The Stanley Cup was won last night by the Chicago Blackhawks. They won the cup in six games after a frantic end to the game which saw them turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory in the final 2 minutes of play. That is an amazing accomplishment as the visiting team, but that's not what this post is about.
The NHL (and hockey in general) has a great (almost unheard of elsewhere) tradition for the end of playoff series. The two teams will line up at center ice and shake hands. It's a formal lining up and a nod to the hard work both teams put into the series. No one skips it. In fact, while watching this display of sportsmanship my wife asked what would happen if someone skipped it. I said that the guy's teammates would probably pummel him. That's how much it means to the game.
Watching the opposing side celebrate right after the final horn sounds cannot be easy. I would bet that most players want to get off the ice and away from the celebration that slipped their grasp. However, there were the Boston Bruins players and coaches waiting for the handshake. Boston's team captain Zdeno Chara led his side's handshake. I'm sure that is not an easy task for the captain, but to see him congratulate the Blackhawks is something we don't always see in other sports. Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks captain, in turn congratulated the Bruins in a heartfelt manner.
There was no taunting, no "no time for losers, cause we are the champions", no "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah"s. There was respect, There was "great game", "good job", "congratulations" all around. Hockey may not be the most popular sport in the US, but it does have the tradition of putting aside the competitiveness of what happened in the game to congratulate the other team, whether you won or lost.