the Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to its first Stanley Cup Finals
after beating Philadelphia Saturday, INCH ECAC scribe Joe Gladziszewski
and I discussed the upcoming series between the Lightning and
the champions of the Western Conference, the upstart Calgary Flames,
in a suburban Washington, D.C., hotel.
first conclusion: this series wouldn’t be a television ratings
bonanza in the U.S. In fact, you could almost hear Sonys across
the nation clicking off as the final seconds of the Eastern Conference
Finals wound down in St. Petersburg.
products Martin St. Louis (left) and Eric Perrin are four
wins from their first Stanley Cup.
– and more important – conclusion, courtesy of Mr.
Gladziszewski: put the Lightning and Flames in plain black and
plain white sweaters and hockey fans from coast to coast would
be talking about the prospect of seven games of back-and-forth,
pedal-to-the-floor action about to take place.
One can even
take that thought another step further. Outfit these outfits in
jerseys emblazoned with the logos of, say, the Red Wings and the
Rangers, and we’d be buzzing about the start of a series
that could be one for the ages.
small market – or in Calgary’s case, no market –
trappings the 2004 Finals should be the antithesis of last year’s
Anaheim-New Jersey series, a seven-game yawner that produced enough
memorable moments for a 15-minute highlight video…and that’s
if all the clips were shown in slow motion. This time around,
we’ll be treated to teams that forecheck aggressively (at
least by today’s standards), aren’t afraid to take
chances offensively and boast a bevy of young, skilled players.
As hockey fans, that’s what we want, right?
hurt that the college ranks are well represented in this series
by a number of players who boast great storylines. No one outside
of Jessica Simpson has generated more buzz than former Vermont
standout Martin St. Louis – the Lightning star, who started
his NHL career in Calgary, is a favorite for both the Hart and
Conn Smythe trophies – over the last couple months. Calgary’s
Craig Conroy, a Clarkson alum and 10-year NHL vet, has bounced
back from a disappointing regular season and is among the postseason
scoring leaders with 15 points in 19 games.
Jordan Leopold, who won a national championship at Minnesota two
years ago, is on the verge of winning another title due in no
small part to his breakout sophomore campaign which earned him
a spot on the U.S. entry into the 2004 World Cup. Miami product
Dan Boyle, like Leopold, has been terrific on the Lightning blue
line – witness his +8 plus-minus rating and seven points
in the playoffs. Heck, you can even throw your support behind
a coach (Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella played at Maine) or
an owner (Calgary’s Harley Hotchkiss skated for Michigan
State) with college ties.
about picking sides. In fact, unless you’ve previously aligned
your allegiances with either Calgary or Tampa Bay, just watch
this year’s Cup finals as a fan. Don’t worry if the
rest of the country chooses not to watch with you. We’ll
keep what should be a gem of a series our little secret.