June 07, 2007

California Cup

The Stanley Cup is California bound. For the first time in NHL history, a team on the west coast has won the most beautiful trophy in all of sports, and there was no team more deserving this season than the Anaheim Ducks.

It'll be another summer in the sun for the Stanley Cup. First Tampa Bay, then Raleigh, and now Orange County. Can you blame the Cup? I don't think so. The weather, the beaches, the women; it's Hollywood, baby.

The Ottawa Senators were manhandled by the Ducks in the final, and what most people thought would be a close series turned out to be a laugher. The Senators went out with nary a whimper, and the fans in Ottawa are going to have a tough time dealing with this loss. The Sens came so close, but leave having not come close enough. It'll be a long flight back to Ottawa, that's for sure.

A lot was made of Daniel Alfredsson's idiocy in shooting the puck at Scott Niedermayer at the end of the second period in game four. It was a classless move by Alfredsson and one that tarnished what was otherwise a phenomenal playoff for the Ottawa captain. Alfredsson lit a fire under Niedermayer - who sported the greatest playoff beard ever - and the Ducks, and they simply would not be denied. Alfredsson wears the "C" on his chest and represents not only his team and organization, but also the city of Ottawa, and his foolishness went a long way in costing the Senators a chance to sip from hockey's Holy Grail.

Oh yeah, Alfredsson also felt up the Eastern Conference Trophy. That fool! There's no need to analyze this series any further, because there's your reason for Ottawa's sudden and tragic demise. Ottawa tore through the first three rounds but were a different hockey team in the final. They morphed back into the Senators of old. The ones who played with no confidence and no heart. Alffy touched the Conference Trophy and that's a no-no.

Enough about the losers. The Ducks were a team in every sense of the word. The Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP could have been awarded to a multitude of players. Seven different guys came to my mind, and any one of them would have been deserving - Scott Niedermayer (the eventual winner), J.S. Giguere, Andy McDonald, Chris Pronger, Sammy Pahlsson, or even the unheralded Francois Beauchemin. Even without the services of all-world defenseman Chris Pronger in two huge playoff games due to suspension, the Ducks were able to win them both. That says a lot about their squad.

Anaheim dressed an extremely deep team every night and got contributions from each and every guy in their lineup. Their rock solid defense and goaltending are a tandem that any hockey fan outside of Anaheim is jealous of, especially me, and up front they have the crafty Andy McDonald and Teemu Selanne. Selanne clearly found the fountain of youth upon returning to Anaheim, where he has spent some of his greatest years in his sparkling 15 year career.

Speaking of youth, the Ducks also have two guys by the names of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. They are superstars in the making, and already Stanley Cup Champions.

As for Teemu Selanne, there's always one guy every year who you want to see win the Stanley Cup. The guy who's been through the battles and just really wants to win it all, to cap off a great career. There was Ray Bourque, Glen Wesley, Dave Andreychuk, and now, Teemu Selanne. I had tears in my eyes when Joe Sakic let Ray Bourque hoist the Cup a few years ago, and although I wasn't crying like a school girl when Teemu was handed that beautiful hunk of silver tonight, it was still an emotional moment. It's tough to hate on a guy like Teemu, who resurrected his career after the lockout when everybody but Anaheim and Brian Burke wrote him off.

There's just something about the Stanley Cup that is so magical. Watching the winning team raise it up never gets old for me, and it never will. The dream of the Maple Leafs lifting it one day will never die. It's too beautiful a dream.

Magical. It truly is. Maybe it's the fact that it is the most glamorous trophy in pro sports, or the fact that once you win it, your name is engraved on it for eternity. Maybe it's because it is the most difficult trophy to win, taking 16 wins, in a gruelling and extremely physical two months. Maybe it's because as a child, we all dream of winning the Stanley Cup, and hoisting it high above our heads.

Ah the Stanley Cup, she's beautiful, ain't she?

There's no doubt as brothers playing ball hockey on the street, Scott Niedermayer and Rob Niedermayer won countless Stanley Cup's together. Who would have thought they'd get to accomplish the feat together for real as teammates in the NHL? It's a great story. The Niedermayer brothers play hockey the way it's meant to be played. For older brother Scott, it's his fourth Stanley Cup, but maybe the most rewarding one of all. He's a winner, and that's the best compliment you can give a hockey player. For Rob, it's his first Stanley Cup after losing the first two times he made the final. I'm sure there were times when he wondered whether it would happen for him.

As in all Stanley Cup Finals, the losers are gracious in defeat. There's no other sport like hockey, where after you try to kill your opponent during the series, once it's over, you shake hands and say congratulations. It doesn't happen in baseball, basketball or football. Hockey truly is a beautiful game, and I'll always give the losing team in the Stanley Cup Final props, because they have to wait there at the other end of the ice until the winning team is done celebrating their victory, and are ready to shake hands. For the Senator players, it had to have been the longest wait of their lives.

The Stanley Cup. It's as good as it gets. For some, like Ryan Getzlaf, it happens in only their second year in the league. For others, like Teemu Selanne, it happens 15 years into a storied career. Better late than never, without a doubt.

Enjoy Californication, Stanley Cup. Who knows when you'll be back next time.

The Anaheim Ducks, 2007 Stanley Cup champions, and deservedly so.

For the first time in NHL history, the players don't need to be asked where they're going now that they've won the Cup.

Disneyland is just down the block.


Anonymous said...

The bottom line here is....Scott Niedermeyer....can you believe the leafs traded that pick for Tom Kurvers....WHAT...i think thats worse than Kordic for Courtnall. Anywho...i think that line of Perry, Getzlaf...and a guy you forgot to mention....Penner....this line was fabulos...they controlled...moved around and made the Sens look stupid....even though Alfy has no class....put yourself in his position....37 years old...down in the finals....probably his last chance....i would be frustrated too...he may not have class....but he did what he could to try and win...lets hope we dont trade another Niedermeyer away for a below-average defenceman again...