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At playoff time, NHL sweeps NBA

Right now, you have a choice most nights of watching either the NHL playoffs or the NBA playoffs. To us, it's no contest. The NHL playoffs are way better than the NBA playoffs. Here are 10 reasons why.

By TOM JONES
Published May 9, 2007


Right now, you have a choice most nights of watching either the NHL playoffs or the NBA playoffs. To us, it's no contest. The NHL playoffs are way better than the NBA playoffs. Here are 10 reasons why.

Overtime

1 Basketball overtimes last five minutes. Throw in a bunch of timeouts and free throws and it can take a half-hour, and you usually know who is going to win most of that time. Hockey? It might last 30 seconds or it might last until 4 in the morning and you can't take your eyes off the screen. The beauty of NHL overtime is no TV timeouts. (So, if you're watching, easy on the drinks and use the bathroom only during the intermission.) Knowing that every shot - no matter how harmless it looks - can end the game and possibly someone's season makes hockey's overtime the best in all of sports.

 

Toughness

2 Bulls star Scottie Pippen once missed most of an NBA playoff game because of a headache. Kwame Brown of the Wizards sat out a postseason game because of a stomach virus. Compare that to the Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko, above, who has no recollection of playing in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final because of a concussion suffered earlier in the series. Oh yeah, Fedotenko scored both goals in Tampa Bay's 2-1 victory.

 

Unpredictable

3 Until last week when Golden State knocked off Dallas, a No. 8 seed had never beaten a No. 1 in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series. That has happened seven times in the NHL since 1994. Here's more: Since 1994, the No. 7 seed has won more series (14) than the No. 2 seed (12). Edmonton was a No. 8 seed in 2006 and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final before losing to Carolina. (By the way, neither team even made the playoffs this season.) The team with the best record in the regular season hasn't won a Cup since Detroit in 2002. In fact, the team with the best record has won the Cup only six times in the past 20 years.

 

Playing at home means nothing

4 No such thing as home-ice advantage in the NHL playoffs. Since 1999, NHL road teams have won 47 percent of the time. That number just proves that every game really is a tossup.

 

Playoff beards

5 It's simple. NHL players - not all, but most - refuse to shave until they either win the Stanley Cup or are eliminated. Some people simply are not meant to grow beards. (Remember Marty St. Louis?) And that's the point. These players often look like Tom Hanks midway through Castaway. Their beards become mangled, tangled and you wouldn't be surprised if a couple of rodents had nested deep inside them. The players don't get haircuts either. Two months into a playoff run and you have 40 Charles Mansons skating around the ice with sticks in their hands.

 

The schedule

6 Every other day. That's how the NHL works. A series is played every other day. Occasionally, you get back-to-back games with an extra day off some other time. But once a first-round series starts, it ends in 11 days. In the NBA, most first-round series were scheduled to take place over 15 days. Several series took a full week to play three games. Who can get into a series when you can't even remember the last time the teams played?

 

Don Cherry

7 The NBA has Charles Barkley. He's good. The NHL has Don Cherry. And he's great. Barkley might poke fun at someone. Occasionally, he'll mildly insult someone. But while Barkley is firing BBs, Cherry is whipping out a grenade launcher. The former coach whose commentary has made his national segment on Hockey Night in Canada must-see TV isn't always politically correct, but he's always entertaining. He once called Jaromir Jagr "Mario Lemieux's daughter." He once suggested someone should break the arm of Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk. And the good news is he will be on NBC's Stanley Cup final telecasts.

 

The trophy

8 Quick, name the trophy awarded the NBA champ. Okay, try this: sketch the NBA trophy on a piece of paper. Can't do it, can you? The Stanley Cup, however, is the best trophy in sports. And there's only one. You don't keep it forever. They don't make a replica for every champion. The Stanley Cup that will be lifted next month is the same one that Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and, heck, the 1907 Montreal Wanderers lifted. Every player gets his name on the trophy. They kiss it. They get to take it home with them. They sleep with it. But then they have to give it back.

 

The passion

9 Throw a punch in the NBA playoffs and you'll likely be suspended for a few games. Throw one in an NHL playoff game and you might get a penalty. Sorry, but yes, we're saying it's okay to fight, claw, scratch and bleed when it comes to winning a professional championship. Come NHL playoff time, fighting isn't just for goons. Remember in 2004 when the two best players on the ice - the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier and the Flames' Jarome Iginla - dropped their gloves and started whaling away? That moment proved NHL players aren't playing for shoe contracts and bonus money. They were fighting for pride.

 

The format

10 Unlike the NBA, the NHL reseeds the teams after each round. The purpose is to benefit teams that perform well in the regular season. But the after-effect is it sets up the best meetings in the conference finals. On the other hand, in this season's NBA playoffs, either Utah or Golden State is going to be in the conference finals and likely will get wiped out by the winner of San Antonio-Phoenix. The NHL's conference finals are earned. In the NBA, it's often the luck of the draw.