On the same day that Mr. Hockey passed away, the Pittsburgh Penguins lifted the Stanley Cup as hockey’s newest champion. In many ways it feels that the torch was passed from one generation to the next.
The National Hockey League has gone from the days of the “Gordie Howe hat-trick” to pushing the role of enforcer completely out of hockey. Kids that grow up watching hockey don’t know about the Broad Street Bullies unless they are Flyers fans. They never witnessed the complete on-ice brawl the Bruins and Capitals participated in back in the 90’s. Hell they don’t know about the days when goalies wore nothing on their faces and stopped pucks. The guys who scored goals could drop the gloves when someone was going at them. Now if you even think about dropping your gloves they throw you in the box.
It’s been some time coming but it truly feels like this year’s Penguins team encapsulated what the NHL wants from their organizations. Skate hard and fast. Walk away from confrontations. Be quick to the puck and don’t do anything stupid that gives the refs a reason to put you in the box. Be exciting and put on a show. You don’t have to score tons of goals as long as you can retain the puck and play defense. In fact, they beat a San Jose team they was built on the Gordie Howe way of scoring goals and beating ’em up.
Yes my friends, Mr. Hockey is gone. Hockey has changed forever and who knows what will become of it. All I know is that we are witnessing a rebirth of the game we love. We are going to have to adjust our expectations and remember that we won’t ever see another Gordie Howe. He was the Greatest Great One. Fare thee well. Long live hockey.