Well... maybe? Sort of?
Wednesday’s game brings to an end a series people outside of Massachusetts or the St. Louis area have found rather unremarkable, beyond yet again the terrible officiating being the headline. It got so bad even the League head office publicly acknowledges it is making them look like they don’t know or don’t care about the rules to their own game. The fans of other teams who hadn’t already tuned out are dropping out even faster now.
There’s a way to fix this: make the Stanley Cup Final one single game.
Imagine one game where the coaches and players have to put everything on the line. One game where you have to deploy every tactical advantage, playing technique, and skilled moves you have to win, and don’t have something to fall back on like “well it’s a seven-game series so we’ll get ‘em next time.”
One game that could bring some spectacle back to a Final that takes too long, and arrives at a time where competing activities make even the most die-hard fan ask “Do I really want to watch Game 2 at 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night when there’s probably at least three more games in this series?”
“Nah. I’ll just watch when the Cup is actually on the line. I’ve got better things to do.”
Or, if you’re like me, you do turn on the game, but it’s on in the background and you turn and look only when you hear the crowd roar, or go “OOOOOOOOH” to see what happened.
Games 1 through 3 are like when you are a kid growing up in Hamilton and your parents tell you the family is going south for a beach vacation holiday, but then you find out all they did was rent a trailer at Sherkston Shores for the weekend. Enjoy lovely Lake Erie!
Note first I am proposing only the Stanley Cup Final series be changed. The rest of the playoffs would continue as best-of-seven series. Those are supposed to be where teams worthy of playing for the Cup go through a challenge of both skill and endurance which whittles down the field to only the very best two.
So why would we need to test those two teams on that very same thing yet again? They made it to the summit already. Don’t treat them like they are at Base Camp.
One game, not seven, is how you test the two teams that reach the pinnacle of hockey. Make them plan out every move, every play, know every opponent, and take the game to places it doesn’t normally go.
What excited some PPP Staff when I proposed this idea was how it would force teams to adopt those hockey nerd-proposed strategies we all think would be cool to see, but never actually see.
Katya noted one game means a coach likely has more intricate lineup decisions to make both before, and during the game. “You shorten the bench, and maybe even cycle your goalies.” Imagine having to think about not running one goalie for the whole game. Do you cross your fingers when you are up 3-0 in the second and throw in your backup goalie for five minutes? Would #RestFreddie be a thing in the Conference Final if the Leafs were there and up three games to one?
Further, eliminating the endurance component to the Final is a good thing for skilled hockey. There’s no more grinding through a series needed, so to hell with putting the grinders out. We would have seen less or no David Backes and much more David Pastrnak in Game 1. The best players could be used to put out everything on the ice they have for one all or nothing game.
We have all already seen hockey games like this, and we love them. Think of a Gold Medal game at the Olympics, or even a team playing their final regular season game of their regular season where they need a win to decide whether or not they make the playoffs. Desperate teams playing desparate hockey is something fans go wild over. It makes for the best storylines and the most anticipated games.
Katya also noted that teams “stop worrying about suspensions, but would worry about game misconducts.” Removing the Player Safety Wheel of Discipline from the Final is a good thing, and the issue of uneven officiating from game to game over a long series is gone.
Fulemin did point out one downside. “The Bruins would already have won, Species, we don’t want that.” True enough. The very thought of Brad Marchand becoming a second-time Stanley Cup Chanpiar makes me cringe.
Any questions or declarative statements?
“How dare you! Think of the history! What if I don’t get a home game for my team?”
Conn Smythe is rolling over in his grave or something, right? I don’t care.
As for the logistics of all this? I don’t care. I’ll let the League decide where the game should be held. Have it at the team with the home-ice advantage, or have it at a randomly selected venue like the All-Star Game. I don’t care about that part.
Perhaps the best question to test my sincerity is this: “Will you give up a seven game Stanley Cup Final featuring the Leafs, in Toronto, for one single game which takes place in some other city?”
Yes. I will.
“NO YOU WON’T!”
Yes. I will. And it would be awesome.
A game that has a huge buildup of anticipation. A game that has a real chance of turning points which turn the leaders into losers, and where every shift matters to the end. It keeps you on the edge of your seat saying “Holy shit this has to be the best game of hockey ever!”
“Is spectacle really worth it though? I thought you were a card carrying cynic?”
This is the singular good question to ask me about this proposal, because, this proposal should be critiqued by asking “Are we giving up more good than we will gain?”
Good question. The answer is “No.”
And, yes, I am a card carrying cynic. I am not interested in endless NHL Ford Trucks Stanley Cup Final Spectacle brought you by Scotiabank on Rogers Sportsnet.
I already know the NHL does not do spectacle well. Those Stadium Classic Heritage whatever games are a novelty long worn off and limp on each season with more cringe-worthy “look at how important this event is” tropes. Everything from the obligatory fireworks and pyrotechnics—which you can’t see because it starts while it’s still the day time—to bizarro sets and props on the parts of the field that are not the playing surface, and, oh yes, the obligatory fighter jet flyover and the “LOOK AT US SUPPORTING THE TROOOOOOOOOPS!” moments.
I think the risk it will turn into an overblown Super Bowl-esque event which garners more attention to forced spectacle is minimal, but I want to take that minimal risk to make the Stanley Cup Final an epic hockey game.
Make it about the game
Beyond all the spectacle, there’s still the game. And the game would be really, really good. The fact everything is on the line in a fast-paced game—unlike NFL football—would keep it the focus of the event.
The Stanley Cup Final will not be about what trade rumours the “Insiders” have to create to fill up fourteen intermission segments. It will not be about which officials will be working this game after the ones from the previous game were turfed from the playoffs. It will not be about will so an so make it back from injury for this game?
I’m sure I’ll actually watch all of tonight’s game, but I will be asking why couldn’t I have seen it as Game 1? It sure as hell doesn’t feel like a climactic moment to end a hockey season. It feels like punishment.
Let’s make the Stanley Cup Final a single strategic, entertaining, skill-first hockey spectacle that all hockey fans will want to see.
Should the Stanley Cup Final be one game?
This poll is closed
No. You hate hockey, Species.
I don’t care. I wouldn’t watch it either way unless the Leafs were in it.