Admit it. Â Hockey isn’t nearly as boring, hard to follow, trivial, unimportant and irrelevant as you’d like to make it.
We’re now three season’s separated from an NHL work stoppage that many thought would spell the end of hockey in the U.S. for good. Â With a plummeting fan base and a TV contract that found its way to rivaling the rodeo for air time, the NHL looked to be in ridiculously thin ice.
Then something interesting happened. Â Despite the same awful TV deal, and general ambivalence from all major sports networks, new faces that started taking hold the last few seasons have now thrust themselves into the hockey limelight and an exciting 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs has cast a sense of possibility as well as intrigue on even the most jaded of hockey nay-sayers.
Learn these names: Ovechkin, Crosby, Semin,Â Malkin, Getzlaf, Kessel, Schenn, Staal (you pick), Cheechoo, Kane, Toews, Setoguchi, Stempniak. These names are the future of hockey and they are putting on a show as we speak. Â Fast paced, exciting, relevant. They are just skilled and in some cases even more so than the Dwight Howards, LeBron James, and Chris Pauls of the world that compete for our attention.
With trap-happy hockey a thing of the past; speed, skill and strong physical play have emerged as the foundation for which hockey can begin to rebuild itself in our national consciousness. Â The Orginal Six teams, (Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal) all find themselves factoring into playoff plans heavily, even this early in the year. Â They’re once again packing fans into arenas in Chicago and Boston, hockey strongholds, with on-ice product that inspires regional significance and recalls whimsical memories for many disgruntled puck-heads.
Sit up, pay attention, search a little, the NHL is here. Â It has any number of problems that need to be fixed, the same can be said of our other major sports who are wallowing in off-field issues, performance enhanced mania and money grubbing insanity. Â Hockey is still the fastest game on the planet, created to be watched live and the reason why 97.3% of Americans buy HD televisions when they witness the NHL demo at Best Buy.
Before you forget that you’ve read this post, buy tickets to a game. Â Soon. Â Get to the game early, watch the skate-around, grab a beer, get vocal and embrace hockey. Â Keep an eye on who’s coming over the boards, note who hit who on the big hits, watch how the puck moves and learn to appreciate deflections and dekes. Â I promise you won’t be disappointed. Â 4 offensive lines, 3 defensive pairs and a goalie. Â Poetry in motion.
Now if we can only figure out an impeachment procedure for Gary Bettman…