Hayes: In time for playoffs, how to bandwagon your city’s NHL team


Bob Hayes, Columnist

After a long, freezing winter here in Evanston, the weather is sort of beginning to heat up, which can only mean one thing: it’s finally hockey season! It’s nice that hockey is a spring-to-summer sport so that hockey fans can escape the unbearably hot 40-degree spring days for their pleasantly cool icebox-turned-sports-arenas.

What’s that, you say? Hockey has been going on since October? Who knew?

In all honesty, hockey is a great sport, but it is tough for fans to get into during the regular season because the 82 games feel relatively meaningless. Fans often make the same argument regarding the NBA, but it carries even more weight for the NHL, since its playoffs annually display far more parity than the NBA playoffs. It is tough to find data on the subject, but if you go through the playoff results over the last decade, the frequency of upsets – including a 7-versus-8 Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 –stands out. Thus, simply getting into the playoffs, as 16 of the 30 NHL teams do, is mostly what matters.

Even if you did not realize your city had a playoff hockey team – I’m looking at you, natives of Columbus, Ohio – now is the time to act like you know hockey has been going on for months.

The parity is a significant part of what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so exciting. Anybody in the entire tournament has a shot. Because of the harsh salary cap in the NHL, all of the teams possess rosters with relatively equal talent. And because of the small sample of scores in a game – especially since playoff games generally have lower goal totals – one goal can swing an entire series. Most exciting of all, there are few things more fun to watch in sports than sudden-death overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The teams go until a goal is scored, and since playoff hockey often features red-hot goalies, it is common for playoff games to go deep into the night.

Due to the new division realignment, you can actually make a Stanley Cup Playoff bracket. You know what they say: there’s nothing like that first Wednesday of the Stanley Cup Playoffs! Wait, that was yesterday? Oh, shoot, guys, we missed it already. Anyway, the new alignment of the divisions makes it so that there actually is a concrete playoff bracket, which makes the playoffs easier to follow for newer fans.

So what can you do to act like you have been watching? Assuming you at least know what color sweaters your team wears on the ice, the next step is to check who your team’s captain and goalie are. If your team is lucky enough to lift the Stanley Cup, as mine has twice in the last four years, your captain will be the first to hoist the Cup. More importantly, your goalie will likely be the most valuable player on the journey to the Cup.

The most important thing you are probably wondering is why you should even bother pretending that you are an avid hockey fan. Well, while hockey has fewer fans than other top American sports, its fan bases are all exceptionally passionate about their respective teams. Go to a restaurant, bar or watch party this weekend and feel the energy when your team scores its first goal. By June, you will understand how amazing it feels to score 2 goals in 17 seconds to win the Stanley Cup.

If you really don’t feel like watching guys in beards figure skate with wooden poles for months, you can do what half the city of Chicago did last year and shamelessly bandwagon your team’s Stanley Cup parade in June. Is there a better way to celebrate a sunny summer day than skipping work to enjoy beverages with your local ice-fishing – I mean, hockey – squad?

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].