As the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoff continue one thing is very noticeable… fans being back in buildings throughout the United States. And while buildings are being packed south of the border, in Canada, the most fans a Canadian city has seen is 2500 inside and that is at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Outside of the Bell Centre after a Canadiens victory, people are celebrating in the streets. But having fans back in buildings are making the playoffs more enjoyable to watch. We all understood why fans were not allowed during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Something was missing. Having fans back for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs has made the playoffs more enjoyable and the players are feeding off the excitement in the building.
Take for instance the atmosphere inside Nassau Coliseum. You have to experience it to believe it. There will never be another place like the Coliseum. And the Islanders are feeding off the energy that is in the building. During Game 4 between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins, the house was a rockin’ and Saturday Night was Alright for Fightning. Game 4 of the East Division Final was one the best games of the playoffs and it had to do with the atmosphere inside the building. Players from both teams fed off the energy inside the building. Every hit had more force behind it and there were at least three fights. Something we normally do not see in the playoffs. And the Islanders have a clear home-ice advantage playing at home.
While the Coliseum has its own uniqueness, another team clearly benefiting from fans in the building is Montreal. Whose is to say they win Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round without fans in the stands. The players want to hear the Bell Centre full and packed to capacity. But the 2,500 fans in the building is making it sound like 25,000. And the players, especially the younger ones are feeding off that energy. That is what makes the playoffs so good. Having the energy from the crowd. It’s something these players missed during the regular season.
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It took some time but we are getting to see full buildings again across the NHL. Vegas, Carolina, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Long Island are having full capacity, if not, close to full capacity buildings. In the first round, fans were lucky enough to hear two of the louder buildings in the league go against each other when the Hurricanes took on the Predators. PNC Arena and Bridgestone Arena each offer their own unique atmosphere. And the chants Predators come up for the visiting team are some of the best in the league. And the Caniacs are some of the die-hard fans in the league. They constantly make noise throughout the game.
Every team uses their fans to their advantage. Like Vegas, if they are able to get a lead early, that wild crowd is into and makes it hard for the visiting team to recover. You could clearly see watching the first round of the playoffs the difference between the North Division and everyone else. With no fans, the games were boring and not as exciting. The games in the States, you saw life from the players and the fans.
Having fans back is the best thing the NHL could have hoped for this year for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is a sign of normalcy but makes the difference between a team winning and losing.