Why am I talking about hockey when we’re in Texas? Hockey is one of my favorite sports, but it’s definitely a rarity to find someone who loves it.
I was raised in Colorado, grew up playing hockey with the neighborhood kids and now find myself here in Abilene. If I were to go around asking people who their favorite Stars player is, most people wouldn’t know one name besides Mike Modano (who’s now retiring, so looks like you’ll have to learn another name).
However, if you talk to people where I’m from, hockey is a religion and way of life, and you’d have to scramble to find someone, anyone who doesn’t like hockey.
To try to educate all the haters of hockey out there, I’ve thought of 10 reasons why hockey is such an all-around great sport.
10. The athletes are in impeccable shape. Hockey players have, on average, the lowest body fat of any professional athletes.
9. Fighting is allowed, sort of. People get into fights in hockey, and nobody stops them. In fact, people cheer. And the fighters get penalized but go back on the ice later (in most cases).
8. Skill shooting. Use a wooden stick to fire a little black puck past a guy covered in pads and into a tiny little goal. Try it. It’s harder than it looks.
7. Love of the game. Hockey players love the game. And hockey fans love the game. And hockey players love their fans, and vice versa. You don’t get that kind of dedication in baseball, football or the NBA.
6. Power plays. You mess up, and your team plays down a man for two minutes. It’s a timeout, and it’s exciting. You don’t see man advantages in baseball, football or basketball.
5. Line changes. The entire bench plays. Two minutes of skating is tiring. So to keep everyone fresh, they cycle in changes, which pits different players against each other. Strategy at its best.
4. Possession changes. A team gets the puck and immediately turns around and attacks; wash, rinse, repeat. There are no “downs” or innings, nor is there a shot clock.
3. Stanley Cup. No sport has a better trophy. Lombardi’s is cool, but you can’t drink out of it.
2. Rivalries. The age-old rivalries between American and Canadian teams couldn’t be more intense. You saw the Olympics.
1. The last two minutes of the game are awesome. No timeouts. No NBA fouling back and forth. The close games have the goalie pulled, and they risk a goal to try to overpower the other team. It’s like pulling the outfielders and adding three more infielders, or pulling the offensive line to get eight receivers instead of five.
In the United States, hockey will always be a dwarf in popularity, but this is one American who loves hockey. Seeing the Avalanche win the cup in 2001 is one of the greatest sports moments of my life, and I just don’t think a Broncos Super Bowl win can compare.