When Extra Helpings Are Nutritious

cupajoe.jpegAs best as I can tell, English has no word for the ubiquitous wish hockey fans harbor for prolonged and momentum-shifting sudden death overtime drama, be it contested in the NCAA or NHL postseasons. As we settle in for this gunslinger’s showdown that in drama has no rival anywhere in sports, and assuming we have no dog in the fight, it seems to me the last thing we expect and long for is a swift resolution, while the ice sheet is still shimmering. We want, perhaps, at least a half-period’s worth of white-knuckled back and forth, with goalposts clanked and odd-man rushes raising us out of our seats. Ideally, we’d be treated to two or three extra 20-minute sessions that obliterate the rest of the day or evening’s plans and empty our fridges. It’s when hockey fans become drama junkies.
The NCAA’s marquee postseason weekend kicked off last Friday afternoon with successive sudden death sessions, and so it was fitting that its final game last night so ended, and the moreso with it being contested in one of college hockey’s fiercest rivalries, Minnesota and North Dakota.
I watched it and luxuriated in a splendid spring Sunday afternoon turn first into early evening and then deep darkness with the game’s outcome still undecided. Every North American with a single thought about the sport of hockey has a prescription to improve its overall appeal, but here, in this extra session exhilaration, hockey has it perfect. Extra innings in the World Series are superb, but even they’ve got nothing on hockey’s sudden death.
While we’d like the game’s referees to slide back a bit from their whistle-happy whims and allow rugged heroism to determine sudden death’s outcome, we also savor I think the high alerts from manpower advantages, monitoring every power play pass and head-first dive to clear the zone with a laser focus and relish we don’t during the regular season. Whether we’re in the stands or seated before a TV screen, our sensory scope is at its widest during this action. We are attuned even to the footwork of the puck-carrying, backpedaling blueliner, knowing any error in agility could end his team’s season. I call this the Lesson of Gonchar.
It seems to me that most often a hockey team’s true character is revealed in these showdown sessions, and that most often the deserving team prevails. As the college hockey regular season concluded more and more observers pointed out Minnesota’s seeming lack of cohesion and chemistry — a trait that is becoming a bit of a staple in that superstar-laden program. And sure enough, last night it was North Dakota that carried the play in OT. And whereas the Gophers are perhaps a program increasingly of one- and two-year high profile pitstops en route to the pros, note that Sioux senior Chris Porter won UND’s entry to the Frozen Four last night.
I think if I were building a hockey team designed to prosper in sudden death, I’d seek leadership and experience. Is it any wonder that at the NHL’s trade deadline every year we see GMs across the league pony up high value assets for grizzled greybeards?
Special hockey teams seem to rise to the remarkable challenge of sudden death. The 1998 Capitals went 5-1 in overtime in the East’s playoffs en route to their only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. Last season’s Hurricanes went 4-1 in extra time in their postseason run. We may never again see the likes of the 1993 Montreal Canadians, who won ten straight postseason overtime games. Doubtless there are dozens more testionials to champion fortitude forged in this frenzy, and it seems doubtful that a team involved in at least a handful of OT games has won a Cup while amassing a losing record in them.
Let’s invent a word for our yearning for this marvelous mayhem.

This entry was posted in College Hockey, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to When Extra Helpings Are Nutritious

  1. The Peerless says:

    Folks can talk about Cinderella all they want in the hoops tournament, but it seems worth noting that none of the top seeds in any of the regions are in the NCAA Frozen Four.
    “go green! . . . go white!”

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