Both the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals wrapped up this week, and with them brought a pair of new champions.
I’m admittedly not an NBA fan. I think it’s a watered-down version of one of the greatest sports we’ve got. There’s so little defense in basketball, and it seems like one really good player can change the makeup of the team.
That being said, of course I was more interested in the NHL Stanley Cup finals. I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs since the Washington Capitals were both ousted in Round 1. But my ears did perk up when I figured out the St. Louis Blues could do what the Capitals did a year ago and win their first Cup.
There were a lot of similarities between the two championship series.
In the NBA, the Toronto Raptors were up against the Golden State Warriors, a powerhouse of late in the NBA, a team that seemed impossible to beat. Everyone just knew when the Raptors went up against the Warriors, it was going to be easy work for Golden State. But the Raptors fought tooth and nail, even forcing the Warriors to bring back their superstar Kevin Durant who struggled with an injury. His return was unfortunately short-lived, and it didn’t make a difference for Golden State.
Like the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals were similar. The Blues were facing off against the Boston Bruins. Although Boston isn’t necessarily a powerhouse in the NHL, especially lately, it certainly was at one point and it’s no stranger to hoisting the Cup. The Bruins have won six Stanley Cups, tied for fourth most out of any NHL team, and they’re a mainstay in the playoffs.
Both the Blues and Raptors were both expansion teams, but the Blues have been gunning for a title for much longer. The Blues were founded in 1967 while the Raptors have been around since only 1995, but no matter how long you’ve been waiting, that first championship is always one you want more than anything.
Like the Capitals a year ago, the Blues seemed like they’d never win it. Until a few days ago, they were the oldest team in the NHL without a Stanley Cup. Their destiny seemed doomed. In their first three years as a team, the Blues made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals but they were swept in all three series — one of which was by the Boston Bruins. Since then, they’ve made it to the third round only three times and could never crack their way into the Cup Finals again until 2019.
The Raptors’ case was possibly direr. Up until 2013, they had made the postseason only five times and until 2019, they made the third round just once. Every season, it was the Cleveland Cavaliers who seemingly had their numbers, as they were ousted by the Cavs three years in a row, including sweeps in the last two seasons.
But all that changed this year. And although I can’t say I’m a Blues fan and I’m definitely not a Raptors fan, I was pulling for those two teams these past couple of weeks. I knew how I felt a year ago when the Capitals finally won the Cup and how many memories those two months of playoffs gave me and my family, and I knew there had to plenty of families out there who had been waiting their whole lives to see their teams win.
Now the Blues and the Raptors faithfuls can cross that off their bucket lists; they’ll have memories to share with their grandchildren just like I did a year ago.