It has been a long and frustrating few months for NHL fans. This coming Saturday, January 19th, the frustration will end. I’m sure for most fans, all will not immediately be forgiven; but when puck hits ice at 3pm Saturday, much of the lockout madness will be forgotten. I for one can barely contain myself!
The NHL has become my favorite professional sport over the last couple of years. The action is fast, it’s intense, it’s physical. It’s everything you could ask for in a sport. The arenas rock, and are filled with loyal fans sporting team gear, going crazy. Horn blasts, sirens, flashing lights. What’s not to love?
I’m kind of a non-traditional hockey fan. I live in a non-NHL city. I didn’t grow up playing the game, although I wanted to. Ice time and equipment were too expensive for the folks. And I don’t have a favorite team. Unless the NHL wants to bring back the Hartford Whalers. With the lockout over, perhaps someone there should work on that. Regardless, I love the game for a number of reasons.
Hockey is non-stop action. I challenge you to find another sport on TV that will give you 8-10 minutes of uninterrupted game action. The NHL will. At the start of the game or period, or coming out of a TV timeout, hockey games consistently go that long without a stoppage. Try and find that in another professional sports league.
NHL players are all-go, no quit. Yeah, yeah I know they just spent months haggling over millions of dollars. I’m talking about when they’re on the ice. NHL players earn it. These guys are diving in front of frozen pucks that can shatter their face; and getting teeth knocked out on behalf of their teammates. Sure, I know most of you can’t pronounce their names, but just sound them out, you can do it.
Hockey is a sport that takes everyone to win consistently. NHL teams have to have balanced shifts – mixing stars with what in most sports would be considered no-names – in order to succeed. That makes it almost impossible to simply pay for a dream team. That’s why in the NHL, it’s no huge surprise when an 8th seed like the LA Kings wins the Stanley Cup. Total team effort. If you don’t appreciate that, I can’t help you.
You know what else? Rivalries actually exist in the NHL. Most rivalries in professional sports have lost their venom. Either because one team doesn’t hold up their end, or the players all become pals. Not so in the NHL.
Some rivalries are based on location or division, some are based on repeated playoff history, or some rivalries are instigated by someone’s head getting slammed into a wall. (See Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty). Not that Boston and Montreal really liked each other anyway, but that certainly didn’t help.
That’s why I can’t wait until Saturday, when the NHL gets it all started with one of it’s best rivalries, the Philadelphia Flyers vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kudos NHL for starting us off with a bloodbath. It’ll remind all of us what we’ve been missing all these months.
So lets drop the puck or drop the gloves or something! Lets start this 48 game sprint. It’s gonna be a fun 4 months or so, leading up to the best playoffs in professional sports. It may not be a full season, but it’s hockey. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to watch every second that I can possibly manage. Game on!