82 games later ...

DAVE CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:03 PM ET

 Somebody tells me this is "Turn Off Your TV Week."

 Wrong. Obviously not hockey fans, whatever PETA-eating faction that thought that one up.

  It's the playoffs! It's more like "Leave Your TV On All Week."

 We've just sat through 82 - count 'em, 82 - games to get to see one where every shift matters. Eighty-two games. Counting to 82 gives the same thrill: There's the first 20 and the last 20. In between is like a soggy cabbage and mock-chicken sandwich.

 The playoffs are "must-see TV."

 We've got Tomas Vokoun and the pesky Predators threatening to do a J.S. Giguere on the billionaire Red Wings' butts. (No offence to Steve Yzerman.)

 We've got the cities of Ottawa and Toronto hating each other as much as everywhere from Sault Ste. Marie west does.

 We've got the Blues forking out three or four times as much to Doug Weight as the Oilers use to pay him to go golfing at the same time.

 We've got Martin St. Louis making all the poolies smile. (At least the ones that didn't go all Wings as well as all Lightning.)

 We've got the Boston-cursed Bruins feebly trying to exorcise the ghost of Montreal Canadiens past. (Hey, Hab fans - get your own anthem first, then boo it.)

 And then there's the Flames. What to make of that? Alberta's Own. Our Flames!

 Does Mayor Bill call for a parade if they win?

 It's the playoffs. You got to love every minute of it. Until it's already into June and watching the Flyers clobber the Sharks doesn't seem so exciting when it's plus-20 C outside.

 But we'll deal with that when it's here.

 - - -

 The great thing about the first round - other than the intensity - is the maximum coverage we get between the CBC and TSN doubleheaders virtually every night.

 That includes all the commentary from all the retired goalies populating all those panels. And the old coaches. Except that they don't even have to be retired anymore. Mike Babcock's stint on TSN is showing that he's got a career on the tube if a couple years from now it's decided that the Ducks only had the one Cup run in them.

 I don't even have to mention the Man Who Should be Prime Minister, Don Cherry.

 - - -

 This is hardly NBA country, but the Association, like the NHL, slogs through a way-too-long season, only to come alive when it matters.

 The irony is, with TSN bailing on hockey after the first round, and Sportsnet without even that, we are in line for a lot of hoops. Even The Score is getting in on it (Celtics at Pacers, today at noon).

 Let's just hope we get as much of the Western Conference as they can give us.

 This should be a Monster Jam.

 Mighty Kevin Garnett and the T-Wolves are on a mission. Tim Duncan and the Spurs are the reigning Godzillas until proven otherwise. Shaq vs. Yao should be fun.

 Soap opera or not, the Lakers are the Lakers. Court TV or not Court TV, Kobe is Air Jordan when the rock's in his hands. Those last-second threes he nailed against the Blazers - to send it to OT, then to win it double-OT - were insane!

 Both are early candidates for the Highlight of the Year reels.


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