Like most American kids, I didn't grow up playing hockey. I played baseball, basketball, soccer and football, but hockey never made the list. Now I wish I had. Hockey takes a lot of sacrifice. Parents of hockey kids need to have a little extra toughness in their DNA to wake up early to drive their kids to a frozen ice rink and sit around for several hours. At least as spectators of youth soccer or baseball you get to sit out in the sun for a few hours. Hockey is a different sport for the kids who play it and the parents who facilitate it, which means that taking home hockey's biggest prize, the Stanley Cup, is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. This year, the New Jersey Devils or the Los Angeles Kings will be able to add their name to the distinguished list of NHL Stanley Cup Champions. I honestly don't know who will win - it'll probably come down to goaltending - but one thing's for sure, when we do have a winner, it's going to be a special moment for a whole lot of people. (Be sure to watch Game 4 of the series tonight - you could see the Los Angeles Kings take home the cup! Check your local listings.)
Since I was lucky enough to attend a playoff game 7 several years back, I've followed hockey pretty regularly. I've suffered through repeated playoff disappointments as a fan, but that pales in comparison to what most players go through every year. The playoffs in hockey are different than other sports and many people believe the Stanley Cup is the hardest championship to win. Maybe that's why if you win, you immediately become a part of history.
Did you know that every person who has won the Stanley Cup, named after Lord Stanley, has their name etched on the actual trophy? There are names from over 100 years worth of champions. Not only does a team win a Stanley Cup, but the players win it too. It's a pretty awesome sight when you see some great players weep for that prize they've dreamed of all their lives. Messier hoisting the trophy for the Rangers and Ray Bourque winning the cup after 22 years of trying are all-time classic sports moments that epitomize what the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about.
Since 1994, the NHL instituted a new policy that allowed each winning player to spend one day with the trophy. The players can do whatever they want on their special day. Most go home to wherever they're from and celebrate with the people who made it possible with parades and other big events. I learned that Devil's goalie, Marty Brodeur, who has his name on the Cup three times, took it a little easy on his latest victory, taking the Cup to the movies with his family and they ate popcorn out of the top. Other players, maybe a little more social, have been known to drink "beverages" out of the top of the trophy on their special day. However the players decide to celebrate, the NHL has done an amazing job to create the allure around its trophy that can't be replicated and that can't be ignored.
Who knows how the Kings or Devils will celebrate this year - but there's no doubt that we'll be left with yet another lasting image of dreams coming true. Who ya got? Kings or Devils?
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']#[/author_image] [author_info]Mark is a friend of House Party. Mark held a number of different roles during his four years with the company, most as the Community Support Director. This basically meant his job was to make sure all our hosts and guests had everything they need to throw an awesome party. Mark was born in Washington D.C., grew up in Burke, Virginia and currently lives with his fiance, Dani, and his rescue pup, Ferguson. He's an avid sports fan with his unbreakable bonds to the Washington Redskins, Capitals, Nationals and Davidson Wildcats. Mark's party tip: Two Words - Sunday, Funday! [/author_info] [/author]