By Tie Bromi
I like my hockey the way I like my sex: casually, and with no commitment. The NHL Playoffs provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy all that hockey has to offer without the dying liver, Yinzer bellowing, and Boston racism that come as rites of passage with hockey fandom.
With the NHL Conference Finals upon us, let’s take a moment to reflect on the delightful state of affairs that is being a casual hockey fan in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). To set the stage, it’s important to note that there is a vast NHL franchise desert, a Granola Triangle if you will, with Vancouver, San Jose, and Denver at each vertex. For reference, this area includes almost every patch of the Louisiana Purchase where parents don’t bottle feed their kids Mountain Dew. This presents a real challenge for PNWers looking to choose an allegiance. If one takes a geographic approach, they’re essentially stuck with a choice between rooting for a Canadian team (which, fuck that) or a Silicon Valley team (which, fuck that). Instead, unless one has a really good reason for selecting another team, like that your dad is one of the 30 or so heterosexual Pittsburgh steel workers (Go Pens) or you played with local boy TJ Oshie in juniors (Go Caps), it’s best to relish in the aspects of playoff hockey that can be universally enjoyed.
Any Team Can Win
This is important. The 2017 playoffs set an NHL record for overtime games in a single round with 18 sudden death overtime games in the first round. The number one seed Chicago Blackhawks also got swept 4-0 by the number eight seed Nashville Predators in the first round. A hockey team has three rotating lines. This means even Sidney Crosby averages about 20 minutes per 60-minute playoff game. By comparison, LeBron James averaged about 44 minutes per game in the Cavs’ recent first round sweep.
In hockey, having a superstar doesn’t get you as far. Up 2-0? Most dangerous lead in hockey (look this up, it’s interesting). The point being, every period in every game of every round feels significant and this makes for exciting playoffs all the way through.
In the PNW, hockey is far enough outside the mainstream that you can have an extremely hipster-esque superiority complex and still bash any and all soccer fans. Nice scarf, dude.
NHL Players Are A Rare Breed
It’s well celebrated that NHL players are tough and play through significant injury. Philadelphia Flyer Ian Laperriere once took a slap shot to the face in the first period, lost seven teeth, broke a bone in his face, and was back on the ice for the third period. But the Isaiah Thomas tooth thing was cool too, basketball. The Russian Hockey Federation recently broke the news that Alex Ovechkin played through significant lower body injuries requiring pain-killing injections during the Washington Capitals’ second round loss to the Penguins, and frankly it’s hard to imagine a more reputable source for this information. We’ll wait for a Donald-bomb tweet confirmation on that one, but we can be sure there will be no Paul Pierce wheelchair moments in playoff hockey.
Limited Knowledge Goes A Long Way
For casual PNW hockey fans, very few people can call you on your shit. You can wait for the playoffs and then be “all in.” Then, if called out, you can fall back on the excuse from the abstract of this highly esteemed, peer-reviewed scholarly article. “Well, maybe if we had team…”—back pedal, back pedal, back pedal. You can watch 12 hockey games a year, see Bieber get checked into the boards (above), write a blog post, and get away with it. Presumably.