Parity, thy name is OUA West.
Is having Laurier lose to Guelph that big of a shock? No.
Is having Waterloo lose to Windsor that big of a shock? Yes.
Is having every series go to three games that big of a shock? Yes.
Each series didn't just go to three games, however: with the exception of perhaps the final two games between Lakehead and York, each game and each series was competitive. There's a clear distinction between series that are competitive and series that just go the distance.
Having these games be competitive shows that the "lower" teams, the teams outside the "big four" are quickly shaking off that mantle. While fans of those four traditionally strong teams may hate the parity, we should recognize that parity is essential for any strong conference and league and helps to draw in fans, and more fans could definitely help the OUA and University hockey at large.
Windsor for example is as hot as any spot for hockey in Canada right now...with the exception of 800 Griffiths Way of course. If the Lancers, coming off their 3-2 double overtime victory over #2 Waterloo can wrest a headline away from the Spitfires and get a few more curious fans, notably UWindsor students, out to their upcoming games...well, how can that possibly be bad for the sport?
In Guelph you have a city that makes up the "tri-cities" with Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, another traditionally strong hockey market considering the Rangers are perennial contenders and University hockey in Waterloo having its own strong niche. Maybe now U of Guelph can carve a niche for themselves; certainly taking the series 2-1 over Laurier helps this cause as they took down a hated rival (Agriculture students vs Business students makes for good old fashioned hatin') to add a bit of context to their victory. The Guelph Storm have always had strong support and Gryphon football is on the rise which only helps to lend more attention to University sport in a city with little sporting competition with the Gryphon teams.
The market, as those "aggie" kids would call it, is ripe for the pickin'.
Speaking of emerging markets, how 'bout them Ridgebacks!
UOIT is not a school you read about very often here on The CIS Blog, but that's inevitable when the school only fields seven varsity teams over four sports. (Not including their dancing team...for obvious reasons)
But considering what we've seen UOIT do this year. On five separate occasions they beat one of the "big four" in the regular season, their program is only a few years old, they won their first ever playoff game against the top-seeded Mustangs, and were five-minutes away from sweeping the 'stangs, in front of a sellout crowd the likes of which is almost never seen this side of Thunder Bay.
You have got to think that UOIT is one of the best things to happen to the OUA in a while. An expansion team recruiting top players, finding instant success, filling their arena, and giving the established programs all they can handle. At the very least, it's a terrific story, a story only helped by parity.
Game one between Lakehead and York was a good story...until games two and three happened. Regardless, that series still went three games, and York still had strong showings at times in the series.
You look at all these aforementioned situations and circumstances, and I cannot think of the last time the playoffs looked like this, or the last time the sport was looking so promising going into the future.
The greatest thing about parity though? We still don't know what that future will look like.
Surely though we can all agree we're excited for whatever it holds.