The NHL "could not have asked for a better script" for the Stanley Cup Playoffs following the lockout at the beginning of the season, and the momentum from the postseason likely will "spill over into what should be an amazing season next year with multiple outdoor games," according to ESPN.com's Scott Burnside. The league and the NHLPA next season would be smart to "put all of this behind them in terms of the labor problems and readily use the strong playoff season as a catapult into what should be a very successful and very lucrative season for them." ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald said the NHL "should be proud of the way that it did fix itself this season, and it's going to be phenomenal moving forward." Burnside noted with the league likely to participate in the Sochi Games next February, it has "framed some of these outdoor games to bookend the Olympic experience." The NHL would "like to take advantage of the Olympic tournament," and the six outdoor games scheduled for '13-14 "will help to jumpstart the last part of the season after the Olympics." Meanwhile, ESPN's Craig Custance said having the Blackhawks-Bruins Stanley Cup Final was "absolutely huge" for the NHL. The two teams have "two of the biggest fan bases in the league," and the Blackhawks' local TV ratings were "drawing at levels that were comparable to the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls." Custance: "That to me can't be understated. And it's not just the markets, it's the marquee players that are involved" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 6/25).
WORTH THE WAIT: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes under the header, "Blackhawks-Bruins Best Stanley Cup Final I've Seen." Because this Stanley Cup Final is "so fresh, was so dramatic, ebbed and flowed for long stretches that made it appear certain that one team was taking control only for the other to come back and match their opponent, I am trying to find a final series in the 46 years I have watched Cup finals ... that was better than this year’s Chicago-Boston series." There have been "better individual games." Certainly there have been "better individual performances." But what there "hasn’t been is better drama" (TORONTO SUN, 6/26). SPORTS ON EARTH's Joe DeLessio wrote in the aftermath of the Blackhawks' win, the lockout "is a distant memory." What will be remembered "by those who lived through it was this was a great Cup Final" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 6/25).
SHOULD SHORTER SEASON BE CONSIDERED? In Tampa, Tom Jones writes under the header, "Shorter Proves Better For Abbreviated NHL Season." Jones: "Maybe, just maybe, a lockout-shortened season made for an exciting postseason." Ultimately, when it "comes to sports seasons, less is more." Fewer games "make for better games." This NHL season, including playoffs, "still lasted more than five months." A normal NHL season "drags on for about eight months," which is a "really long time." There are times when it "feels as if the season is crawling with far too many meaningless games." The overall product and the "health of the game are more important than doing a little math to compare today's players to players from yesteryear" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/26). ESPN's Custance acknowledged the higher TV ratings and strong attendance figures the league had this season, but noted permanently shortening the season was not "anything the league was considering." Custance: "There's a lot of money to be made over the course of a long season" ("OTL," ESPN, 6/25).
TIRED OF THE BOOS? NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was once again booed as he took the ice to present the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy following Blackhawks-Bruins Game 6. ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted it was a "fabulous crowd" at TD Garden and fans "only turned surly after the game at the sight" of Bettman. ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said Bettman has to "go out there," but he can surround himself "with people who deflect the boos." Kornheiser: "If this is a series between Boston and Chicago, you go out there with Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull. You've got to have a wing man. David Stern goes out there with Bill Russell" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/25).
SLAMMED SHUT: In N.Y., Larry Brooks reported the NHL on Monday "moved to close a loophole left in the allegedly airtight collective bargaining agreement by notifying general managers the league would deem re-signing a player following a trade and a subsequent amnesty buyout as circumvention, and thus would not register the contract." It is believed the Lightning and Maple Leafs had "discussed such a maneuver regarding" Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier. The NHL "obviously perceived this -- or any similar scheme -- as a loss for the integrity of the labor agreement spawned by Owners’ Lockout III" (N.Y. POST, 6/26).