From The Hockey News: I’m not sure if I completely agree with the story but it is amusing.
In the spring of 2002, back in the day when mastodons roamed the earth and the Toronto Maple Leafs were good, Alex Mogilny sat dumbfounded at his stall in the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs had just defeated the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, again, to advance to the Eastern Conference final.
As bedlam surrounded him, Mogilny wondered aloud, with a genuine look of bewilderment on his face, “Why is everyone so excited? We’ve only made it halfway through the playoffs.” You had to forgive Mogilny. It was the end of his first season in Toronto and he wasn’t accustomed to people getting so excited after watching their team almost come close to just about winning something.
I couldn’t help but remember Mogilny’s astonishment as I watched this week when teams clinched their respective divisions in Major League Baseball. In what was part celebration, part endorsement for Budweiser, team after team showered each other with champagne and beer to celebrate the fact they’d accomplished the NHL equivalent of winning one round of the playoffs.
And that’s exactly what they did. By winning their divisions, teams guaranteed themselves a spot in the top eight of 30 teams. By clinching a wildcard berth, two teams guaranteed themselves a one-game playoff to win the right to join that group. That’s all. But there they were, dousing each other in booze and whooping it up as though they’d just won a championship, which they did not. Hockey players around the world must be laughing at these guys.
Let’s contrast those celebrations with hockey. In the NHL, you win one round of the playoffs and it means you’ve survived to play another day and allow your playoff beard at least another couple of weeks of growth. That’s about it. Players shake hands with their opponents, go to the treatment room to address all manners of injuries, then prepare for Round 2. “Great win, but we still have a lot of work to do,” they usually say. They win the second round and they’re probably a little happier, but you almost never get the sense that they feel they’ve accomplished anything of note. On to Round 3.