There was a time, not too long ago, that Ryan Reaves wondered if the NHL wanted him anymore. The league has been turning to smaller and faster players over the past decade. Fighting has, organically, come out of vogue. Reaves — a thick 6-foot-1, 225-pound winger, the son of a professional running back, a player who earned his ticket through grit — began asking: Are hockey players like me becoming extinct?
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For a few summers in the NHL, Reaves trained solely in the boxing ring. He’d spar for hours and throw weights around so I could fight 250-pound guys, he said. And then he realized: Those guys are gone, so now I’ve got to get a little quicker. I’ve got to add a little skill to my game. You’ve got to be able to play and not take penalties, and contribute and play responsible in the D-zone.

And there he was, on Sunday night, walking up to the victors’ podium for a news conference alongside Marc-Andre Fleury, clutching a cardboard box of pepperoni pizza (half-eaten) with a grin on his face. He looked at the podium and said: I can’t believe they even had one of these name cards made up for me. Later that night, he found out his stick would be shipped to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Although a first-year team making this kind of playoff run is the stuff of underdog legend, Cooper said the Knights’ success is easy to comprehend, if not exactly predictable. It starts with owner Bill Foley, GM George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant.

Elite Mens Mike Williams Jersey It’s a success story is what it is. It’s not a Cinderella story, he said. There’s been talk of ‘how could that happen’ or whatever. I’ll tell you how it happened: They got an owner that hired an unreal GM, and they got an unreal GM that hired an unreal coach. They were all left to do their jobs. They were given a framework to work with. They could’ve screwed it up, or they could’ve done really well, and Chris Stewart Youth jersey they chose to do really well. They played within the rules that were given to them, and this is what you get.

Shannon Sharpe Limited Jersey I know the gentlemen well that are involved, the GM and coach, and I couldn’t be prouder of the guys of the job they’ve done. They deserved to get there, and I only hope we’re the team they get to play.

Players on the Lightning and Capitals expressed amazement at the Knights’ run.