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Ice scream

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

Women scream.

And I don't just mean for their team – "Let's Go Bruins" for instance – although they do that too.

I mean the horrifying, bloodcurdling screams of fans who cannot bear to see what terrible thing may happen next. Like if they were watching a guy attempt to tightrope across Niagara Falls.

The cause of all this angst is just a bouncing puck in your team's end of the ice, just an opposing winger getting the lightest bit of space, just the wonderful unpredictability of Game 7 playoff hockey.

Two such games – Montreal-Boston and Calgary-Vancouver – take place on Monday night.

Hockey has proven difficult for the American masses to latch on to. No matter how many screwball towns commissioner Gary Bettman expands the league to, the sport has struggled to add fans outside its core base.

Bettman's expansion plan has been the near-ruin of the league, watering down the quality of play, ignoring tradition and diluting rivalries. But his thought process was sound.

Get America to watch a Game 7, hear the women scream from the upper sections, sit on the edge of its collective seat for hours (if at all) and how could the nation not get hooked on hockey?

(Interestingly, and maybe not coincidentally, Canada's CBC Television does a much better job incorporating crowd noise into its broadcasts than the vain U.S. networks, where it is all about the announcer blather.)

Hockey perfectly lends itself to do-or-die games, which may be why the relatively meaningless regular season can be so boring. But in a one-and-done deal, hockey's back-and-forth nature, its anything-can-happen-at-any-point style of play makes it the most thrilling contest in sport we know.

Seriously, where else do women scream?

In baseball the defensive team can never immediately become the offensive team and score the winning run. Once you get that struggling pitcher off the mound you can breathe easy for half an inning.

Basketball is basically a possession-by-possession sport, full of timeouts, huddles and designed plays. Football games are filled with "drives" and games often are decided by kickers whom opposing coaches try to "ice" with timeouts.

Each sport produces stirring endings, but not the sudden victory/sudden death that hockey can, especially if a Game 7 goes to overtime.

Then you can hit the crossbar at one end of the ice and lose the game four seconds later at the other. It is that quick. It is that wild. It is that impossible to foresee. One second you just about win, and the next the opposing team is jumping the boards and mobbing some Canadian with a beard.

Which is why any time the puck gets anywhere near a net, especially by the third period of a tight game, someone starts screaming over the possibility it is going to go all wrong. Hockey is, in essence, a game of turnovers. Teams rarely control the puck for more than 15 seconds, except on the power play.

The game hangs in the uncontrollable balance the rest of the time.

"You just can't control bounces and weird goals," New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said last spring.

Which puts everything on the line. Which is why legends and goats are made in Game 7's. The stakes are so high, the margin between advancing and golfing so small, this is when players become stars.

Monday's delectable doubleheader of Game 7's will be no different.

This is as wildly wonderful as sport can get, anything goes meets winner-take-all. You don't have to be a hockey fan to appreciate it. Just try to have a strong heart.

And listen for the late-game screams.