Stanley Cup Follow-Up: 7 Minutes to Remember

By Christopher Gabriel
Blog Harbor
and CGabriel.com

When last we met, which would be yesterday, I was outlining my case for the NHL having no major buzz with fans and all levels of media across the nation in The Stanley Cup Final: Does Anyone Care?  A few hours ago I turned on NBC and, along with my young daughter who had trouble sleeping, watched the final seven minutes of the Stanley Cup Final’s Game Six between the Red Wings and the Penguins.

Those seven minutes were a strong reminder of why the NHL is so great and why it’s such a shame more people, beyond the hardcore fans, aren’t followers of the best hockey league in the world.  Those seven minutes made me wonder what it was that sent my love of hockey into something of a frozen state for a number of years now.  Those seven minutes made me realize: I should have been watching.

With Detroit holding onto a 3-1 lead, what followed over the final seven minutes was incredible drama, superb athleticism and unreal intensity inside of Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena that leaped right through the television screen into our laps.  There are few sports on this planet that can rival the nonstop speed and excitement of hockey, especially at the level of The Stanley Cup Final. 

Pittsburgh closed to within 3-2 and nearly put in the tieing goal in the frantic, final few seconds.  But the horn sounded, the green lights behind both goalies lit up and it was over.  Detroit had won their 11th Stanley Cup.  But unlike the Super Bowl, the World Series or the NBA Finals, fans of the losing team don’t leave the stadium or arena.  As it is every time a team loses the Cup on its own ice, so it was that every Pittsburgh fan was standing and waiting, but not leaving.  Waiting for the two defining moments that set The Stanley Cup Playoffs apart from every other major sport.

After two teams beat the crap out of each other for two weeks, they eventually line up at opposite ends, proceed to center ice and shake hands, hug, pat each other on the back, exchange a few words and move on; the losers to a silent locker room, the winners to a corner of the ice waiting for what’s about to come.

The actual presentation of the Cup, and what follows afterward, is as majestic and noteworthy as anything in all of sport.  When the Cup is given to the winning team’s captain, he raises it high and skates around the ice before handing it off to a teammate who then does the same.  Even the first teammate to receive the Cup from the captain is something of a hallowed tradition.  And so it goes for several minutes, handing off the Cup from one teammate to another.  For the uninitiated, that doesn’t sound any more worthy of your attention than watching a few guys lawn bowling in Brooklyn.  But if you are even a casual fan, you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion and pageantry of it all.

And so it was, a packed Mellon Arena full of Penguins fans standing in unison, some applauding respectfully while others silently processed their team falling short.  I sat there with my daughter explaining the significance of what she was watching.  As I was explaining the moment to her, I could almost hear my father reciting the same words to me the first time he took me to watch a closed circuit TV broadcast of a Stanley Cup Final.  Back in the day, prior to nationally televised games, it was closed circuit TV in a movie theater or the radio. 

The combination of that memory and being able to experience those final seven minutes with my daughter was not lost on me.

She likes hockey.  She likes it a lot.  Although she may be very young, it’s clear there’s something about the sport that’s caught her attention the same way it caught mine so many years ago.  She has already said she wants to learn how to skate and begin playing the game this winter. 

If a little girl not quite five years old can get swept up by a sport she’s rarely watched and barely understands, it remains a mystery to me why so many sports fans, not to mention the vast majority of media outlets around the country, seemingly could care less about it.  For all the excitement of the Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Final deserves our attention.  There should be a buzz you not only can hear, but one you feel, smell, taste and touch.

Those final seven minutes made me want more, much more.  But perhaps my sudden, renewed interest in watching hockey again was more than the brilliance of those final seven minutes.  Perhaps it was because those final seven minutes were spent with my daughter in my lap. 

It was one of those moments that will stand out years from now . . . a lot like the one from more than 40 years ago that remains fresh to this day.

 nicklas lidstrom photo, courtesy detroit free press

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About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.

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  1. I enjoyed this post. It’s funny; I couldn’t get through your previous sport post, “Stanley Cup Final: Does Anyone Care,” because there were too many hockey/sport words for me to process, but this post had a human interest rather than sport approach which hooked me in. I just went back and read the “Does Anyone Care” and found it more interesting because I had the background info now, PLUS I knew who won and had your cool story about it. (File that under “how to blog about sports for people who aren’t sports fans.” But really I am a sports fan, it’s just that my attention span for sports writing is not good, especially if there are NUMBERS involved.)

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