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Game 7 Is For Haters, Too

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - JUNE 21: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers falls into goaltender falls into goaltender Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of Game Six of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final between Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on June 21, 2024 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL ads that run during the playoffs are predictable. Dramatic background music, vintage clips of guys lifting the Cup, maybe some slow-motion goals, probably a self-congratulatory voiceover that hypes up the sport. Winning the Cup is transcendent, they say. It's a way of etching your name into history—the closest you can come to kleos or immortal glory in an age after the classical battlefield heroes.

And while that's nice or whatever, what these marketing executives neglect to mention is the flipside of glory. What if, say, you're among the vast majority of fans who's already seen their team ousted from a chance at winning a championship? Frankly, I don't care "if this Cup could talk" because it won't be whispering in the ear of any players on my team.

But the hockey season does not end with your team's elimination. There's always another road you can take—one possibly even more fulfilling and sustainable. It's not for the faint of heart, though. Are you built to be a hater? Sometimes the most rewarding memory will be the humiliation of others. Wins may be eternal, but so is a good bit, like the Leafs being defeated by a Zamboni driver. And, in a blink of an eye, we've found ourselves here, with the possibility to witness the NHL's first reverse sweep championship since 1942. Tonight's Game 7 is for the haters.

A loss tonight will be generationally devastating for either team. On one hand, you've got the Panthers facing what could be one of the most awful chokes in history. If they lose in front of their home crowd tonight, as has happened the last three times a Final went seven, the cats and rats will never live it down. To have to watch the Oilers celebrate on Florida ice? To be denied, by their own inability to simply not lose four games in a row, the franchise's first-ever Cup? That's the kind of thing you can rub in their fans' faces for decades.

For the Oilers, who briefly started the season at the bottom of the league, a legendary redemption arc is within reach. They could finally silence all the McDavid haters! Shut up everyone who said the league rigged multiple draft lotteries to go their way! Their mortal enemies, Flames fans, would probably combust from rage. But a loss tonight would mean sudden and immeasurable heartbreak, a catastrophic crash-landing after a trying climb to the highest of emotional highs. Though they will never admit it even to themselves, Oilers fans believe in their heart of hearts that they're winning tonight. Hearts like that break easily, and permanently. Coming up just short would haunt Edmonton forever. And you will be there to remind them of it at every opportunity.

In my ideal world, we go to at least two overtimes, the tension so high it feels something like pain. For the hate-viewer, there's no way to lose. A Cup will be lifted, and tears will be shed. Either way, you'll emerge from this battle with shit-talking ammo so potent, it'll last a lifetime. If this Cup could talk, it would tell you to never stop rubbing it in.

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