In anywhere from eight days to over two weeks a new Stanley Cup champion will be crowned. A new team will begin their reign as victors almost as quickly as this season began–. Wait, not this season.
The game of hockey is a game of passion which can be seen when players jump into glass and scream as if they are children in the stands when they themselves score the goals. The passion can be seen when two opposing players fight each other and adhere to the unwritten code of hockey enforcers, because their teams need them to ignite the fire and set the tone. Unfortunately, the love and pure feeling with which every NHLer once played with on frozen ponds, in drive ways, and in intersections as they scored the Game 7 OT Cup clincher in front of thousands upon thousands of fans as kids is now a dwindling flame. Luckily, the playoffs have the ability to reignite that flame.
The NHL playoffs are arguably the hardest playoffs in all of professional sports, seeing sixteen teams fight and beat each other to the point of no return in a best of seven series only to do it all again if they win the series. With four, best of seven rounds, the hits seem harder, the goals seem more spectacular, and every save seem more and more miraculous, leaving every hockey fan glued to their TV, laptop, cell phone, etc for these battles. The playoffs can span two months, and for two months that’s all that will matter.
The NHL playoffs have gone well past the one month mark, but one month to an NHL fan is a fragment of time during this season. For 113 days, the NHL suffered their second work stoppage in less than ten years. The word passion was replaced with another, much more feared “P-word”- politics. Revenue share among other factors caused the delay that lasted clear into 2013. While the rest of the planet was waiting for the world to end on December 21, 2012, the world of hockey fans everywhere had already imploded. But like a phoenix, the season rose back stronger than ever.
The chills felt and tears shed when that first puck dropped were indescribable. But politics were still on everyone’s mind. There needed to be an event to cast out politics and replace it with passion again. Something needed to happen so that hockey was no longer the butt of all jokes and it could be rightfully revered.
Just as the chills were beginning to feel like a part of the anatomy, an event so historic, so unscripted, so..so passionate took place, that the entire hockey world, fans and players alike, remembered why they watch, cheer for, play, and cry over this great game. Gregory Campbell, a fourth line player for the Boston Bruins who wears his heart on the sleeve of his sweater, suffered a broken leg while blocking a slap shot from international All-Star Evgeni Malkin against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the penalty kill. The game was tied at one, and a “very shaken up” Campbell stayed on the ice, deflecting a pass and taking up shooting lanes all on essentially one leg for an additional 60 seconds. (The shift can be seen here: http://youtu.be/h15m87WsCHQ)
Players block shots in every game, but the entire crowd at the TD Garden in Boston could tell that this block was historic. Their appreciation can be heard in the synchronized chants of “Campbell! Campbell!” Campbell went down the tunnel, into the dressing room, and did not return. Speculation flew about as to whether he broke a bone or had a bone bruise, but speculation was also heard earlier in the lockout when it was rumored to be over in the first week of December. To an NHL fan, we do not believe it until we see it.
It was then confirmed, Greg “Soupy” Campbell had broken his fibula and continued to kill the penalty because his team needed him. He did it because it’s the Cup. Campbell’s broken leg penalty kill was the resurrection of the passion that the game needed. We can only hope the final four to seven games of the NHL season are as passionate, but one thing is for certain: When Campbell broke his leg, he healed a world of broken hearts.