Clinched. The word has a nice ring to it.
Over the past few days, those in the Vancouver Canucks community have been able to finally use this word again; they have clinched a playoff spot. Last season was the first time since 2007-08 that the Canucks did not qualify for the playoffs, but there is no doubt that Canucks fans miss seeing their team play in one of the most exciting and grueling sports competitions.
The Canucks, who have one game remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, are in fairly good shape heading into the playoffs. Goalie Eddie Lack has had some good games while Ryan Miller has sat out injured, and the Canucks have had a series of close games (and wins) against highly-ranked teams. Monday night’s game against the LA Kings almost felt like a playoff game – it was fast, intense, and close, with the Canucks trailing by one for most of the game before tying it up and taking it to extra time. While tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers will celebrate the improved upon regular season the Canucks had this year, the focus is now on the first round of the playoffs.
Many things have changed over time – nature, people, trends, technology. But the thrill of the NHL playoffs and the competition for the Stanley Cup certainly has not. The post-season is especially exciting for the Vancouver-based hockey pool site Officepools.com, even more so now that their hometown team will have a post-season once again.
“Literally you cannot sit down at your TV and not have a game in front of you during the first few rounds,” said David Miller, president of Officepools. “I absolutely love the fact that you can sort of get into that live and breathe hockey mode … It’s a bit like the Olympics or something, that special event, and everyone gathers around, and there’s this renewed, absolutely fantastic [atmosphere].”
As a Vancouver-based company, there is certainly some hope that the Canucks will do well in the post-season, but for Miller and those at Officepools, the playoffs are also exciting because games between NHL teams were close this year, and almost anything could happen. Highly-ranked teams could get upset early on and underdog teams could make it to the Finals. This year there is also a fair number of Canadian teams in the first round as well. Last season only Montreal made it to the post-season, while this year it will be Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
The thrill of the NHL playoffs has survived decades of ups and downs and changes throughout much of society, like shifts in technology and consumer needs and preferences. For Officepools, which was founded in 1995, adapting themselves to current trends has been a crucial aspect in thoroughly serving hockey pool users and fans.
Since Officepools’ beginnings, hockey pools have moved from pen and paper to computers and mobile phones. Today people expect real-time results, and online advertising has squeezed its way into all types of websites and applications. Email blasts, chatting features (or “trash talking” on Officepools) and streaming media have all become part of sites like Officepools.
“We’ve done a fair amount of re-architecture and growth to meet the times and now we’re very focused on expanding the types of games, the sports that people are focused in, and the venues where they play, so it’s not just on your computer anymore, it’s on your mobile, you may find it in companies, you may find it in charities,” said Miller.
But for Miller and others at Officepools, many of whom first got interested in hockey pools in highschool, the thrill of the game and the playoffs was just as strong when they first stepped out on the ice as a kid as it is now. To continue to feed this excitement, Officepools strives to engage the communities they serve and create a personal, hands-on approach. This has led to a focus on customer support and their newest addition: side games.
“The more engaged the community is, the more fun it is,” Miller explained, “so we really began to look at the opportunity to build side games where you can have weekly games or even daily games … people can engage, and it just allows a greater set of gaming and opportunity for communication, trash talk, social networks, that sort of thing.”
As the Vancouver Canucks enter the 2015 post-season, many people are excited about once again being able to be a part of the excitement and the intensity of the NHL playoffs. The Canucks will face the Calgary Flames in an all-Canadian match-up, the first time meeting the Flames in the post-season since 2004, when the Flames knocked the Canucks out of the first round in seven games before going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing the Cup to Tampa Bay.
“Two good teams,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin told TSN about the match-up. “Big rivalry. To play in the Saddledome with the fans they have there and the sea of red and everything, I think for the young guys its going to amazing.”
Hopefully it will be amazing for the rest of the hockey community too.
“I think this is awesome, two Canadian teams,” Canuck Chris Higgins told the Vancouver Sun. “It will be my first time playing against a Canadian team in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it. Calgary is a great hockey city and a team that surprised a lot of people this year. It’s a great matchup for Canada.”