What a finish to the Stanley Cup Final! Everything that the NHL could have hoped for came true during the last two months. Here are a few thoughts to wrap up this series:
*The new CBA was designed to make all teams more competitive. The final ended up being a matchup of the smallest Canadian market and the second smallest US market.
*The new rules were designed to speed up the pace of the game and the overall time it takes to complete a game. The NHL was a much better product in the arena and on TV as a result.
*Edmonton was the first 8th seed to advance to the final since the current playoff format was implemented.
*The final featured the first successful penalty shot in history (Chris Pronger- game 1) and the first shorthanded overtime winner in final history (Fernando Pisani- game 5).
*Rod Brind'Amour and Glen Wesley each won their first Cups after careers that spanned well over 1,000 games.
*The Southeast Division is home to the champs for the second consecutive playoff year (Tampa Bay- '04, Carolina- '06)...are the Panthers next?
*Scoring was up over a goal a game throughout the playoffs.
*I ran into many familiar faces during the final series from my old Adirondack Red Wings days in the American Hockey League. I started my hockey broadcasting career with Adirondack and I was there from 1979-1985. Here's a list of people at the Final that I worked with way back when:
- 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford (a solid NHL goalie that spent some time in the AHL with Adirondack)
- 'Canes minor league coach Tom Rowe (a forward who could really shoot the puck, played briefly in Adirondack)
- 'Canes goalie coach Greg Stefan (another solid NHL goalie that I knew more during my early days in Detroit, but he spent some time in Adirondack)
- NBC Play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick (he was never actually with Adirondack, but my first year in the AHL was his last as the voice of the Maine Mariners...he left there in 1980 for the Flyers' job)
- ESPN analyst Barry Melrose (Barry still lives in my hometown of Glens Falls...he was near the end of his playing days when we were together in Adirondack...I left for Detroit before he returned to coach the A-Wings)
- Aaron Ward (like Stefan, I knew him more in Detroit, but he was an A-Wing)
*Speaking of old Adirondack Red Wing associates, congratulations to newly appointed Islanders' GM Neil Smith (a former Adirondack GM) and their new coach Ted Nolan (played in Adirondack from 1979 into the early '80's).
*The travel between Raleigh and Edmonton in this series wasn't easy, but the NHL's charter flights that went non-stop (about 4 1/2 hours each way) made it easier.
Well, it's been a fun ride covering the playoffs for NBC, OLN, NHL Radio and NHL International. I'm looking forward to a relaxing summer that I hope will include some good news with regards to the Panthers' 2006-07 roster. It won't be long before training camp begins and we can start another season of Florida Panthers hockey on FSN Florida.
See you in October!!