Judge Ryan Keefer grew a playoff beard just for this review.
History in the making…it all comes down to one game.
I can't say I've been to a Stanley Cup final, as I live in an area where the pro hockey team kind of sucks. However, I've had my share of Game 7 experiences. One of my first hockey games was watching the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in the Division playoffs. Me and my friend Pernell Disney (yes, that was his name) and his mom took us to the game, which started at 7:30 p.m. The game was tightly played and featured superb goaltending by Kelly Hrudey and Bob Mason, so much so that it couldn't be decided over three periods of hockey. Damn, it couldn't even be decided over six periods of hockey. It went until the fourth overtime, when Pat LaFontaine scored a goal just before two in the morning on Easter Sunday, which gave the Islanders a hard-fought win. And if I wasn't hooked into playoff hockey before, I sure as hell was then.
Regardless of the sport, Game 7 and its sense of finality are something that all fans can touch on. Be it baseball, basketball or hockey, when you hear "Game 7," you know that, in the words of the immortal Apollo Creed, "there is no tomorrow." People tend to dismiss hockey and say that it's a third tier sport, but when it comes down to the playoffs, people seem to recognize it then, or at least give it more recognition than it usually gets. But since it runs concurrently with the pro basketball season, the sport tends largely to go ignored. Though I don't seem to hear about hockey players firing guns outside strip clubs or getting busted for marijuana possession too much, but I digress. Hockey players are among the more soft spoken and modest pro athletes going for my money, and when it comes to playoff time, they know the challenge becomes greater, as do their abilities to play through pain. Some players have been known to skate through tremendous injuries, including broken legs, to get a chance to hoist the most prestigious trophy in sports. Bought for approximately $50 in 1892, the winning team members have their names engraved on the trophy's outer rings, and have the opportunity to spend some individual time with the trophy in the off-season, and invite friends over to drink from it, or neighbors can take pictures of it. You can't do that with the Vince Lombardi trophy. It remains the most personal reward for a hard-fought regular season and playoffs, and rightfully so.
To coincide with the start of the NHL regular season, Warner Brothers has released a collection of Game 7s from the Cup Finals for the hockey fan's enjoyment and review. Spread out over seven discs (of course), the games are from the following Final series:
• 2006 Carolina Hurricanes vs. Edmonton Oilers
The games are in their original broadcast format and audio (save for the last two games, which feature the local broadcasters), which means you get a variety of full frame or 1.78:1 widescreen viewing for your pleasure. And there are some noteworthy moments in some of these games, namely that the Rangers win was their first Cup in over half a century, and Colorado's win gave a Stanley Cup title to defenseman Ray Bourque, a longtime stalwart and Hall of Famer with the Boston Bruins.
Now I know what you're saying: Ryan, you might be a nice guy and all, but those aren't all the Game 7s, there were some Game 7s played before 1987. Well, that's why there's another disc here, which includes highlights and stills from the eight other Finals which had a Game 7, before the NHL had a notable television presence.
If there was a complaint about the way the games are laid out, it's that the discs hold the games in a somewhat confusing order. Discs One and Two have the 2004 and 2006 games, and from there it moves backward, with Game 7 holding the older stuff, so know that it's a little bit screwy from that point.
Bottom line is that if you're a hockey fan, you'll want to at least see this set at some point. It is encouraging that Warner Brothers has followed the lead of A&E and is releasing more of the vintage games onto disc, so I would much rather see an unequivocal "Greatest Stanley Cup Games Collection" at some point that stretches a good way back into history, but this is a very encouraging first step.
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