The NCAA men's basketball tournament and the entirety of March Madness are considered by many to be the pinnacle of the playoff experience in sports. And by "many" we mean "those who are too daft to understand that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are superior in nearly every way."
Apples and oranges? Pros and amateurs? Ice and hardwood? Please. If the argument is about the pure, visceral fan experience over a given period of time, then the NHL wins hands down.
Here are 64 reasons why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are better than March Madness.
Expanded the field you say?
Here are 65 reasons why …
Again? Fine: Here are the 68 reasons why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are better than March Madness.
1. The Stanley Cup Playoffs don't have some dopey play-in game in order to determine which weak sister gets sacrificed to the No. 1 seed. Instead, we help determine our playoff teams the old-fashioned way: with an All-Star game skills competition during the regular season.
2. Unlike the bald, obnoxious, know-it-all former coach who proudly flaunts his biases while providing color commentary during college basketball broadcasts, our bald, obnoxious, know-it-all former coach who proudly flaunts his biases while providing color commentary is named Pierre.
3. The NHL has beard shaving at the end of a team's season. The NCAA has point shaving to end a team's season. (Oh, don't be so naïve…)
4. There's no chance Xavier moves to Winnipeg if you don't support them.
5. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the chances decrease dramatically that the bubblehead in your office will win the tournament pool based on their intricate system of deciding which mascot would win in a fight. ("A gator vs. a wildcat? Go Florida!") Mainly because Stanley Cup Playoff pools don't exist … well, outside of Canada.
6. Our NIT is called the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. Which sounds waaaaay more official.
7. Game 7 is like the last two minutes of an NCAA tournament game if they lasted 60 minutes and an overtime.
8. With the exception of New Jersey, most of our opening-round games sell out.
9. March Madness lacks the excitement of guessing when Mike Milbury's gonna change his opinion on fighting again.
10. Don Cherry's suits put Craig Sager's to shame.
11. Stanley Cup-winning coaches don't have goofy names like Tubby or Phog or Branch. They have perfectly normal names like Punch and Toe and Badger.
12. Our tournament MVP is the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, an honor bestowed upon the greatest clutch players in the game. The NCAA tournament honors an "outstanding player," and good luck remembering the last five of them.
13. Hockey fans never worry about TV ratings being an indicator of the tournament's quality, because it's getting beaten by Discovery Health and several Korean-language channels on most nights.
14. The NHL doesn't have an overhyped, tedious, made-for-television event when its participating teams are finalized. We save our overhyped, tedious, made-for-television event for the trade deadline.
15. Hockey's honor code is slightly less indecipherable than BYU's.
16. Our madness lasts through early June. Comparing it to the duration of college basketball's madness is like comparing a driver with a brief moment of road rage with Charlie Sheen.
18. Our Cinderella teams give us a thrill early but have the good sense not to get in the way of the matchups we really want to see later in the tournament.
19. March Madness brings down levels of work productivity during the day. The Stanley Cup Playoffs keep the economy moving by playing at night (and, sometimes, into the early morning for that wonderful end of OT/beginning of morning commute transition).
20. ESPN is merely apathetic about not having the rights to the Stanley Cup Finals, instead of harboring a seething animosity about not having NCAA tournament rights.
21. Seven games is a war of attrition. One-and-done is a poor shooting night away from a lost season.
22. The only bracket we worry about busting in hockey is the one holding together the incredibly dangerous part of the rink that players love to run their opponents heads into.
23. In a league with just 30 teams, there's no way 68 can make a postseason tournament. Not that Bettman isn't working on it …
24. The only college-age kids being exploited by the league for billions in revenues are half of the Oilers.
25. Wearing an NCAA replica jersey while watching the tournament exposes the arms to the dangers of wing sauce or nacho cheese burns. The hockey sweater is, therefore, the perfect protective gear for nutritional intake during games.
