The Blackhawks' comeback last night against the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup "couldn't have been a more fitting end to this postseason, to this Final that revived the NHL from the clutches of near-death," according to Sarah Kwak of SI.com. The team that "ushered hockey back with a record-breaking start to this lockout-shortened season was crowned champions." The Blackhawks "capped off one of the best and most memorable Final series with an unbelievable flourish." It is "clear that the season that almost never was will also go down as one that hockey fans won't soon forget" (SI.com, 6/25). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell writes, "If you didn't enjoy this year's Stanley Cup final, there is no hope for you as a hockey fan." This display of hockey was "as good as it gets, with perhaps the exception of the Olympics." For all that was "wrong with this season and the third lockout, there was much to celebrate." When teams in "markets that matter are doing well, it's good for the entire game, the hockey world and the industry of hockey" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes the NHL season "began with some of the worst hockey imaginable and ended with perhaps the best Stanley Cup final since, well, the days of the Original Six" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/25). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes the "epic series still delivered a shocking, never-seen-anything-like-this finish." While there will be no Game 7, "you're disrespecting this great game of hockey if you can’t stand back and take a deep breath and appreciate the magnificence of what the Blackhawks accomplished." It was a "certified Instant Classic, and the NHL will be puffing its chest out over it for a long, long time" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/25).
TOP OF ITS GAME: YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika notes NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walked onto the ice after the game "and the boos began." But Bettman then "handed the silver chalice" to Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews and "disappeared." The "boos turned to cheers," and "this is why the NHL prospers despite itself." Cotsonika: "This is why the owners and players could get away with fighting about money, shutting down their league, shortening the schedule. This is why they returned to packed houses and high TV ratings and all that hockey-related revenue. Because despite the business and the BS, there is nothing like the NHL at its best" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/25). Meanwhile, SPORTSNET.ca’s Chris Johnston writes the handshake between Toews and Bettman was “almost too perfect.” All of the “hate and hurt and bad feelings that enveloped the NHL a few months ago was long gone by the time the Stanley Cup was presented” last night. Johnston writes of Toews, “It wasn’t all that long ago when he would never dream of doing such a thing.” Johnston: “In fact, none of the game’s top players was more outspoken than Toews during [the lockout] -- and much of his criticism was directed right at Bettman” (SPORTSNET.ca, 6/25).
SOCHI ALMOST SET: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports NHL players are "expected to play" at the '14 Sochi Games. It is "not official yet, so none of the principals are commenting for the record, as the deal between" the NHL, NHLPA, IOC and the IIHF is "now in the hands of the lawyers." They are "hashing out the details, which might produce a snag, but there are hopes a formal agreement can be produced within two weeks." The "major hurdle was cleared a while ago, when the IOC was convinced by the NHL and NHLPA to open its massive wallet and pay the lion’s share of the costs of shutting the North American league down for two weeks and bringing the players to Russia." This includes the "most expensive item -- insurance on the NHL players’ contracts in case of injury -- but also a host of other issues of equal importance to management as well as the players" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/25).