NHL Playoff Teams As Literary Genres
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Here’s a look back through the narratives of the 16 NHL playoff teams and their would-be literary genres, if committed to paper.
First Round Eliminations:
AVALANCHE — Experimental Poetry
The Avalanche were going for something a little different this year. They really pushed the #WhyNotUs hashtag and wanted us all to believe that a meteoric rise from bottom of the league to top in one season was possible in one season. They tried out new ideas — pulling the goalie minutes before most teams would dare — and it was inspiring when it worked. Even when it didn’t work, we were glad someone was doing it. But that’s the thing about experiments; most are doomed to fail.
Team Quote: “Rain wasp nest beautiful milk whose piglets we are.” — Aimé Cesaire, Solar Throat Slashed
See also (for good examples): Bibliographic Sound Track, Public Figures, The Black Automaton, Negro League Baseball
BLUE JACKETS — Sci-Fi
This story may have given us a prescient glimpse of hockey future. They didn’t make it out of the first round, but Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, and Cam Atkinson showed us the faces of NHL future. They gave the Penguins all they could handle.
Team Quote: “Belief is the wound that knowledge heals” — Ursula K Le Guin, The Telling
See also: The Handmaid’s Tale, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, The Left Hand of Darkness
BLUES — Theater of the Absurd
The only conclusion to draw from the Blues’ season is that existence and order are without meaning. You can have one of the best teams all season, trade for one of the best goalies (Ryan Miller), and start the playoffs by getting the jump defending champions, but logic does not exist here. Everything is meaningless. Blues fans will continue to wait along the side of the road, hoping that Lord Stanley arrives with Godot.
Team Quote: “We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?” — Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
See also: The Birthday Party, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
FLYERS — Black Comedy
Only in real life does a team as good as the Flyers have a season with so few rewards or bright spots. It’s almost comical how few bounces went their way. Claude Giroux wound up having an outstanding season, but a slow start meant he missed out on a spot on the Gold Medal-winning Canadian Olympic team. Coach Peter LaViolette was canned after just three games. The team went 0–3 and LaViolette was shown the door comically early into the 2013–14 season. Despite some ups and downs (and an injury to their starting goaltender) they overcame adversity and made the playoffs, only to lose in the first round. It’s only funny from the outside.
Team Quote: “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” — William Goldman, The Princess Bride
See also: The Bottle Factory Outing, The Rise & Fall of the Queen of Suburbia, The Futurological Congress
LIGHTNING & STARS — YA Fiction
Both the Stars and the Lightning played out a coming-of-age story. They didn’t reach great heights, but they showed a lot of promise and we all learned a little something about ourselves along the way. Both teams will be back with young rosters full of talent — Palat, Johnson, and Stamkos; Benn, Seguin, and Roussel — next season and should prove to have more success than this season.
Team Quote: “Have you ever noticed you can’t get away from yourself? There is no way to get away from oneself. You’re always there with you.” — Geoff Herbach, Stupid Fast
See also: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Harry Potter, Hunger Games
RED WINGS — Novel In Stories
So many independent threads were woven together here. Pavel Datsuyk battling injury. Henrik Zetterberg getting injured in the Olympics. Young players like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist stepping up into prominent roles. Unfortunately, like most novels in stories, the Red Wings storywas not greater than the sum of its parts.
Team Quote: “When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time but just weren’t facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be. You will feel like you have been kicked in the stomach.” — Molly Ringwald, When It Happens To You
See also: And Yet They Were Happy, Drowning Tucson, A Girls Guide to Hunting & Fishing
SHARKS — Apocalyptic Novel
Is there any other way to explain the epic collapse of San Jose this year? Picked by many to win the Cup, they went up 3–0 on the Kings in the first round and then lost four straight. Now GM Doug Wilson says he’s going to blow up the team. Like the Man and his Son in The Road, there’s a bleak journey ahead that will involve losing many people along the way. Dan Boyle and Martin Havlat have already been picked off by whatever monsters are out beyond the fence.