26. The only appearance by a Butler in our tournament will be if Dan Ellis qualifies with the Ducks.
27. Bobby Orr's leaping goal > Christian Laettner's turnaround jumper.
29. The Cameron Crazies couldn't shine the Green Men of Vancouver's lycra.
30. In an effort to increase scoring and viewership, "goaltending" may soon be a penalty in the NHL as well.
31. Because in a world of leagues with deeply corrupt officials who will never be fired no matter how terrible they are for the league, at least in hockey you can plan accordingly because you know Colin Campbell's kid plays for the Bruins.
33. Unlike college basketball, only a small handful of NHL coaches look like used car salesmen.
34. Really, you can at least fake your way through spelling "Antero Niittymaki." Your move, Mike Kr.. Shu... Krz.. Coach K.
36. The only person that alleges recruiting violations in hockey is Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis.
37. At least the NHL tells you outright when it's giving players money.
39. Young hockey players all around the world grow up dreaming of hoist the Stanley Cup one day. Young basketball players all around the world grow up dreaming of bypassing their senior year in order to enter the NBA draft.
40. The NHL has just two conferences for you to overrate because you watch it the most.
42. This can never happen for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thank the hockey gods.
43. Our No. 1 seeds get a home-ice advantage and not sent out to Anaheim for their first round.
44. The field of 68 vs. the 16-team tournament. Due respect to the Wofford Terriers and Northern Colorado Who-Gives-A-Craps, but our party is more exclusive.
45. Hockey offers nothing as frustrating, baffling and humbling as a missed free throw.
46. If we wanted to watch a tournament and pretend to know something about teams and players we've never heard of before because everyone suddenly has to be an expert on a given sport, we'd watch World Juniors.
47. The Stanley Cup Finals were featured in both a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie and "The Love Guru." Top that, hoop nerds.
48. The NHL puts up boards and glass to keep its fans from storming the playing surface after victories. Because, you know, it's ice; nothing like a championship game ending with the human equivalent of a 27-car pile up on a Minnesota interstate.
49. The cheerleader from "Heroes" has never, to our knowledge, licked the NCAA men's basketball championship trophy.
50. Unlike in March Madness, hockey fans can locate every team in our tournament on a map. (Please note this is only valid because Ottawa and Edmonton will miss the playoffs and, frankly, we're a little iffy on Calgary. Everyone knows, however, that Vancouver is a suburb of Seattle.)
51. A fight in an NCAA game would become headline news, as the behavior of young athletes is demonized. A fight in a Stanley Cup Playoff game means it was a [expletive] awesome Stanley Cup Playoff game.
52. Our championship is presented by the beloved Gary Bettman, as the fans toss roses and candy on the ice in appreciation of his stewardship.
53. You know for sure the Stanley Cup Playoffs won't feature one team from Long Island.
55. Because when you tune in to watch a hockey game, racing enthusiasts might also get to see some Kentucky Derby talk.
56. When Stanley Cup Champions visit the White House, Obama has to not only learn their names but what sport they play. Which really keeps him on his Toews, er, Toes.
59. Ben Hansbrough hasn't once tweeted about panty soup.
60. The NCAA tournament had Tark the Shark. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have an actual shark EATING AN OCTOPUS.
61. Our white guys are tougher than your white guys.
62. More people don't know what the hell TruTV is compared to the many people that don't know what the hell Versus is.
63. Sensing fans were experiencing too much of a good thing, the NHL's owners decided to take a break from awarding the Stanley Cup for a season in 2005, with no discernable negative effects on the league.
64. We're still not sure what a Hoya is.
65. You have to play your way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not hope a committee likes your school, your coach, your boosters or married an alumnus.
67. You can't drink booze out of the NCAA tournament trophy, which looks like something a law student gets for his office wall after finishing a course on the history of Title IX.
68. No Duke.
Written by Greg Wyshynski, Ryan Lambert, Sean Leahy and J.P.