Help, I have no hockey hate in my heart
I blame the Boston Bruins.
In a sense, we were all spoiled during last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Canucks and Canadiens fans had the Bruins to hate, while everyone else in the world and whatever life there is on Mars had the Canucks to hate. Even before it started, the series promised lots of reasons to root against each team, and on the days it wasn’t getting uglier, it was getting stupider.
Remember the time Alex Burrows thought it would be a good idea to put a stankyass hockey glove belonging to someone else in his mouth? Remember how it resulted in Claude Julien having to call out his players (with a straight face) for taunting their opponents by waving their stankyass hockey gloves in their faces? If I remember correctly, the league had to (also with a straight face) crack down on such taunts, but I can’t find a news link to that effect. Horrible injuries, walks on the seawall, media hacks, mass hysteria over every little thing, diving, accusations of diving, more accusations of more diving… by the end of it we all hated both teams so much we didn’t care who failed, we just wanted to see it go down.
And then Zdeno Chara lifted the Stanley Cup, and Canadiens fans felt a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain in our hearts. I think we may have been a little unprepared for how much more we would hate the Bruins after they’d won it all. Partly because we didn’t know it was possible to hate the Bruins any more than we did, but also because it had been so long since a hated rival had lifted the Cup that so many of us didn’t know how it felt at all.
Mostly the first thing.
In fact, it made me so crazy that I couldn’t hate any other NHL team this season. None. Not the Leafs, even when it looked like they were going to make the playoffs while the Habs kept drowning. Not the Senators, even when they made the playoffs as the Habs claimed last place in the East. Not Buffalo, even though the thought of having to actually watch games featuring the Sabres made me want to jam seven sporks into each of my eyes. Not the Canucks, even though a bunch of their fans like to direct relentless abuse at me every time I mention them.
Most Habs fans, of course, didn’t go quite that far—the Leafs are still the Leafs, after all—but hating the Bruins definitely took up most of our energy.
Which is why, when the Boston Bruins were sent home by Benoit Pouliot and the Washington Capitals, and we got what we wanted three rounds before we had expected it, many of us got a little deflated. Rooting against a team you loathe is one of the greatest joys of being a sports fan.
As hockey fans, we still watched, of course. A couple of weeks ago, I polled Twitter (for an entirely different post I never managed to finish) asking why they were still watching the playoffs if the team they loved the most and the team(s) they hated the most were out. Lots of people answered that they were watching the Tortorella sideshow, a few people said they found the LA Kings exciting, some people were rooting for Marty Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist, others were cheering for boys who played at their alma mater. Overwhelmingly, though, people answered my question with this:
We wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Now I have another problem, however: I can’t decide which team to root for. There are too many reasons to want both teams to win.
How great would it be to watch Martin Brodeur win one more time, but also, how great would it be to watch Jonathan Quick cap off his incredible season with a Stanley Cup? I read this brilliant piece by Ellen Etchingham and decided I wanted to see Ilya Kovalchuk lift the trophy, but then I read this brilliant piece by Ellen Etchingham and decided I wanted Anze Kopitar to lift the trophy. I love how few people gave either team a chance before the playoffs started and they turned out to be better than any team thrown at them. Yay Dustin Brown, but also, yay Adam Henrique. I have an unhealthy love for Zach Parise and an equally unhealthy love for Drew Doughty. The Kings have been in-your-face terrifying, but the Devils have been behind-your-back terrifying. We love the LA Kings Twitter account (unless we hate joy and puppies) and we’d love to see it gloat all summer, but we love Wysh and can’t wait to see how insufferable he’s going to be about a Devils win all summer.
There are so many other reasons and players and storylines but if I get into them all this will become just another post I don’t finish. Suffice it to say, I’m far more thrilled about this year’s Stanley Cup Final than I was about last year’s, because in 2012, Evil doesn’t get to win.
We’re already looking at an upgrade over last year in that this year’s final includes no games won by either the Boston Bruins or the Vancouver Canucks. Bonus: it also features none of the Boston or Vancouver media.
So here’s what I’m cheering for. Seven games. Seven games that are nothing like last year’s. Seven games that are bloody and brutal and beautiful in all the ways only hockey can be. Seven games of Stanley Cup hockey.
May the better team win, and may the Boston Bruins rot in hell for all eternity and longer.