This Week’s SI Cover Story: Why the NHL’s Postseason Is like No OtherPosted: June 5, 2013
All postseasons are great, but the traditions, desperation and facial hair of the NHL playoffs set it apart, says award winning writer Steve Rushin in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands now. The national cover story is accompanied by two SI covers that feature action shots from each conference final matchup, the Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings. Adding to the allure of this year’s playoffs, the final four is made up of the last four Stanley Cup champs.
“And so it goes, on a nightly basis for eight consecutive weeks, the speeding and the bleeding, making the Stanley Cup playoffs the most intense short-term spectacle in all of sports, a symphony for foghorn, swallowed whistle and dentist drill,” says Rushin. (PAGE 34)
Rushin explores the traditions that set the NHL postseason apart, such as playoff beards, sudden death overtime games (22 so far in this year’s playoffs), gruesome injuries, fans throwing seafood on the ice and players refusing to buy into the hype of their success and injuries.
In addition, the stakes are so high and the play is so fast and physical that coaches and players often refer to the pace as “urgent.” This leads to a lot of violent hits that still surprise and entertain many. “The violence inherent in the playoffs, obscured by the pace and grace of the game, still comes as a surprise,” says Rushin. (PAGE 34)
Rushin believes that the best traditions are ones that put the spotlight on others, like the postgame stick salute to fans and the handshake line between teams at the end of a series. “As the rest of the world abandons it in favor of the knuckle-bump or the finger-shoot—as Purell-pumping stations appear anywhere that human contact cannot quite be avoided—a few men have drawn a line against our increasing alienation. And that line is the playoff hockey handshake line,” says Rushin. (PAGE 36)