There are two great traditions surrounding the presenting of the Stanley Cup. One is the parade with the Cup in the city which houses the winning team, and the other is every member of staff, at least above skate-sharpener level, getting to take the Cup home for a day to do with what he or she wishes, as long as it isn’t “climb inside and ride it down a muddy hill while throwing the empties over your shoulder.”
There is, however, a third, and it has to do with not being given the Cup, as the Tampa Bay Lightning are experiencing now. It is the ritual listing of the specific injuries that helped prevent the losing team from being the winning team. It is as old as the Cup tour, makes a mockery of the upper body/lower body nonsense first begun by the sainted Pat Quinn back in the day, and reminds us all that hockey at the highest level is literally reserved for that rarest of athletes—the fast-skating, dexterous, devil-may-care nutcase.
It seems like whining, and maybe it is in that uniquely Canadian look-what-we-did-ourselves-for-the-good-of-the-side way. But the Lightning didn’t invent it, change it, or perfect it. Hockey is tradition, and stacking up the surgical gurneys like Thursday afternoon traffic is just what they do to remind everyone that hockey hurts like a bastard.
From The Athletic’s Joe Smith, the Litany Of Limbs:
- Brayden Point suffered a “significant” tear in his quad muscle.
- Nikita Kucherov incurred an MCL injury.
- Anthony Cirelli suffered an AC joint sprain that may require surgery.
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare played through a meniscus injury suffered before the playoffs.
- Ryan McDonagh had a “mangled” finger.
- Brandon Hagel fractured his foot in the Florida series.
- Nick Paul has a shoulder AC joint sprain and an MCL sprain.
- Corey Perry has an AC joint sprain injury to go with Paul’s.
This is neither long or short by postseason post-mortem standards—about 40 percent of the usual active roster. It’s just done so that the fans can feel more like their lads gave it their all, more than their all, and would have given even more than more of their all if they’d have been given the chance.
NBA postseason tradition, on the other hand, is a parade for the winners and then burning train cars of money in pursuit of players who used to be content letting other people be the general manager, like Kevin Durant, used to be great, like John Wall, or used to be normal, like Kyrie Irving. Free agency is the spackle that binds NBA fans when there is no NBA. The NHL’s offseason glue is filling out medical forms while the Cup goes to Denver’s Civic Center Plaza, and from there to Calgary and Cranbrook and Kempele and Klagenfurt.
We are assured that they all heal in time to do the same frightful nonsense next year, diving in front of 100-mph shots and leading with their faces and giving and getting two-handers across the arms and being bull-charged from behind while looking the other way. And all those injuries are top secret until the moment comes when they are out of games and the Litany Of Limbs can be read out again—all the dislocated ears and prolapsed faces and shredded femurs and penicillin-resistant hoof-in-mouth and Dutch elm disease that reminds us that in hockey if you’re not hurtin’, you’re shirkin’.
Which, to salute the new ethereal Kyrie Irving as he continues to orbit his home planet, isn’t normal.