The NHL season resumed two weeks ago, and ever since, I have watched a lot of hockey.
As a Carolina Hurricanes fan, I have a vested interest in the games because they made it into the play in round and then swept the New York Rangers 3-0 to make it into the playoffs to take on the best regular season team in the league, the Boston Bruins. At the time I am writing this, the Hurricanes are down two games to one in the best of seven series.
Now I know that hockey isn’t very big in this area — it is more of a northern sport — but I am going to try and explain why hockey is such a great sport and why it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Hockey isn’t played on national television very often. You may get one game a week on NBC and then two to three a week on NBC Sports Network, which isn’t available in every household. Most of the games are played on regional sports networks that show games local to the viewer. It is funny though. In Mecklenburg County, if I am in South Hill, I get the Hurricanes regional channel, and in Boydton, I get the Washington Capitals. If you want to see other teams, you are going to have to pay. The first problem with hockey is they don’t spend the money to let people learn the game.
Hockey rinks and leagues are not available in the south. The closest you can get is Raleigh, and that is only something that has happened since the Hurricanes came to town back in 1997. Hockey is a very regional sport that does not appeal to everyone like the NBA, MLB or NFL.
Now to why I think hockey is incredibly underrated. These guys play 82 games a season, plus almost half the league makes the playoffs and to win the Stanley Cup you have to play close to 30 more games. That is over 100 games a year. Now most people know hockey for toothless players and fights. Yes, those fights are fun and make for good entertainment, but the skill it takes to play this game is incredible.
First of all, they can skate better than they can walk. They can go just as fast backward as they do forward, and they can turn or stop on a dime. That in and of itself takes a toll on the body. Not to mention how physical the game is. They are constantly checking each other into the boards and pushing and shoving. The clean open ice hits can knock people out cold if they aren’t paying attention.
I don’t know how many of you have ever held a real hockey puck, but as someone who has I can tell you they are heavier than a baseball. For players, they come flying at their heads and faces at over 100 miles an hour and a lot of the times the players will intentionally block the shots to keep the puck from going toward the goal.
I have seen broken ankles, busted mouths and teeth flying across the ice. The most remarkable thing though is that most of the time when these players get a puck to the face they go to the bench, get cleaned up and head back out onto the ice. There is no pain and no fear when it comes to hockey players.
Now some of you may be thinking this is very similar to the physicality in football, and you would be right. The difference is that in football they play 16 games plus up to four postseason games for a total of 20 games. Hockey plays so much more than that, and the physical aspect is just as demanding.
They have to have the physical ability and cardio ability to play the game for half of a year sometimes back to back nights or three to four days a week where football players play once a week.
So if you find yourself with some free time over the next month or two while the NHL playoffs are going on, take a few minutes and watch what these players go through every night and learn the game, because once you learn the rules and all the small things like icing, off sides and penalties, the game becomes so fun to watch.
Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.
Until next time.