The Annual Stanley Cup Playoffs/Blaming Bettman Post

Because I don’t much care for golf on television unless it’s the U.S. Open (there’s something compelling about watching the top players struggle to make par with a course the PGA has sadistically rigged), I spent most of this weekend tuned to Versus and NBC for hockey, and would have watched even more games had I access to TSN, which treats the game properly.

No pro sport’s playoff is better than the NHL, because you get finishes like Calgary coming back with four unanswered goals after San Jose scored three in the first four minutes, or the Devils and the Bruins saving their playoff lives tonight by scoring OT-game winning goals. The Colorado-Minnesota series has had two overtime games so far, and the Capitals-Flyers series looks like it will go the max seven to me. NHL playoff OT is quite possibly the best OT because you have to play until you drop — no cop-out shootouts like in the regular season (I was one of the many hockey fans who saw no problem with regular season games ending in ties.)  Plus, there is no cooler tradition in a playoff season in sport than the playoff beard.

So why does it take the chase for the Cup to get me excited about hockey, sadly? The lockout didn’t help matters, but coming back with an unabalanced schedule where every other damn game on in my market is the Kings or Ducks vs. the Sharks, Stars, or Coyotes, I get really tired of watching them — I root for the Avalanche and trying to follow them via the occasionally televised game has become even more difficult since the NHL had to go crawling in hand to Versus when ESPN lost interest. I lay this all on Gary Bettman, who still somehow has a job despite being an absolute nincompoop of a commissioner.  He should have been forced out after the lockout — except he got the owners what they wanted, and for that, he gets to stay on while his sport toils in American sporting limbo.

Every time I watch the sport in the regular season, I think, “Gee, this is a simple solution: have every team play the 25 others that are not in their division as a home-and-home each season, then split the other 32 among matches with its four division rivals.” So easy, but no…sigh….although the league has said they’ve made adjustments after realizing that it couldn’t really promote Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby when fans in various cities didn’t get to see them every year, it still hasn’t made a dent yet.

And this really is Bettman’s fault, despite the fact that every game so far has been of very high quality, all I can think about is how much better it could be.

(Oh, and I also blame Bettman for this stupid “colors at home and white on the road” bullshit. Only football gets to do that.)

Photo: Canadian Press