There are several stories about the Nashville Predators - Winnipeg Jets game tonight. Looking just at the headlines, you might be forgiven for thinking there are actually two games. The first game is life-or-death, played on a razor’s edge where every decision might spell destiny or disaster for each of the teams desperately vying for a chance at the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final. You know, the kind of game that makes playoff hockey so exciting to watch, even if it isn’t your team’s fate on the line.
The other game is just a regular ol’ hockey game.
Really though, there’s only one game taking place tonight. Care to take a guess which of them it is?
I understand why the second narrative rears its head. Coaches and players very often are quoted as saying things like, “We’ve just got to play this game like any other,” or “I don’t think about the stakes. I just try to win like any other game.” It makes sense. If players and coaches actually considered what a game like tonight meant every moment of the game, they’d be paralyzed. There’s no time on the ice to consider all that every time the puck comes your way.
But that doesn’t mean the game is the same. Players play harder. Coaches yell louder. Fans hold their breath in anticipation every breakaway and power play. So the “this game is just like any other” rings false. It might be a useful mental tool for the players to focus on their game, but for almost everybody else, it doesn’t have any credibility. Can we just abandon the tired premise already?
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