The Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights put on a display of all that is enjoyable about sports Wednesday evening, the Avalanche winning 3-2 in overtime to take a two-games-to-none lead in the NHL Western Conference finals.
After a forgettable first game in which Colorado steamrolled an exhausted Vegas squad 7-1, the second game in the series figured to be anything but a snoozer with the Golden Knights rested and ready. And oh, did both teams deliver.
Ridiculous saves by both Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Colorado netminder Philipp Grubauer, each amply demonstrating why they are both up for this year’s Vezina Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL’s best goalie. Skills and speed on both sides, with Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon demonstrating time and again puck handling skills beyond the reach of mere mortals. Shots hitting the post. Defensive plays thwarting what looked to be easy breakaways. It was action plus from start to finish; tense drama the likes of which Hollywood can only dream of creating.
The game was enveloping regardless of whether one had a rooting interest. It was the game itself that starred; finesse and force merged together into a breathtaking whole. If the ugly hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans by Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele earlier in the evening was hockey at a decidedly sub-par level, this was the game at its most exhilarating.
More than a few sports fans have become former sports fans in recent years, alienated by players aided and abetted by teams and leagues embracing political correctness and seemingly devoting far more time and energy competing for the mythical Woker-Than-Thou title than their sport’s actual championship. It is understandable why folk have tuned out. However, games such as last night’s serve as a potent reminder of why doing so is self-depreciatory.
Sport’s purpose is the enjoyment of watching those who do things we cannot perform at the highest level. Many people can ice skate. Not many can rip off hundred-plus miles an hour slapshots or stop said slapshot from entering the goal net. It is the breathtaking action; the magic of how in a moment joy can turn into heartbreak, albeit of a far more manageable kind than usually allowed in relationships, and then but a moment later turn again to triumph. Sports gives us the opportunity to, for a few hours, let the world work on its own problems that we are not going to solve anyway. But we can cheer, and boo, and allow ourselves the outrageous luxury of letting all that being a fan entails become our sweet privilege. In sports, regardless of how woke its participants and overlords attempt to be, there is the secure knowledge that the ball (or puck) don’t care about the politics of whoever is directing its course. It does as it is physically instructed. Yes, it is annoying when politics and/or pop culture buffoonery interfere with our ability to appreciate the games themselves and the multiple marvelous skills with which they are performed. But why should we let these steal the joy? The participants in shadowplay social virtue signaling will fade. The games will not. Is it not therefore better to remember and celebrate the game? Last night was a marvelous example of how exhilarating playoff hockey can be. It would be regrettable in the extreme to deny ourselves this pleasure because of some participant’s foibles … which, as a reminder, is something we all have in common.
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