Thank you all for the feedback from my debut column here at hockeysentinel.com. I am really excited for the NHL to kick into high gear. This article is more personal than most of the ones I will write but I wanted to give you the reasons why I love the sport of hockey. The main reason I hear from people who don’t like hockey is they don’t understand the game so they won’t watch it. (I see this similarly with soccer) The second main reason is that people just can’t relate to the sport because they so rarely see snow/ice. I am going to give 7 reasons why I love the NHL and to those who don’t watch it, I hope these reasons open your mind and possibly give hockey a chance.
Reason #1: One advantage that the NHL has over a lot of sports is that players are constantly in motion. There is very little standing around and few breaks in the action. The commercial breaks during NHL games tend to be very short because teams don’t really “huddle up” to draw plays or make substitutions. The arena is also much smaller than a soccer field so teams transition from offense to defense very quickly. Players change on the fly so typically, there are always fresh players on the ice who are going full speed. Every other major sport (baseball, football and basketball) has many more breaks and is played at a slower pace. Hockey gives you a really nice change of pace from the other major sports.
Reason #2: Hockey players have incredible toughness. We typically associate football players with being super tough athletes but nothing compares to an NHL player. There seems to be unwritten rules in hockey that if you’re able to move, you should be on the ice. This toughness only increases during the playoffs. For example, after the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the playoffs, it was made known to the media that Charlie Coyle had been playing with TWO SEPARATED SHOULDERS! The man could barely hold his stick yet he still managed to tally 3 goals and 4 assists during the playoff run. There are countless stories of other players getting stitches or breaking jaws and coming right back and playing the rest of the game. Hockey players are tough and there is just no comparison.
Reason #3: The atmosphere in a hockey arena tends to be a little different than most major sports. I would compare it to college football or basketball. Due to hockey currently being more of a niche sport, the fans tend to be extremely passionate and very loud. At many baseball, NFL and NBA games, there tends to be more casual fans that go but don’t really care about the outcome of the game. Hockey fans tend to be more “hardcore” fans which leads to louder arenas and an incredible atmosphere.
Reason #4: Goalies. Hockey goalies are another breed of athletes all together and I have always been amazed by their abilities. The fact that they can catch a tiny rubber puck going upwards of 100 miles per hour while people are standing in front of them is unbelievable. They are extremely agile and flexible to be able to contort their bodies to make those amazing saves. While there is team defense in the NHL, hockey is the only major sport that has a player devoted to stopping the other team from scoring. To win the Cup, it all starts with the goalie.
Reason #5: Mike “Doc” Emrick. He is, in my opinion, the best announcer in any of the four major sports. The only rival of his currently is Al Michaels. Many hockey fans make a point to watch the NHL on NBC even if their team isn’t playing. Why? Mike Emrick has a way of making the game come alive like many of the announcing legends do. He has the perfect amount of objectivity, knowledge and passion for the sport that just makes you fall in love with the game.
Reason #6: Without question, Lord Stanley’s Cup is the most famous trophy in all of American professional sports. The Cup originated in 1892 and has been won by 23 active and defunct NHL teams since 1915. The fact that each player on the winning team gets their name engraved is an awesome tradition. Also, the fact that every player gets the Cup for a specific period of time to take it wherever they want is awesome. When I was in college, a former student of Minnesota State who played for Anaheim brought the Stanley Cup to Mankato after he won it. It was awesome getting to see it and take pictures with it. Not in any other major sport does this happen.
Reason #7: The Stanley Cup playoffs are maybe the best playoffs in all of professional sports. While the NFL is by far the most popular, the level of play is ratcheted up once playoff time hits. Players will get tougher, hit harder, goalies will get better and the games are extremely competitive. Adding to all the drama is the fact that once overtime hits, it’s the first team that scores, wins. It doesn’t matter if this takes 10 seconds or 3 full periods (yes, this has happened before) there will be a winner. Heroes are born during the NHL playoffs and the passion showed by the home fans is truly second to none. I know people personally who are casual hockey fans who are glued to their television during the Stanley Cup playoffs because they know how incredibly exciting the games are and want to watch the best players in the world. There is nothing else like the Chase for the Cup.
These are my reasons why I love the NHL. What are yours? I would love to hear from you below or on twitter @weigel_a. Thanks again for reading and continue to check back at hockeysentinel.com for the latest NHL news.