A Hockey Mom's Guide to the Stanley Cup Championship
The Best Time of the Year to Become a Hockey Fan
If you are a new hockey mom, or just new to the world of ice hockey, and wonder just what all the fuss over the Stanley Cup is about, you have picked a great time of the year to learn. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the best championship of any professional sport. The Stanley Cup, with its long history and rich tradition, has always been the most coveted of any trophy.
The NHL is currently divided into two conferences, east, and west. Each conference has three divisions. The first three playoff rounds are within each conference. The winner of each round is determined by the best of seven games. This boils down to a lot of hockey games. The final winners from the East and West meet in the Stanley Cup Final for another best of seven games.
What Makes the Stanley Cup Unique?
Unlike other trophies, it is not made new each year for the team or individual players. Every year, the championship team keeps the cup until the new team is victorious in the next year's championship. It is the only trophy to travel with an actual handler with white gloves.
In addition, the cup is engraved with all the names of all the players, coaches, management and staff of the team. Every thirteen years, a new ring is added to the base of the cup so more names may be added. The Stanley Cup was originally given by Sir Lord Stanley Preston, who was appointed the Governor of Canada. He was an avid fan of ice hockey and thought that the championship needed a trophy. The original trophy was actually a silver punch bowl that Lord Stanley purchased for about $48. He then gave it to the founding hockey leagues to initiate a tradition, regarded by many sports fans as the best in the history of professional sports.
The Basic Rules of Hockey
Hockey is fast game. If you know the basic rules to the game, you will get much more out of watching the playoff games on TV. Obviously the objective is to score more goals than the other team, but remember these simple rules and you'll be yelling with the rest of the fans, even if its in your living room.
In hockey, a face-off is similar to a jump ball in basketball. It occurs when there is a stop in play. A center from each team enters the face-off circle in an attempt to win his team control of the puck. If a center moves in too early, then the referee waives him out and requires another player, usually a wing to replace him in the face-off. There are blue lines that separate the offensive end from the neutral zone. The offense can't go over this line until puck does, or else it is called offsides.
If off-sides occur, the puck returns to one off the five dots in the neutral zone, closest to where it was shot in. If the referee rules intentionally offsides, then puck is brought back to the defensive zone for a face-off. Icing is when the puck is shot from behind the red line to past the offensive goal line. This is a useful play when a line change is needed. It is also sometimes called when a pass is missed. If the referee calls icing, then the puck is brought back to the defensive zone for a face-off. If the goalie comes out of his crease or touches puck then it can be played immediately. Traditionally in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is a more physical game than any other time during the season. Players use their bodies to check another player to knock him away from the puck. Checking is part of the game, but no elbows, hitting from behind, hitting in the head, and no jumping is allowed. When a player checks, his skates are not to leave the ice. This is why Phoenix Coyotes Raffi Torres received a 25 game suspension for his vicious hit to Blackhawk's Marian Hossa in game three of the series. Torres left his feet when slamming his shoulder into Hossa's head.
Stanley Cup Celebrations
The Stanley Cup has many unique celebratory moments. Traditionally, each player lifts the cup above his shoulders and skates around with it immediately following the final game. Out of respect for the cup, players do not touch the cup until it is their turn to hold it high and skate with it. Each player and coach on the winning team gets to have the trophy in his possession for one day. The player can celebrate with the Stanley Cup however he chooses and more often than not, the players are generous in sharing the trophy with local fans.
In 2006, the Stanley Cup was on display at a neighborhood pool party, courtesy of Carolina Hurricanes Assistant Coach Jeff Daniels. The neighborhood kids ate ice cream out of the cup and each family in attendance took turns taking pictures with the cup. Also in 2006, Glen Wesley took the Stanley Cup to visit a group of wounded US Marines. The Stanley Cup has also traveled to Afghanistan several times to cheer up Canadian and U.S. troops. Champagne may be the beverage of choice to drink out of the Stanley Cup, but in 2003, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur took the cup to a movie theatre and ate popcorn out of it. In 1996, Sylvain Lefebvre of the Colorado Avalanche had his first child baptized in the Stanley Cup.
The Best Hockey of the Year
Obviously Stanley Cup Playoff games are faster and more intense than most regular season games since the championship is at stake. The games are longer with sudden death overtimes instead of shootouts in the event of a tie at the end of the third period. The games are far more physical with many blows to the head, even with the heightened awareness of concussions in the NHL. According to the Mercury News, already eight players around the league have received suspensions in the 2012 playoffs. There have been nearly double the number of game-misconduct penalties that were dished out during the entire 2011 postseason. Ideally the players should have good sportsmanship and let the games be decided based on the play of the game, not illegal hits. Hopefully the NHL will clean this up and take this viciousness out of the sport.
The Stanley Cup, the most coveted trophy, is one hockey players dream of their whole life. The rich traditions and intensity of the playoffs truly make this a great spectator sport.