What we’re talking about here is how things change once the NHL playoffs begin
By Manus Clancy
If you are a rec league player, once the NHL playoffs begin it’s a whole new game. Which is why preparation is critical.
Keep in mind we are not talking about your own playoffs. No sir. There is not a lot of advice we can give that will change your game at this time of the year. If you wanted to get rid of those love handles before the championship game, you probably should have started in September (although forgoing the Big Mac for a salad on game day wouldn’t hurt).
What we’re talking about here is how things change once the NHL playoffs begin. So we offer a few things to expect along with some dos and don’ts for the Second Season.
First, some guys who would go so far as to lend you their pickup truck or serve as your designated driver to your league finals can become remarkably unreliable during the NHL playoffs. At 9:00 pm they will text you to say they will suit up, but at 10:00 pm they’ll be a no-show if the Bruins-Canadiens game goes into overtime.
If the game happens to be the fifth game in a series or later, it’s OK to cut your buddy some slack. Any earlier in the series and you are completely in the right to lay on a heap of guilt. However, if your teammate is missing for a game in any other sport, it is absolutely permissible to ask to him turn in his jersey.
Second, if you are on a team where the normal turnout is 10 to 12 players, you should count on eight or less. For those who love their ice time, this is a dream come true. And for those who only show up for the post-game beer and banter, it might be wise to keep the water bottle and inhaler handy.
Next, you want to make sure the scorekeeper has access to a smartphone or radio. Constant updates are critical for the guys on the bench and they’re a great way to keep them coming back from week to week. In all the excitement, of course, there will be one guy who will stick his fingers in his ears and hum loudly. He’s the guy who’ll be taping the game and does not want to know the result. Ignore him. He is likely the same guy who brings warm, lite beer to the locker room and regularly goes offsides coming off the bench.
If you play at a rink that has a lounge, there’s a good chance an NHL playoffs game will be on the TV. Glancing up from the ice, you might get a glimpse of it every now and then but you really won’t be able to tell what is actually happening. Every now and then, some patrons will begin to jump up and down. That will be frustrating, but there is nothing you can do about it. However, you must ignore the guy trying to give you hand signals. With a series of finger motions, he might think he is telling you the score is 2-2 with 53 seconds left in the period. You will later learn that he was trying to say that the Rangers were facing a 5 on 3 and that number 22 was headed to the box. Ignore this man too.
Lastly, that television can be your friend. Players on both teams will have one eye on the tube, so if you are plodder like me, now is your chance. If the defensemen and goaltender all have their heads tilted right, this is the time to put on your best Denis Savard move and head right for the net!
Manus Clancy is a VP at a financial software company and has been playing hockey for 21 years. His claim to fame is once having found a teammate’s contact lens on a sheet of ice from 90 feet away.