In my first official piece, I want to declare my undying love for the St. Louis Blues; however, that does not mean I’m without objectivity. The Blues are one of the 31 teams in the National Hockey League. And all of them, take part in countless battles and a never-ending grind.
The terms battle and grind are so ingrained into the minds of hockey players and die-hard followers of the sport. It is so overwhelming that they find their way into fan’s & player’s everyday lives. The difficulty for outsiders to comprehend is vast. But, over time it becomes easier as curiosity becomes intrigue. This is when one comes to realize that hockey is the most captivating, and competitive sport to either play or follow.
Hockey season technically comes to an end after an 82-game season followed by eight weeks of postseason play. But, when you add it all together along with the draft, free agency and training camp, the sport becomes a 12-month long battle and grind.
A battle is “a fight between people or groups in which each side tries to win a contest”. It is not defined or illustrated any better than in the grind of the NHL regular, post and offseason. It is one of the few places you will constantly hear the importance of winning your “1-on-1 battles,” “getting it deep,” “to the net,” and “going North.”
Your 1-on-1’s stem from the desire to gain possession of the puck, as Jaden Schwartz best illustrates shift after shift. It is the puck possessor that will gain an opportunity to put the puck into the back of the opposing team’s net. A Vladimir Tarasenko snipe does not occur often times without a battle or multiple battles won. These battles in the sport can be related to almost any desire in life. Battling for a degree, masters, or occupation all fit in this category.
Every goal in life, like hockey, has its obstacles. Therefore, as long as the goalie is guarding his net, you gotta get it deep as well. Deep is used as getting the puck into the offensive zone where the opposing team’s net is placed. You get it deep, win your 1-on-1 battles and you generate an opportunity to score. Getting it to the net and going north is simple. It highlights the relentless attack of scoring and moving forward. All you can ask for in the game of hockey and in life is a chance to succeed and achieve your goals. Some have it easier than others, but everyone has to battle.
A grind is “a movement that has great difficulty and friction”. 31 organizations compete every year for one big, silver, shiny Cup named Stanley. This causes hatred between teams and fans on their quest for that trophy. It is the hardest trophy to win in sports. The journey towards this trophy is not on foot, nor land, and with more parity than any sport.
Yes, the 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins finished second in the league’s standings. However, out of the 16 playoff teams, their opponent finished 16th. The proximity of the teams in this league is so narrow that since 1994, a #1 seed has won the Cup only 7 times. And on average, the regular season point differential for Cup Final opponents is 13. It’s a cliche to say that anyone can win it all in this league. But that’s exactly what makes it the most captivating grind in all of sport.
Hockey is a game of skill and talent. But, with that comes a sport with brutal physicality along with wear and tear on the body. Of the 713 players in the National Hockey League, just 99 of them played in all 82 games during the regular season this past year. The hits that go along with the up and down high-octane movement through skating is unlike any physical grind in any sport. And the scary thing is that every team is continuing to get younger and faster.
The upcoming grind is just days away, and almost every team made moves this offseason to improve their hockey club…even Arizona.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators have the 1st and 8th best odds to win the Stanley Cup. But, no one has any idea who will win. Who can predict an 8th seed sweeping a 1 seed? Who is prepared for 18 overtime games in one round that does not always go to the “stronger team?” The immense entertainment value in this sport is that once the playoffs start, it’s unpredictable chaos.
The Penguins will host the St. Louis Blues on October 4th on NBCSN as they raise their Championship banner. We will not know who will have that honor at the start of next season until next summer….
Let the unpredictable grind begin.
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