The concierge’s question was simple, but I paused before I answered. Who are you cheering for, he asked.

It was the first weekend of May last year, and my friend Kerry and I were in Quebec City. We asked him for walking directions to a good place where we could try local beer, eat good food, and most importantly, watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. My team, the Boston Bruins, had been eliminated the weekend before by the Ottawa Senators. Who am I cheering for? Ottawa, I guess, because they eliminated my team, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to cheer for the New York Rangers.

The concierge smiled. He was an old Quebec Nordiques fan, and although the city lost the team more than 20 years ago, that still colored his rooting interests. “I cheer for 29 teams,” he said. “Whoever is playing Montreal.”

That, I could appreciate.

The truth is, I didn’t need to cheer for a particular team. The Stanley Cup playoffs are so good, they transcend base fan instinct. If the Bruins are out, I’ll still watch. Every game is intense and worth one’s time.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are the best tournament in sports. No discussion. No debate. End of thread. The Cup playoffs begin this week, and will end in June. The long regular season whittled 31 NHL teams to 16, and the next two months will whittle that down to one. One team, holding the best trophy on the planet over its head in triumph.

If there’s a better tradition than the NHL’s playoff beard, I don’t know it. The playoff beard is the physical manifestation of the hard work it takes to win the Stanley Cup. In June, look at the teams in the finals. They will look grizzled. They’ll look as if they’ve been through something exhausting. That’s because they have. More than a few players will play through something. When the tournament is over, you will hear of players grinding through injuries ranging from nagging to severe. As an example, we offer up the story of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.

Bergeron played Game 6 of the 2013 Cup finals with a broken rib, torn cartilage, and a separated shoulder. After Game 6, Bergeron was admitted to a hospital. If there had been a Game 7, that hospital stay would have been delayed a few days. Watch the soccer World Cup this summer. You will see players flop and dive if an opponent gives them so much as side eye.

The Stanley Cup itself is a museum honoring hockey’s greats. The best thing about the Stanley Cup is, when you win it, your name goes on it. Fans who get to see the Cup can touch it (only winners are allowed to lift the Cup, however). Run your fingers over the names. The feel of the silver triggers memory after memory.

1970, Bobby Orr. Thanks to one of the most famous sports photos, Orr is forever in mid air, arms outstretched as he celebrates the Cup winning goal he just scored.

2001, Ray Bourque. No longer a Bruin, Bourque won his Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. We threw him a parade in Boston anyway, in appreciation of a player who should have been given a better chance to win the Cup in the city where he spent the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career.

2011, any name. Those Bruins snapped a 39-year Boston Cup drought, winning three seven-game series to do so.

The Vegas Golden Knights are the first expansion team in over a generation to make the playoffs. Here’s hoping Golden Knights fans bring the same passion as fans of a another newer franchise, Nashville. Only two Canadian teams, Toronto and Winnipeg, are in the playoffs. The heart breaks a little for Canadian fans who are still the game’s soul, but at the same time, hockey’s popularity in places like Las Vegas and Nashville, where ice is traditionally for drinks, not skating, is a wonderful thing. The Cup transcends traditional hockey boundaries.

Each winner of the Stanley Cup gets to spend a day with the prize. This is when the Cup’s pull is its strongest. Each of the last two summers, Waterville native Andy Saucier, video coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, brought the Cup to his hometown. Each time, the Cup drew huge crowds — at a public showing in Colby College’s Alfond Rink in 2016, and at private parties each year. As impressive as the Cup is in person, all the history behind it and the hard work exerted to win it radiating from the rings of names under the bowl, watching Saucier watch others enjoy the Cup is what really stood out. A joy of winning the Stanley Cup is in the sharing of it.

These next two months are going to be a lot of fun. Who are you cheering for?

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM