Real men wear skates
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2

Something to keep in mind the next time you see Vlade Divac lying at Shaq's feet begging for a call: Real men don't flop.

They skate.

Stanley Cup
There's a reason the Stanley Cup only gets the white-glove treatment.
That's why I had to laugh when an editor from Page 2 called to ask if I could make a case for the NHL playoffs being better than the NBA playoffs. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:

P2E (Page 2 Editor): "So, you think you could come up with 10 reasons why the NHL playoffs are better?"

JA: "Sure. Well, you know, I guess so. I mean, if I thought about it long enough, I probably could give you 10 reasons why Anna's serve is better than Serena's."

P2E: "OK then. Ten reasons. Make 'em good. E-mail it by tomorrow."

JA: "Ten, huh? You really know how to put the pressure on a guy, don't you?"

Jim Armstrong prefers the excitement of upsets and the unpredictability of the NHL playoffs -- hey, didn't the Mighty Ducks just pull off a shocking sweep of the defending champs? But Eric Neel will take this year's NBA playoffs, where the action is fantastic.
  • Vote: Pucks vs. Hoops
  • Or not. As tough assignments go, this isn't exactly like taking candy from William Perry. I came up with 10 reasons, but only after paring down the list from almost 100. And that was just during my first Molson.

    The NBA playoffs better than the NHL playoffs? Right. I suppose you're going to tell me it's because we never know who's going to win the NBA playoffs. Fourpeat after me, bubba: Nobody is going to beat the Lakers. Not after some rocket scientist in Sacramento scribbled an obscenity on Shaq's 20,000th-point ball.

    I guess I can understand why the fan doesn't want his name out there, but he might want to give the Lakers his Social Security number. Shaq's teammates want to vote the guy a playoff share.

    Of course, we thought we knew which team was going to win the Stanley Cup, too. But then along came Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who single-handedly beat the Red Wings while standing on his head and juggling chainsaws.

    "We're just in shock," Red Wings tough guy Darren McCarty said in the aftermath.

    Excuse me, but what's this "we" stuff? The Mighty Ducks' sweep was more like business as usual in the NHL playoffs. Fact: Since 1994, the No. 7 seed has beaten the No. 2 seed 12 out of 20 opening-round series. Yeah, like that could ever happen in the NBA, where the superstars get the calls and the chicks.

    Jean-Sebastien Giguere
    Giguere's heroics are business as usual in the NHL playoffs.
    Oh, and did I mention that the Canucks, who finished second in the league to the Wings in goals scored, were outscored 14-4 by the Blues in the first four games of their series? Or that the Flyers, who scored two goals in their five-game loss to the Senators in last year's playoffs, scored three in Wednesday's triple-overtime win over the Maple Leafs?

    Welcome to the NHL playoffs, the bigger and better playoffs. Here are the Top 10 reasons why:

    1. The suspense factor
    With the Red Wings gone, there will be a new Stanley Cup champion. But then, there usually is. Four different teams -- Detroit, Colorado, New Jersey and Dallas -- have won the past four Cups. Before the Stars' victory in 1999, it had been five years since the team with the NHL's best regular-season record went on to win the Cup. So which team will win it this year? Only your local tarot reader knows for sure. The Avs and Sens are the favorites, but any team can prove vulnerable in the NHL playoffs. Colorado was knocked out in the first round in '98, and Ottawa was eliminated in the first round three straight times before reaching the conference semis last year. Both teams lost their playoff openers this year. Nothing new there, of course. Seven of the eight higher seeds lost their openers.

    2. The "goon fishing" factor
    Those poor, misguided souls who don't like hockey always are quick to play the fighting card. And they've got a point -- during the regular season. Not so in the playoffs. You're more likely to see a couple of Jail Blazers teammates duke it out in practice than two NHL players drop the gloves in the postseason. Enforcers often wind up being healthy scratches, because nobody wants to be the one who went to the penalty box and cost his team a series. So what we're left with is hockey in its purest, rawest form. How entertaining is it compared to the NBA? Let's put it this way: When Kobe gets his jumper cranked up to 120 mph, like Al MacInnis' slap shot, come and talk to me.

    3. The no-posse factor
    Unlike their NBA brethren, NHL players don't have posses. In the NHL, people hanging around outside the locker room are called family members.

    4. The pretty-boy factor
    NHL players are better looking than NBA players. Say what? Hey, man, don't diss the messenger. I'm talking facts here. Didn't Anna Kournikova used to be married to Sergei Fedorov? And didn't she used to date Pavel Bure? Well, there you go. And don't even get me started on Carol Alt. With legs like hers, she'd have been perfect for an NBA player, but she chose a hockey player, Ron Greschner, then another, Alexi Yashin. OK, OK, so Cwebb has a little thing going with Tyra Banks, and Rick Fox is married to Vanessa Williams. If NBA players are better looking than NHL players, how come Steve Nash tries to look like he just scored a hat trick instead of sticking a trey? You don't see NHL players shave their heads, do you? In the NHL, bald isn't beautiful. It's just plain, old bald. And frankly, the good-looks gap would be even wider if a few more NHL players had teeth.

    5. The clock-punching factor
    NHL players work harder than NBA players. End of argument. What, you think I'm lying? Then you've never walked into an NHL locker room. We're talking road-kill pungent. The goalie pads alone are enough to make your eyes water.

    6. The diversity factor
    The NBA signs a few guys from Europe, and all of a sudden we're supposed to think the league is one, big global village. Gimme a break. You want an international flavor, take a bite out of the NHL. I mean, when's the last time two players from Sweden fought it out for the NBA scoring title on the final day of the season? And when's the last time an NBA team had a handful of players whose names ended in "ov," as the Red Wings have had for most of the past decade? Which reminds me. I know I look stupid and all, but do you really think I'm going to take the NBA in this argument and risk ticking off a guy named Igor?

    Anna Kournikova
    For the most part, Anna K. likes her men on skates.
    7. The money can't buy you love factor
    Is this a great league or what? The Rangers have the highest-paid team in the league every year and haven't made the playoffs since '97. From the sounds of things, the Sens need to win the Cup to pay the light bill. And you know what? They just might do it.

    8. The OT factor
    The first week of the NHL playoffs produced two double overtimes and two triple OTs. But that's nothing. Three years ago, the Penguins and Flyers went five overtimes. Tell ya what. Find me a five-OT NBA playoff game and maybe you can convince me that hardwood is cooler than ice.

    9. The all for one, one for all factor
    Which players lay it on the line more for their teams? NBA players get tattoos; NHL players get stitches.

    10. The Cup factor
    NBA players dream of getting their next shoe contracts. Not hockey players. They dream of having their names etched on the Stanley Cup, the holy grail of pro sports trophies. Quick, what's the name of the NBA's championship trophy? See what I mean?

    Jim Armstrong, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, is a regular contributor to Page 2.



    Jim Armstrong Archive

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