This year’s hockey playoffs have been great for gambling commercials. Hockey? Not really

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, center, celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers with Jan Rutta, right, and Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Ondrej Palat, left, during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Finals, June 11.The Associated Press

Do you know why this year’s hockey playoffs were great? Game announcements.

We didn’t realize until now how much fun it is to marry every fan’s two great passions – watching sports and setting their money on fire.

All sports leagues have plunged into the game, but this spring the NHL has gone with closed eyes and feet first. If you had muted any Canadian hockey show in the last two months, it would be possible to believe that the game is an advertisement on the game show, and not the other way around.

What’s your favorite gambling mini-series?

I like the sinister Wayne Gretzky for BetMGM. Gretzky, so photoshopped he looks illustrated, glares malevolently at you as he seemingly stands atop a dry ice machine or inside a volcano. It is the gaze that says, “Follow me in the darkness, amigo. And bring your mother’s credit card.

“With every press…” Gretzky said in one of those commercials, crushing his phone, “…a new legend is born.”

Wayne scored almost 2,000 points, but it took him 20 years. You could lose over $2,000 in a single night. So who is the real legend?

I’m also a fan of the one they’re doing in-game at Scotiabank Arena on Responsible Gambling (which is a bit like vegetarian smoking or skill-building alcoholism).

What’s your gambling secret, one guy asks the responsible gambler? “Well, I have this amazing new slow money destroyer. It only destroys part of your money at a time, no matter how much money you put in it at once. It’s the future of money disposal.

I’m paraphrasing, but I think my version is better.

The gambling announcements have been amazing and it’s hard to say how we’ll fill the time once they’re gone. (Editor’s note: the game, probably.)

You know why this year’s hockey playoffs weren’t so great? Hockey.

The hockey went well. But the longer it lasts, the less convincing it becomes.

What is the best series so far? The neutral observer would probably say Toronto-Tampa Bay. High skill level, close games, back-and-forth momentum, and the exquisite joy/pain of watching the Leafs turn victory into another learning opportunity.

What did they learn this time? That when you land on your face once in Boston or Long Island, that’s it. But in Toronto, as long as you fail the final exam, they can’t kick you out of school.

It’s been nearly a hundred years and a fluke since the Leafs won three series in a single playoff. Tampa has done that three times in the past three seasons. Think about that when you put the words “iconic” and “franchise” together within the Toronto city limits.

Many of the hoped-for matchups happened, which is good. Most of them were failures, which is less so.

Edmonton crushed Calgary. Colorado crushed Edmonton. Tampa went through Florida, then turned it upside down and did it again four or five more times.

The team that provided the most entertainment was the New York Rangers.

Last year, the Rangers did not make the playoffs. This year, they were two wins from the final. As Canadians, we are taught that no hockey team can succeed until it has failed miserably for three, five, or even 10 consecutive years. Then, if you want to be really thorough, you should start all over again. Abstinence is good for the soul of Canadian hockey.

In the United States, where fans do not pay to watch perennial chess, this rule does not apply. The lesson for the savvy buyer: buy Canadian, but root American.

The Rangers enjoyed a vacation in Tampa Bay after their series in Florida. The “taste of summer,” as it’s called in the NHL.

So for two games Tampa looked like they were playing in swim shorts and flip flops. But after being knocked down a bit, the Lightning were able to dig up their winter clothes.

In that race, the Lightning faced the first, fourth and eighth-best teams in the NHL, by record. They faced this year’s top scorer (Auston Matthews) and top goalie (Igor Shesterkin). They lost their best player (Brayden Point) to injury in the first round.

Tampa should have lost — it almost did a couple of times — but here it is again.

That’s what Canadians can’t accept about their own teams, because they watch them from an inch away. It’s not about individual talents or getting that slightly better guy from third row to first or even luck. It’s about building a belief system. Teams that believe they are going to win do so. Teams that hope to win usually don’t. You can see the difference from May to June.

So now it’s the team you always knew would be there (Tampa) versus the team you thought was too obvious a choice to make it (Colorado).

After crushing Edmonton, Colorado has been cooling since June 6. The finals start on Wednesday. It’s a week and a half of trying to keep it loose.

If Tampa got a taste of summer after sweeping the Panthers, the Avalanche will have eaten a whole meal of it. At least there’s no beach culture in Denver.

With each playoff, the average NHL fan worries that people who don’t follow hockey will ignore him again. It’s one of the socially acceptable ways to express our anger towards Americans. They lack something beautiful within them.

Again, they own the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s not exactly a match that rings through the ages. It will start in a ranking competition against an NBA Finals that looks like it will last seven games. With no home team, the Canadians are once again on the lookout for their enemies. These things suggest that relatively few people will watch. Still.

But there is still a chance to create a classic here – the old motionless object against the new irresistible force. If Tampa wins, it’s a dynasty tied with Gretzky’s Oilers and Bossy’s Islanders. If Colorado wins, they’ve killed a king. It’s a good story anyway.

But that’s if this final lives up to a standard rarely matched in the playoffs. So while we can hope it will turn out that way, I wouldn’t bet on it.


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