I live in the south, and I think hockey is the most exciting sport you can watch. I heavily promoted the Olympic USA/Canada matches to all my friends, and gladly the games did not disappoint. However, I think there are a few obvious reasons why people normally don’t give hockey a fair chance.
- They’ve never played it. Many people follow sports they play or have played before, even if only recreationally.
- The scores are low. At least the NHL no longer allows ties. I celebrated the day they instituted a shoot-out. And offense is a bigger factor now than in the 90’s. Maybe if hockey used the artificial method of football and awarded 6 points per goal, people wouldn’t notice?
- They can’t relate as much to the players. Since most players are from other countries, a sense of connection is missing for some fans when they watch the game.
For myself, I can say that none of these three things matter. What got me into the game was NHL 94 for the Sega. I enjoyed playing that game so much, I had to find out more about the real thing. The scores might not have been 12-2 like I was used to, but I still loved certain things about the game. Here are a few reasons why hockey could catch on if promoted properly:
- ONE timeout per team, per game. This is a massive advantage for hockey over basketball and football. How many times have those sports slowed to a crawl simply because teams are allowed to say “Hold up!” whenever they want?
- It combines a bunch of things people already like: slapping a small item with a stick (baseball, golf), fighting and hitting (UFC, football), 5 on 5 goal-oriented setup with slick passing (basketball). Plus it adds the wacky element of doing it all on skates.
- I am firmly convinced that the NHL has the best announcers of any sport, by far. Doc Emrick and Jim Hughson are masters of their craft, and most of the teams’ local guys are fantastic as well (as I have found from subscribing to NHL Center Ice). There seems to be more passion and less detachment from all these guys compared to other sports. It’s like we’re all in on a great secret, and can’t get enough of this great sport. Here are just a few favorites.
NOTE: This post initially appeared in slightly modified form as a comment on an ESPN article by John Buccigross.