HOCKEY — A MUST SEE SPORT

26Jan12

Some sports were made to be watched in person.  Have you noticed that?  I mean, all sports are better in person than on TV, but most are still nearly as exciting to watch on TV, thanks to modern technology. 

Take football, for instance.  It’s great to see the game in person.  The pre-game tailgate parties, the cheerleaders on the sidelines, the guy with no shirt and his entire upper body painted to match his multi-colored afro wig!  But if you can’t scratch out the Benjamins that week (if you think I’m joking, you obviously haven’t been to a game for quite a while), watching the game on TV is just as exciting. 

For one thing, you get all kinds of statistics thrown on the screen throughout the entire game, mostly of data that you’d never given a second thought to before.  Plus, you always know where the line of scrimmage and the first down marker are; thanks to those cool computer generated blue and yellow lines on the field.  Best of all, you can see the cheerleaders up close and personal without needing binoculars (not that I’d notice a thing like that)! 

With the exception of the tailgate parties, the same arguments can be made for basketball.  At least I think they still can.  I haven’t watched a game yet this season.  It’s not really a formal protest per se (fancy, huh?), but I just can’t get too excited by this season that has been shortened due to a questionable lockout by some very short-sighted people.  But that’s a conversation for another day! 

Baseball is definitely a game that I enjoy more in person than on TV.  However, if you’re trying to get someone to watch a game for the first time, you’ll never convince them to go unless they’ve watched a game on TV first.  This wasn’t the case thirty years ago, but it is today. 

Then there is hockey.  This game is unique.  For one thing, it is one of the most exciting games to watch, since it is nonstop action.  It is one of the most physical games that there is.  I know that die-hard football fans will, for the most part, argue with that statement, and I understand completely.  Believe me, I am a die-hard football fan.  So I have to say up front that my next statement will really upset a lot of my fellow football fans. 

Pound for pound, there is not a tougher athlete in the world than a hockey player! 

Okay, hopefully you’ve gone and gotten your frustrations out in a harmless fashion and have come back to finish this article.  Let me explain that statement.  I am not trying to say that a right wing can necessarily beat up a middle linebacker.  What I am saying is that it takes a pure athlete to succeed in this sport.  Think of what the game entails.  First, you have to be able travel at high speeds in shoes that have a single blade attached to the bottom.  By high speeds, I mean that you are sprinting at all times.  Then you have to be able to stop on a dime.  If you can’t, you will get hurt.  On top of that, you have to try to control the puck as you are sprinting down the ice (did I mention this game is played on ice, not grass or dirt?) by tapping it back and forth with a big stick while trying to avoid getting slammed into the side boards by someone else that is sprinting full speed in your direction.  All this with the one desire of slapping the puck into a very small net at the end of the rink, which happens to have someone that looks like Jason from Friday the 13th standing guard in front of it. 

Which leads us to the goalie (Jason).  This is where one of two types of people end up.  Ideally, this is the person on your team that can do the splits in four different directions at once while controlling a massive stick in one hand and a glove on the other hand that looks like a first baseman’s mitt for the Jolly Green Giant.  (I think that last statement may have given away my age!)  The other type of person that ends up here is the one that cannot stop on a dime, but still wants to play the game.  Either way, this guy cannot be afraid of three inch round discs made from one inch thick frozen hard rubber flying at him at 80 to 120 miles per hour for three hours a night. 

Oh yeah, and if someone decides they don’t like the way you’re playing the game, they can drop their gloves and start pounding on you like Mohammed Ali (another giveaway to my age).  You can either slink away in shame and look for another career or you can drop your gloves and try to knock him off his skates before he does the same to you, since the game officials will not intervene until one of you hits the ice! 

Needless to say, the game I just described tends to attract fans of the extreme nature.  This means that the emotions run high in the stands, which is infectious to anyone that shows up.  It is for this reason that someone unfamiliar with the game cannot get excited watching this game on TV.  Believe me, I have tried to convert several people by sitting them down to catch a game that, on that rare occasion, is actually on TV.  (Again, a discussion for another time!)  All you’ll end up with is a friend trying desperately to understand what in the world is going on, while you are trying to explain the rules, which is impossible to do because as you’re explaining what just happened, five other things happen that also need explanations.  This usually lasts for about fifteen minutes, at which time your friend says something along the lines of “I just don’t get this game.  I’m getting a beer.  You want one?” 

No, if you want to convert a sports fan (this is important, they must be a sports fan or you’re just wasting your time) to become a hockey fan, do both of you a favor and bring them to a game.  Being in that atmosphere is magical on a hockey virgin.  By the end of the game, they will have traveled to one extreme or the other.  They will either become a fan of the game and will talk about it all the way home, or they will never watch another game again.  Either way, you’ve avoided that awkward scene in front of the TV I just described. 

If you happen to be successful in converting them into a hockey fan, you are truly blessed because now you have someone to go with you that will actually enjoy the game.  And the great thing about hockey is that you don’t even need to know a single player on either team to enjoy watching it.  That’s because you will both understand that everyone on the ice is a true athlete.  They are in great shape, extremely skilled and pound for pound, one of the toughest athletes in the world!

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