Thursday, April 7, 2016

How To Watch NHL Playoffs with No Canadian Teams, From a Leafs Fan

In the change room of my beer-hockey game the other night, as we put on our pungent gear,  the topic arose of the upcoming NHL playoffs. My defence partner Pat Kelly (of CBC's "This is That" radio program) shared that it will be tough for him to watch the playoffs this year with no Canadian based teams qualifying. Not at all, I told him. As a Maple Leafs fan, I have become accustomed to watching the post-season with no rooting interest. This season will be the tenth of the last eleven that Toronto has not made the cut to play extra hockey in April. Regardless of this, I look forward to the playoffs every season. Honestly though, the majority of fans of Canadian teams should be quite familiar with no playoff hockey along with us Leafs fans. Edmonton has missed the last ten post-seasons, Calgary has missed 6 of the last 7, Winnipeg 4 of the 5 seasons they've been back in Manitoba and even Ottawa has now missed 4 of last 8. Here's some easy ways to enjoy the playoffs when your team doesn't make it.

1. Enter a Playoff Draft Pool
This is a no-brainer. Personally, I've been in a regular season and playoff draft with the same bunch of guys for over twenty years. Every October and April we gather to select players for our pool teams, this is a terrific way to create or maintain interest in the NHL post-season. Last year I drafted Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith with my first and third picks and ended up with five of my ten selections in the Cup final. This of course made it much more interesting for me to watch the playoffs and allowed me to win the pool by 11 points.

2. Cheer For a Favourite Former Player of Your Non-Qualifying Team
For me this season, it's the James Reimer rule. Perhaps the most well-liked player the Leafs have had in years was traded at the deadline to San Jose. Predictably, he has excelled with a superior team in front of him, and may challenge Martin Jones for playoff starts. It's tough not to root for a guy like Reimer. Phil Kessel, now of Pittsburgh, may also garner some support from fellow Leaf fans during the playoff run. Maybe I'll just pick a Penguins/Sharks final, could happen.
3. Cheer Against Your Most Hated Team
This one is usally easy for me, I cheer for whomever Montreal or Vancouver are matched up against. Man, that 2011 Cup Final was just terrific. This one may prove to be tougher this year with no Canadian teams in the playoffs, in that case, perhaps cheer against teams with players that you hate, like Ryan Kesler's Ducks or Brad Marchand's Bruins.

4. Ask Your Wife or Kid To Pick a Team
This works sometimes when doing my weekly NFL picks. I'll ask my 10-year old daughter, "Honey, who would win between a Bear and a Lion?" or "Which colour do you like more, green or orange?"
You can try this with the NHL playoffs if you want. "Sweety, who will win between the Sharks and the Ducks or the Panthers and Bruins?...umm it's another name for a bear." Then you can ask, "OK, who will win between a King and a Wild?...umm, a Wild? I'm not sure either dear."

5. Pick the team with the Most Canadian-born Players
I've had friends of mine use this method for Stanley Cup Finals that don't involve Canadian teams. Looking at current rosters of playoff and possible playoff squads, the number of Canadian born players on each roster is as follows;
Florida 16, NY Islanders 15, Anaheim 15,  St.Louis 15, Philadelphia 14, Los Angeles 14, Dallas 14, San Jose 13, Pittsburgh 11, Minnesota 10, Washington 10, Chicago 10, Nashville 10, NY Rangers 10, Boston 9, Detroit 8,  Tampa Bay 7
So, you can cheer for a Florida or Islanders vs. Ducks or Blues Final. More likely, just cheer for Anaheim and St. Louis to meet in the conference final and take it from there.
6. Root for Overtime
Personally, this is the real main reason that I watch playoff hockey. I watch each and every game that goes to overtime, and I hope they go three or four extra periods. I have great memories of Petr Klima scoring against the Bruins in the 1990 Final and Pat LaFontaine against the Capitals in 1987. Or, even game one of the 2007 playoffs when Dallas and Vancouver went almost 4 extra periods. The longer these go on, the better. The desperation and exhaustion of the teams in these games is rivetting to me. Also, there are no television timeouts and commercials in playoff overtime, this is a good thing. Cheer for a game to get to overtime, grab a beer and sit back and enjoy. To make it even more enjoyable, I allow an extra beer for each extra overtime period.
Using one or all of these simple suggestions, I'm certain the fan of any Canadian NHL team will still be able to enjoy the upcoming playoffs. Hopefully this will be the last year this happens for a long, long time.


Anonymous said...

How bout rooting for the team closest to Canadian border or the team with the best sweaters?

Nitzy said...

By those parameters it would be Detroit (if they make it, if not then Minnesota) and Chicago. There's no arguing the Hawks have one of the best unis in the league.

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