Hockey: Not just for Canadians

Dante Geoffrey

The NBA is coming back, the NFL’s playoffs are

right around the corner and MLB’s off-season – highlighted by the

Albert Pujols sweepstakes – are just warming up.

There is a lot for sports fans to be excited

about this winter. A fully-loaded buffet of storylines, drama and

intrigue is at everyone’s disposal.

But sadly, many fans are going to fill up

without even trying one of the sweetest dishes around: the National

Hockey League.

I can feel your eyes rolling, but give us –

hockey and its die-hard fans – a chance.

I know what you think you’re avoiding, but I

don’t think you know what you’re missing.

Hockey is too often portrayed

“mso-spacerun: yes;”>  – in America, at least – as a sport

for big toothless Canadian goons who care more about fighting than

the location of the puck.

It’s funny, sure, but it doesn’t do the sport

justice.

Let’s dispel some of the negative stereotypes

about hockey and shed some light on one of the most exciting sports

there is.

Stereotype No. 1: Hockey players are goons

first, athletes second.

If you’ve ever attempted to ice skate for any

purpose besides to hold a cute girl’s hand, then you know of the

athleticism needed to play hockey. Hockey players possess skill

sets not found in any other sport. Where else will you find 10

players moving with such a deft balance of speed, grace and

power?

Hockey players have to be able to stop on a

dime, turn tight corners and quickly change directions. On ice

skates.

This is on top of controlling a puck with a

stick, being aware of other athletes skating with the purpose of

knocking you on your butt and communicating with your five

teammates.

Stereotype No. 2: Hockey is too hard to

follow.

Granted, for a new fan, hockey is a little

harder to follow on TV than sports like football and baseball. The

action doesn’t stop as often and there are rules that aren’t

intuitive. Football’s version of offsides, for instance, is much

easier to explain than hockey’s.

(Side note to soccer fans: Hockey’s offsides

rule doesn’t even come close to the ridiculousness of soccer’s

offsides rule.)

But like with anything else, hockey becomes

easier to understand over time. I started watching a lot of hockey

when I was 11 years old. I didn’t understand a lot of things when I

was 11, but I was still able to grasp the concept of icing and

playing short-handed. Like with sex, hockey can become one of your

favorite past times once you understand when it is and isn’t legal

to penetrate the zone.

Stereotype No. 3: Hockey is low-scoring and

therefore boring.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Hockey is the sport most able to keep fans on the edge of their

seats without constant scoring.

Regular season hockey games average

five-to-six total goals. That may not seem like a lot, but the

excitement and release that comes with each goal is far superior

than that of your average touchdown, 3-pointer or run scored.

Which brings me to my last point.

Stereotype No. 4: Hockey is a great live

experience.

Absolutely 100 percent true. High definition

TVs are making hockey easier to follow and enjoy from home, but

nothing compares to a live-action hockey game.

Every seat in a hockey rink is a good one. In

fact, there are times where I’d actually prefer to sit in the

second level. The vantage point you get of the ice is amazing. You

can see passing lanes open and close, the start of potential

breakaways and best of all, you don’t have to wait for the

broadcast crew to switch cameras to see the fight that started

behind the play.

And yes, the fights are exciting. But they

aren’t what define the sport nor what keep fans coming back.

So do yourself a favor and treat yourself to

some nice, warm NHL hockey this winter.

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Dante Geoffrey can be reached at 

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href=”mailto:asports@statehornet.com”>asports@statehornet.com.

You can follow him on Twitter: 

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