Team Quote: “Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave.” — Cormac McCarthy, The Road
See also: The Last Man, Zone One, Blindness
Second Round Eliminations
BRUINS — Hard Boiled Fiction
The Bruins never die. They’re always in the thick of things with an entirely unlikable cast of anti-heroes. Milan Lucic’s threat to the Canadiens’ Dale Weise in the handshake line looms large in this reading, but there are plenty of reasons to hate the Bruins besides that, including that they’re really good and probably beat your team.
Team Quote: “They had a hell of a time.” — Jim Thompson, The Grifters
See also: Devil in a Blue Dress, The Heat’s On
DUCKS — Choose- Your Own Adventure
In many ways, the Ducks’ journey to second round elimination was a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. They made their own storylines that didn’t quite reflect how the rest of us chose to read the story, complaining in the first round that Dallas was being too physical. They got to the end of Game 6 against the Stars and decided they’d overcome a two-goal deficit in the game’s closing moments to win the series. They chose a different goaltender every night, ultimately believing that their 20-year-old goaltender — who will be a rookie next season — would lead them to victory. It seemed like a fairy tale-esque path. He got a shutout in game 1. They won two straight. Then he allowed four goals on 18 shots, got pulled, and they lost the series. Unfortunately, all decisions are final. There’s no turning back to try out a different option.
Team quote: “If you selected A, please turn to page 78…”
See also: Anything where a man in a space suit is holding a sword in a jungle on the cover, or there’s the impression that a character may have just time traveled to their current location.
PENGUINS — Fairy Tale/Fable
They weathered more games missed due to player injuries than any team in the league, but they appeared nonetheless dominant throughout the season. They entered the playoffs with a healthy Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Everything was in place for this fairy tale, but it’s easy to forget that most fairy tales have pretty dark endings. This one ends with its authors — Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma — being fired.
Team Quote: “A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.” — Aesop
See also: original versions of Little Red Riding Hood and The Boy Who Cried Wolf
WILD — Magical Realism
The Wild almost entered the realm of the surreal when they (kind of) gave Chicago a run for their money. But it stopped short of surrealism. It was just a little bit of magic in an otherwise mundane series. They took great strides forward this season — and likely will again next year, but reality is cruel.
Team Quote: “Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away.” — Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
See also: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Conference Championship Eliminations
BLACKHAWKS — Existentialist Fiction
Sometimes no matter what you do or how hard you try, you fall victim to the absurdity of life. Sorry, Chicago. C’est la vie. Can you watch their season and not think of poor Grendel?
Team Quote: “They watch on, evil, incredibly stupid, enjoying my destruction. ‘Poor Grendel’s had an accident,’ I whisper. ‘So may you all.’” — John Gardner, Grendel
See also: Nausea, The Stranger, The Woman in the Dunes
CANADIENS — Historical Fiction
The Canadiens tried to take an old classic — the destiny-bound Canadiens team — and rewrite it for our modern times. The new version didn’t stick to the script and is getting mixed reviews — especially in Montreal, but it was entertaining to watch.
Team Quote: “The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really.” — Hilary Mantell, Bring Up the Bodies
See also: Gone With the Wind, Wolf Hall, The Name of the Rose
Stanley Cup Finalists
KINGS — Modernism
They’re succinct. To the point. No wasted effort. They’re Cormac McCarthy on skates. It’s heavy hockey and they do it over and over and over.
Team Quote: “She always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.” — Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
See also: To the Lighthouse, The Making of Americans, As I Lay Dying
RANGERS — Romance
The Rangers journey to the Cup Finals has been an unlikely one. The nice guy in a room full of bravado. They’ve packed in all the melodrama a season can hold: the return of Dominic Moore after his wife’s death, the team banding together after the death of Martin St. Louis’ mother during the playoffs, trading away their team captain, bringing in a new coach to start the season, starting the season 2–6, and going down 1–3 to the Penguins in the second round.
Team Quote: “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
See also: Any book that has a painted cover with a man who looks like Fabio.