Cup Crazy!

There are few things in sports that match up to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In any Stanley Cup finals game after Game Three, you have a chance of seeing excited players skate the ice, holding up Lord Stanley’s trophy, the most storied trophy in all of sports and the oldest trophy in North American professional sports. After Game Seven, you know that you will see a team skate the Cup, but you don’t know which team will do it.

That alone is reason enough to watch Game Seven.

If you’re a die-hard hockey fan—as I am—there is another, greater reason: until the colleges and the NHL get to cranking in October, we don’t get to see hockey again. You really don’t see truly meaningful hockey again until the next January or February, when the cream has risen to the top and the truly good teams are starting to solidify. With the fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding the possibility that there won’t be much, if any, of a 2004-05 season, this Game Seven will be all the sweeter.

I am personally rooting for a Tampa Bay victory. Yes, this is my American pride coming out, as I consider the Cup to be “ours” and don’t want to see the Canadians get it back. [This would be sweet payback for the 2002 Olympics.] I really only joke about this, though; I know that there are many players from all hockey-playing nations on both teams, and whoever wins will carry the Cup to their hometowns, whether it’s Moose Jaw, Sask., or South Windsor, Conn.

I’m really rooting for two players: Brad Richards and Nikolai Khabibulin. Richards is that rarity in the NHL these days: a pure goal scorer who can create for himself. Khabibulin is a fun goalie to watch because, as my old roommate, Blake, once said, “He really doesn’t have a particular style; he’s just doing anything he can to put a pad in front of the puck.” Khabibulin’s counterpart, Miikka Kiprusoff, is one of those rare technically-proficient goaltenders who also is fun to watch, mainly because he moves so fast and makes in-game adjustments.

And yes, Jarome Iginla is great and wonderful, and yes, he deserves the publicity he’s getting. I am, however, fearful that he gets more spotlight due to the clearly obvious fact that he is of African origin. Yes, I am happy that African-Canadian and African-American kids have someone to look up to as they learn their sport, but I don’t want Iginla to be seen as the “token African”. I just want him to be seen for the unbelievably kick-butt hockey player that he is, and while ABC has done a tasteful job of being neutral, they did really run that bit about all his names on his birth certificate a bit much for my liking.

I will be happy to see either team win, but my hopes are with Tampa. May a Southern team win the Cup, if for no other reason than the fact that I’d have to stop mocking the Southeast for sucking.