The Stanley Cup is considered the most difficult trophy to win in all professional sports.
Four different seven-game series, over the span of two months, provide the path to eternal glory. One small mistake can lead to your downfall, and one tiny move can win it all. The Stanley Cup playoffs are a two-month battle to the top of the mountain, for the chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Chalice.
It’s not an easy mountain to stay on top of, and it’s not a simple peak to climb. Ray Bourque waited 21 years to win the first and only Stanley Cup of his illustrious Hall of Fame career. In his final game in the league, Bourque received Hockey’s Holy Grail from Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic. In a moment etched into the minds of hockey fans across the nation, Raymond Bourque raised the cup over his head, his quest for glory complete.
There’s also those who make winning Hockey’s ultimate prize look like child’s play. The Islanders of the early-80s created a dynasty in Nassau County, putting Long Island on the map by planting their flag in New York’s sports landscape. The Edmonton Oilers of the late 1980s, led by the Great One himself, proved that teamwork does in fact make the dream work.
Those two teams, both juggernauts in the history of hockey, faced each other in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, where the Islanders swept Gretzky’s Oilers.
But instead of feeling defeated, Gretzky found a new level of determination, in the unlikeliest of places: The opposing team’s locker room.
“We lost Game 3 and Game 4, and [at Nassau Colliseum], the locker rooms were such that the visiting team has to walk by the home team to get on the bus. So I remember saying, ‘Wow, this is going to be the worst walk of my life.’ We were a brash, young group. We would have been going crazy obviously.
“But I walk by the locker room, and it was sort of quiet, and obviously, there were celebrations going on, but we were taken aback by how physically, mentally they were beat up. And I think walking by that locker room really did so much for our team. I remember going to training camp and saying ‘Listen, we can’t just play anymore. We need to be beat-up to win the Stanley Cup.’ We always said the success we had, was our respect for the New York Islanders and what we learned out of it.”
The following year, Gretzky would win his first Cup with Edmonton, beginning one of hockey’s most prestigious dynasties.
And tonight, two more teams begin the final stage of their quest for immortality, their fight to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s the Dallas Stars against the Tampa Bay Lightning, another one for the history books.
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