Overtime may very well be the pinnacle of a sporting event. Overtime can get any fan excited and it epitomizes the phrase, “On the edge of your seat.” At any moment a play can be made and the game can be over. One perfectly executed play or one costly mental error can make the difference between winning and losing.
Obviously, every sport has an overtime session if it needs one. If the two teams are tied at the end of regulation, they will play some extra time in order to decide the victor (save regular-season hockey).
Through my many years of watching different sports, one sport’s overtime has me glued to the television every time I see it on. In this case it’s a certain type of overtime. It’s an overtime where anything can happen at any moment and a team can be sent on vacation for the rest of the off-season.
That overtime belongs to playoff hockey.
Hockey is probably the sport that I watch the least during its regular season, whether it’s because I am watching something else or it simply isn’t on television as much as it used to be. Fortunately I won’t have to worry about that any longer since the NHL and NBC just signed a ten-year contract and will show a ‘Game of the Week.’ Versus will still broadcast games as well, but I hardly find myself venturing past channel 59 (Adult Swim) in my area.
The reason I love overtime playoff hockey so much stems from what I said earlier. Anything can happen at any moment. With one flick of the puck a team can bounce back to tie a series at two games apiece, have their backs put against the wall in the dreaded three games to one scenario, or be eliminated completely from Stanley Cup contention. In about five seconds a team can be taking a shot at one end, have it blocked or sail wide of the net, and have the other team breaking toward the other end on an odd-man advantage. That quickly a team can go from having a great game-winning opportunity to walking into the locker room with their heads down.
Hockey separates itself from other overtimes in the sense that the action is continuous. Of the four major sports - as well as golf, NASCAR (in teeth gritted together voice) and college athletics – hockey is the only sport that continues its play as long as the puck remains in the rink and no one breaks a rule. I guess the NFL can end at any moment too, but its play isn’t continuous. There is a lull in the action between each play. Any play can win the game, but it’s not a steady back-and-forth like hockey. Plus, if the NFL changes its overtime system to the way the NCAA does theirs (each team gets a possession), its close relation to ‘sudden death’ will go completely out the window. The same can probably be said for the bottom of an inning in baseball, but once again it is on a pitch-to-pitch basis. Yes, the game can end on any pitch, but its not fast-paced action.
Although my favorite team is the Flyers, I could probably watch any two teams compete in overtime playoff hockey. Philadelphia has already played in two intense overtime games in its first round series with Buffalo. The Sabers won Game 5 in OT to take a 3-2 series and put the Flyers squarely behind the eight-ball. However, with their season on the line, the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ responded in Game 6’s OT to push the series to a Game 7. The Flyers went on to win Game 7 in dominating fashion. I’m sure the previous thrilling victory gave them a lot of confidence as headed back to play on their home ice.
Did I mention that hockey players can try to crush each other while all of this is all going on? People are constantly getting hit, tripped, choked, cross-checked and shoved away from goalies. Hockey players will literally do anything to help their teams during the playoffs. They will dive on the ice to block a shot, not caring whether they get nailed in the face with a frozen piece of rubber or not. Defenders will give their goalies their stick if they happen to lose their big paddle. They will do anything and everything in order to win the game, especially in overtime.
But just as quickly as a person can read this sentence it can be all over. To me, there is nothing better in sports than overtime playoff hockey.