Living abroad for over two years now, I have learned one definite, undeniable, concrete fact: most of the world likes soccer.
I like soccer too, however, in the midst of the Stanley Cup Playoffs I need to watch the Game 6’s and especially the Game 7’s (not to mention Games 1,2,3,4, and 5.) For the most part, the only way for the world outside of North America to watch the Playoffs is on the internet.
This is a problem because the Stanley Cup Playoffs should be enjoyed in bars and restaurants with as many people as possible, just like any sport. Hockey is the fastest game on the planet and is growing in popularity every day, even gaining on soccer.
One great thing is that restaurants and bars around the world are starting to play more playoff hockey games on their televisions than ever before (provided the Champions League soccer games aren’t on.)
Finally these businesses are starting to realize the fan base that hockey can draw and the commercial successes that comes with it.
Chile, where I live, is the farthest point on the globe from the hockey meccas of Canada, the United States, or even Russia or the Czech Republic. Still, in some of the bars here there are people cheering on their favourite team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite probably never having visited the city where that team is based. In the world of satellite television, such a thing is not necessary.
The feeling is what matters. The adrenaline that comes when that all-important goal is scored.
Many central and South American countries that don’t even have snow, let alone ice, is a great example of how sports (hockey in particular) can bring people from all different cultures together to enjoy themselves. My sister, for example, lives in the jungles of Panama and still pesters me to get the end results of games to discuss them with her friends because they can’t watch live playoff hockey games! Hockey is coming to these parts of the world but it is not quite there yet.
The teams still standing in the playoffs are playing a phenomenally high level of hockey. They are physical yet skilled, tough defensively yet high scoring, and precise yet entertaining. Entertaining in any country and any language.
These three teams: the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the San Jose Sharks, are playing the best hockey of the year, as well they should be. In knocking off all the favourites, (the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings,the Washington Capitals, and the New York Islanders) these teams are now deservedly the best of the best.
Many hockey fans around the world have a favorite team. Usually, loyalty to a team springs from where a person resides, where they were born, or a family loyalty. This is a time honored tradition. Even the ones who break the mold and leave their hometowns to see the world still want to cheer on their team at hockey’s most important time of the year.
At a young age, a lot of people choose their teams for life. Whether you live in Montreal and cheer for Boston because your dad did, or if you had to move from Calgary to Minnesota for a job, people still cheer for the team they grew up with. Even when getting scorned for wearing the other team’s jersey at the local bar, people will cheer for the team they want to cheer for.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are different from the regular season, and especially year to year. This year is more downtrodden than others for hockey fans if you are a Canadian.
There are no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 46 years, but there is still plenty for Canadians to cheer for.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have arguably the best player on the planet in Sidney Crosby, from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. The San Jose Sharks have long-time leaders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Tampa Bay has Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin. All Canadians.
This article is meant to articulate that even if your hometown team (or even home country) is no longer playing playoff hockey, there are plenty of reasons to continue to watch the rest of these amazing Stanley Cup playoff games.