Not pictured: mental stability, dignity

Not pictured: mental stability, dignity

The NHL playoffs can be a stressful and scary time. The nature of hockey allows things to change in an instant. Change is scary. Then there’s the unpredictability of the NHL playoffs (see: Kings, Los Angeles). The unknown is scary. Then you have overtime which is literally called “sudden death” which, I mean, come on.

The worst of the worst when it comes to hockey stress is what I like to refer to as “red line stress.” Red Line Stress is pretty simple, whenever the opposing team carries the puck over the red line, you start to feel like you’re going to die a little bit. True Red Line Stress begins as the game starts and doesn’t stop unless your team is up like 7-0 or something. Overtime Red Line Stress is a whole other bucket of screaming cats. It’s the best/worst thing a fan can experience in hockey. Do all y’all North Americans remember how you felt during overtime of the 2010 Gold Medal game? Wasn’t that amazing and horrifying all at the same time? The playoffs are like that but potentially 28 times. Super fun. Here’s some tips on how to get out alive. Maybe.

1) It Could Be Worse

I don’t mean in the “I could be in Darfur” it could be worse sense because obviously, I mean in every day life. It’s hockey. It’s fun, it’s meaningless, try not to let the stress get out of control. Thing is, though, as fans it inevitably will get out of control. And that’s okay. That’s part of the game. To keep perspective, here are some things you could be doing that are far worse than experiencing playoff overtime:

* Eating sushi from 7-11.

* Reading the comments section of Sports Illustrated’s story on Jason Collins.

* Watching any of the movies Bourne and I will be forced to watch come season’s end.

* Cheering for the Philadelphia Flyers (kidding. Sorta.)

* Spending time at IKEA.

* Watching seasons 1-9 of According to Jim and then rewatching said seasons with the director’s commentary.

See? It could be worse.

2) Go Buy A Scratch Ticket

Lottery tickets, especially scratch tickets, are a great way to get used to that “I’d really like to win but I know I’m not going to” feeling. Of the 16 teams in the playoffs, I’d say that fans of, oh, I don’t know….11 of those teams should get to know this feeling, accept it, and go about their day. Anything positive that happens in the playoffs is just a bonus.

3) Avoid Past Glories

You know how there are all those great sports montages & documentaries of teams making a great run towards the finals. You know the ones I mean. You see highlights of goals, players getting pumped up afterwards, high fives in the dressing room, people yelling “woo,” fans jumping up and down, etc. This is admittedly a great way to get excited for the playoffs. “Hey, imagine if my team could do that!” Don’t get caught up in it. All it will do is raise your expectations and hopes and only make the games that much more stressful. “I want to experience that so bad,” you’ll tell yourself. Then the 7 seed wins game one in overtime and all bets are off for your sanity. What if that wonderful documentary is never made about your favorite team? Just skip it.

4) Delusion

Delusion can be a powerful ally to the stressed and the sad. “Oh, that girl/guy I like is just really busy and that’s why he/she doesn’t answer his/her phone when I call.” “My team can totally win the Stanley Cup, weirder things have happened.” “Oh, please, G.I Joe is a great movie. It’s Marlon Wayans fighting Doctor Who, how did this not win 17 Oscars?” Living in a world of delusion can make anything seem possible. Forget the fatalism that comes with being a sports fan or a fan of a team that has a less than legitimate chance to hoist the Cup. Think it, love it, believe it. As the great George Costanza once said, “it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

5) Focus On The Other Horrible Things In Your Life

Life is hard, man. Unless you’re one of those people who is an “optimist” (also known as a liar), there’s probably something other than hockey you can focus on. Doesn’t really matter what it is, it just keeps things in perspective. This is kind of the strange counsin to step 2. There are so many things in life that can and will get you down so much more than a hockey game.

6) Remember That, One Day, You’re Going To Die

Huh. This took a weird, dark turn somewhere.

Playoffs!