
Things look a bit better out west. I have a soft spot for the Dallas Stars, a friend of mine was involved with their organization. He coached Seth Jones when he was growing up in Texas. On that note, if you get a chance read Seth’s article in the Player’s Tribune about his Mom, it’s awesome and heartwarming. The Stars also had a connection to the metal band Pantera, who are one of my all time favorite groups. Urban Legend has it that there’s a dent in the Stanley Cup from it being thrown off the roof of Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul’s ranch/strip club. They were aiming for the Crown Royal shaped pool and missed. There were apparently a few ladies distracting the Cup’s keeper at the time.
St. Louis is another interesting horse to bet on. They’re a franchise with an interesting history and no banners to show for it. Jordan Binnington is trying to win the cup singlehandedly and I feel like he’s not going to win the Calder Trophy I feel he deserves. In the negative column I’ve never forgiven Alex Steen for being a pylon on the Leafs and an all around stud on the Blues. That’s not quite enough for me to sour me on the Blues though. I like quite a few of their players, and frankly I think as far as cities go St. Louis could use the boost. San Jose, the perpetual bridesmaid? Nah, I don’t like Kane or Thornton or all the stupid beards. The Avalanche? Yeah, maybe. I love their top gunners (MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen). Also, I cheer for the Denver Broncos so there’s a loose association. I see so little West Coast Hockey though, it’s tough for me to identify with the players.
So any advice people? Who are you cheering for as you weep over your broken brackets? What does it take to keep you interested once your team has been ousted? If anyone has a compelling reason for me to cheer for your favorite team I’d love to hear it!