Pride. Passion. Intensity.
When you think of the Stanley Cup Finals these are just a few of the words that come to mind. The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals are no different. Unfortunately, the players have taken it upon themselves to take sportsmanship completely out of the equation.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, the animosity in this series stems back to game 1, which was actually the highest rated Finals game since 1999. It all happened in an instant when Alex Burrows decided to turn Patrice Bergeron’s finger into a late night snack. It was over in a second but has now marred this series permanently. To make matters worse, Burrows was not suspended. This left Boston fans screaming foul play louder than Canadiens’ fans towards the Chara incident.
Going into Saturday’s contest many of us were hoping the incident would be put in the past. Game 2 dropped 27% in the ratings from game 1 and 43% from last year’s game 2. You wonder if the “bite heard round the world” had something to do with this. In my perspective an incident like that could turn away the casual fan.
If you were hoping that Fingergate would be swept under the rug, Max Lapierre certainly made sure it returned to the spotlight. During a scrum involving Bergeron, Lapierre taunted the Bruins forward by sticking his finger towards his mouth daring him to bite it. Real classy, Max. But then again Lapierre isn’t exactly known for being the classiest player in the league. He is more known as a yappy Chihuahua who won’t drop the gloves. Just ask Darroll Powe why.
So now the gloves were off, figuratively and literally.
Animosity was at an all time high going into Monday. Game 3 was a powder keg waiting to be lit. Sure enough, Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome lit it with a bang. Rome hit a defenseless Nathan Horton with the impact of a sledgehammer. The only problem is the hit was so late you could have used an hourglass to time it. Horton’s head hit the ice and he lay there motionless for several minutes in a scene that any hockey fan never wants to see, regardless of the team. The Bruins used the momentum from the subsequent ejection of Rome to establish their dominance. But, of course, it is the Bruins so they had to throw some goon in the mix. The person who started the taunting is the last person any of us would have suspected, Mark Recchi. During a scrum in front of the Vancouver net Recchi took his finger and jammed it in the mouth of Lapierre begging him to bite it.
Okay, tit for tat, we will give you that one. But Recchi of all people?
Later in game 3 another incident involving a player much higher on your list of goonish culprits took place. Milan Lucic took it upon himself to take liberties on Alex Burrows. Lucic proceeded to throw several punches at the head of the Canucks forward. After a scrum ensued a gloveless Lucic extended his fingers towards Burrows’ mouth taunting him. Wow, Milan, what an original move. Not to be outdone, fiery Tim Thomas threw his hat into the ring. More like 3 rings, but I digress. Henrik Sedin took a bouncing puck into the slot and Thomas launched himself like a scud missile into the chest of Sedin knocking him off his feet. This brought a rise from the Boston faithful. What if Henrik’s head hit the ice? Is Thomas any better than Rome who was chastised in the Boston media? Game 3 not only got out of hand on the ice, but the scoreboard as well. One can only wonder what is in store for us come Wednesday’s game 4.
I understand that there is tons of emotion that is poured onto the ice every night in a SCF. Anyone who played sports or watches them religiously can tell you the intensity is unparalleled in a championship series. There is, however, a fine line between intensity and un-sportsmanlike conduct. It is quite clear to me that this line has been crossed in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Am I propagating that we eliminate the post-whistle scrums, fighting, or intense hard play from the game? Absolutely not, that is what makes it the game we love.
I am simply stating that it’s time for the shenanigans and tomfoolery to end. It’s time to play the game like men, not four-year-olds with an agenda. Eliminate Barnum and Bailey from the equation and get back to the intensity, passion, and pride that make the Stanley cup playoffs the greatest spectacle in modern sports.