The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight, and although my dearly loved New York Rangers will not be part of the contest this time, the Cup itself is still majestic and magnificent — and simply the best trophy in all of sports.
The 1993-’94 Rangers’ names on the Cup
It is a thing of beauty (unlike that… object that gets foisted on the winner of the World Cup) and simplicity (unlike the Commissioner’s Trophy in Major League Baseball), and everybody who wins it gets his name engraved on it forever. It’s not just a hunk of metal that gets passed around each year (unlike the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy). It’s a prize that is imbued with the spirit of the victors; every player becomes part of the Cup, literally and figuratively.
It’s the hardest prize to win, but unquestionably worth it.
Click on the link to see a brilliant cartoon infographic from The Nib that distills the Stanley Cup’s riveting history into pictures.
You can watch the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning begin the best-of-seven series tonight.
Forget the Jamaican bobsled team — when it comes to an unlikely sport in an unusual place, I think ice hockey in Kenya takes the cake! I love NHL hockey and think more people need to embrace the sport. The league needs this kind of dedication.
There is only one place in the entire country to play hockey on ice — the Panari Hotel in the capital city, Nairobi — but enthusiasts also play on inline skates. In an odd coincidence, “Nairobi” translates from the local Maasai language as “cool water”!
Anyone who still doubts that NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan is really really bad at his job comes Reason No. 345,458,945,678 why Shanahan needs to be fired: He thinks it’s perfectly fine that Pittsburgh Penguins
assassin thug goon forward Matt Cooke sliced the Achilles’ tendon of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, ending the star’s season.
That’s right; the head of the department of player safety doesn’t think cutting 70 percent of a player’s Achilles’ tendon is an issue.
Judge for yourself: The incident first happens about 7 seconds into this clip, but watch for replays from different angles that show a clear stomping motion by Cooke.
Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers was finally awarded the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s outstanding goalie for the 2011-’12 season. Lundqvist capped his seventh pro season by winning the accolade on his fourth nomination.
It’s hard to express how proud I am of Hank, who was like a brick wall in backstopping the Rangers to their best finish since the 1993-’94 season, when they won it all. In my book, he should have won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, because the Blueshirts would have gone nowhere without the King between the pipes, let posting the best record in the Eastern Conference (and second in the league) and surviving deep into the conference finals.
It was on this date in 1994, a mere 18 years ago, that the Blueshirts ended a 54-year
drought quest and brought the Stanley Cup back to New York at last. This feat was accomplished by the Messiah, Mark Messier, whose leadership of the Rangers crowned one of the most incredible careers in NHL history.
But the Captain didn’t quite do it alone; he had help from the Rangers other stars, Brian Leetch and Adam Graves — who scored the other two goals in the 3-2 victory — and all-world goalie Mike Richter. And let’s not forget the contributions of role players like Steve Larmer — who took so many crucial faceoffs in the final moments of the game. I can remember watching this at home with my brother and our good friend Brian, agonizing over those final ticks of the clock! And then… jubilation! I’ll never forget that win. As the sign said, “Now I Can Die in Peace.”
This is the way the world ends: a pileup, a scrum, and a little black blip skitters into the net.
I don’t know who scored, and I don’t care who scored. All that matters is he was wearing a red sweater, it was overtime, and my New York Rangers have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup tournament. The finals are next for some folks, but not me; the NHL season is over. My Rangers are out.
After a long, hard-knock season that began in Europe and ended in the swamps of the Garden State; after winning the Winter Classic and featuring on HBO’s 24/7; after my brother and I went to dozen of home games at MSG and sang the goal song in the balmy humidity of Indian summer and the frigid depths of a cold, virtually snowless winter; after all that, it’s all over.