The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs often turns out to be the most exciting.

Each year one can argue that the Conference quarterfinals provide the most entertainment.

Sure if your team makes the Stanley Cup Final, obviously that championship series will hold more weight, but there are a number of factors that make the Sweet 16 the most compelling of the four rounds:

MULTIPLE GAMES EACH NIGHT: Not every game is a masterpiece, but there are a few to choose from which hold one’s interest; somewhat similar but on a smaller scale to what helps make the NFL successful on Sundays in the fall. Clicking the channel from one game to the next can add to the drama and keep the viewers on edge.

LURE OF THE UPSET: With more opportunities in the opening round, the lower ranked teams have their best chance of defeating the higher seed. In all likelihood, there is at least one stunning surprise, if not more, but we can only guess which series will produce the “shocker.”

MEMORIES ERASED: Whether you are the top seed or the team that barely qualified as an eighth seed, the first round offers one important intangible-HOPE. Yes, the memories of the 82 regular season schedule and previous playoff failures are erased as teams begin 0-0.

Pure hockey: Yes, the playoffs do not provide gimmicks like three-point games and shootouts. They compete until there is a “true” winner for as long as it takes, not a skills competition. Real overtime, with no time limit, keeps us up late but the lost sleep is worth the extra entertainment value. Usually, most overtimes occur in the first round.

More storylines: There are always players that come out of the woodwork from a mediocre regular season to blossom in the playoffs. Who will those skaters and goalies be in 2019? In addition, with eight series in the first round, that is more than the final three rounds combined. The more match-ups the more intriguing.

More Canadian teams: Most fans in this country want the Stanley Cup back in Canada after a 25-year absence (Montreal 1994). This year, there are three teams (Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto) that stand a chance following the regular season, and that number will be trimmed in future rounds. By the way, Leafs fans should really enjoy the moment since they are the least likely Canadian team to go on a run.

The Pool: Hockey pools are more fun in the opening round because all participants start at full strength. In other words, after the draft, everyone thinks they have picked the best team, but those thoughts are quickly put to rest once teams and players are eliminated. If you have 12 players on your fantasy hockey pool team to start but are quickly down to four by round two, the disappointment leads to frustration and a possible lack of caring.

The weather: Hockey is still foremost on our mind in mid-April but five or six weeks later, there’s a lawn to cut, camps to seek, sunshine to bask in and a barbecue that awaits. The hotter the temperature outside, the cooler reception to hockey inside.

The first round provides more geographical rivalries that again spark interest.

Be honest, once your favourite team(s) is eliminated, the passion to watch the other teams play lessons significantly. It is only human nature. This doesn’t mean, rounds two to four, aren’t worthy of one’s consideration especially since there is more on the line the further a team advances.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are an institution with many Canadians “catching the bug”, but there is still that mystique about the first round that offers a uniqueness that demands our special attention.


Bryce Harper and his wife are expecting their first baby. Apparently, they waited until he made sure to sign a contract for $330 Million so they would have enough money to bribe the kid’s way into the best college possible.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach

Lots of cheering fans for Lori Loughlin when she arrived for her first court appearance over allegedly bribing and cheating to get her daughters into college. Just guessing none of those folks cheering her have kids who got turned down from USC recently.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California

Johnny Manziel was seen heading into a Hollywood night club recently. His rehab counsellors call the quarterback’s move the Twelve Step Drop.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The U.S. Checkers Championship was held in Medina, Ohio, with 41 players competing for $6,000 in prize money. Tournament organizers, still tallying up the gate receipts, say it’s much too early to tell whether the tournament finished in the red or in the black.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times


NBC added Danica Patrick to their Indy 500 coverage to tap into her “years of racing experience.” Great. With her experience, she’ll drop out of the broadcast before the midway mark.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie