This year, the hockey playoffs are better than the basketball playoffs. . . .
Even David Stern could tell you that. . . .
Seventeen Stanley Cup playoff games have been decided in sudden death overtime--the most exciting way ever devised to end a sporting event. . . .
Five games have been decided in double overtime, including the concluding games of both conference championship series. . . .
The Eastern Conference series won by the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils in the third double overtime game was among the greatest ever in hockey. . . .
Traditionalists will argue that the quality of play is nowhere near what it was when there were six teams in the NHL instead of 26. . . .
However, the dilution of talent because of expansion has been offset to a great extent by the influx of European stars. . . .
It used to be that only players near the end of their careers in the Soviet bloc countries would be allowed to sign with NHL teams. . . .
But now there are more good young Russians playing in the NHL than for the national team in the Olympic Games and world championships. . . .
One of them, 23-year-old right wing Pavel Bure, is the key to the underdog Vancouver Canucks’ chances against the Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals that begin today at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN. . . .
Bure, who leads playoff goal scorers with 13, is similar in style to the old Montreal Canadiens roadrunner, Yvan Cournoyer. . . .
The Rangers, in pursuit of their first Cup since 1940, shocked the league on trade deadline day when they made five deals even though they had the best record in the league. . . .
One of the trades looked pretty good late Friday night when Stephane Matteau, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, scored the goal at the 84:24 mark that gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory over New Jersey and put them in the finals. . . .
The night before, late in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ pedestrian victory over Indiana, the Madison Square Garden crowd chanted, “Let’s Go, Rangers.”. . . .
Cal Ripken, who began his major league career in 1981, has never been on the disabled list. Brother Billy, whose career began in 1987, has been on the list nine times. . . .
What team was the deepest ever at shortstop? The Norfolk, Va., Naval Training Station team during World War II. Phil Rizzuto was the starter and Pee Wee Reese the reserve. . . .
Vin Scully on the unshaven look sported by several Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday night: “Some of these guys look like they arrived on a raft.” . . .
Beach balls ought to be banned from ballparks. . . .
In that epic home run battle, the Montreal Expos lead Ken Griffey, 26-22. . . .
If the playoffs began today, the wild-card entries would be Montreal in the National League and Boston in the American. . . .
The Dodgers are one of the few major league teams that haven’t made any uniform changes in recent years, but I wish they would change the script on their road grays from “Dodgers” to “Los Angeles.” . . .
It took the Detroit Tigers 46 games this season to hold an opponent to fewer than two runs. . . .
The team that was ranked No. 1 in the national polls, Clemson, didn’t qualify for the College World Series. . . .
The Minnesota Vikings will be well-stocked with Heisman Trophy-winning backup quarterbacks at training camp--Andre Ware and Gino Torretta. . . .
NFL teams looking for new coaches in 1995 probably will be able to choose from Jimmy Johnson, Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka, among others. . . .
Another Bure, younger brother Valeri, is a left wing in the Montreal farm system. . . .
If George Foreman signs to challenge heavyweight champion Michael Moorer, a weight incentive might be included in Foreman’s contract. Anything under, say, 240 pounds would be rewarded. . . .
The MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas is a good place to watch a fight, but every crowd thus far has been disappointing. . . .
Emerson Fittipaldi would have been the first repeat winner at Indy since Al Unser Sr., father of you-know-who, in 1971. . . .
I still can’t get used to the sight of Byron Scott in an Indiana Pacers’ uniform. . . .
Eleven years ago today, the Lakers were swept by Philadelphia in the NBA finals. I’m sure Jerry Buss would have settled for that this year. . . .
After watching Roy Jones bomb Thomas Tate in the second round Friday night, Sugar Ray Leonard said: “Right now, I want to challenge Jones. . . . on the golf course.”