Yes, this does feel like an obligatory post to mark the end of the NHL season. I’m sure I’m not the only who’s relieved that it’s over.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the Stanley Cup champions, Sydney Crosby gets a Cup at only 21 years of age, Evgeny Malkin has one over Alexander Ovechkin and the Detroit Red Wings are left to wonder how they let one slip away. Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
Really, that’s about as much enthusiasm as I’ve got for the NHL right now. As I’ve written before it’s not that I don’t love hockey or that the quality was bad, it’s that I don’t have any hunger left for the sport past mid-May. Hockey is one of my favourite sports and the quality of play in the 2009 playoffs were better than I can remember at any point in my life.
I think a big part of the problem for me is that the NHL in Canada has morphed into what the NFL has become in the U.S.; a 365 days a year media onslaught. You cannot watch a sportscast in Canada on any day of the year without a hockey story. Every little detail is parsed and beat to death on three dedicated sports networks.
Case in point? The Sydney Crosby handshake controversy. It wasn’t enough that the sport had just crowned a new champion, seen its poster boy lift the Cup, drawn the biggest television rating since 1973, had a dramatic ending to a 7-game series – no, the story of the day is that Sydney Crosby failed to shake hands with every member of the Red Wings.
Listen, I’ve been hard on the “Kid” in these parts, but here’s where he gets my sympathy. Overcome with joy and celebrating with teammates, not to mention being pulled every which way by mulitple media outlets simultaneously, Crosby got into the conga line a little late to shake the opposing team’s hand. He managed to get most of them, but Nicklas Lidstrom didn’t get a handshake. This is the main story of the night? Unbelievable.
So now it’s mid-June and the hockey calendar seamlessly flips over to 2010. First we have the draft in a week or so, then free-agency July 1st (don’t worry, Sportsnet has you covered with a special NHL Free-Agency Show!). Interspersed throughout the month will be the obligatory stories of the Cup going moose hunting, golfing, going to some remote town, etc. The Ottawa talk radio guys will spend the summer evaluating the Heatley trade every single day until training camp. Phoenix will be a hot topic until the team is moved or sold. August will see the Canada Junior evaluation camp and possibly an Olympic tryout camp. Next thing you know it’s September with all the yawn excitement of pre-season, and countless news stories emanating from Toronto about how the Leafs are on the brink of winning the Cup.
It’s not hard to see why one would get hockey burnout every couple of years. And just think; because of Olympic participation in 2010, we’ll be having this conversation two weeks later next year. Hockey in July? Hell, why not. Might as well play some games if we’re going to talk about it year-round…