I first came up with the idea for this article about a week ago, when I had gone to a local sports bar to watch some playoff hockey. Upon entering, I noticed that none of the channels had any of the games on. I approached the bar to order my drink, and as I did I politely asked if they could put the game on one of the TV’s. The bartender said no. The reason? Because they were televising the NBA draft lottery. Obviously this was not a bar, nor the place to be, so I left. While leaving, (and firing a few final words of choice to the bartender, the manager, the waitress, and a few locals) I thought to myself a couple of things: 1. How much did someone pay you off to put the NBA draft lottery on over playoff hockey? and 2. Why is hockey not nearly as popular as some feel it deserves? I spoke about this unforgivable travesty to a few different people, and have come up with 10 common misconceptions about the sport and why a lot of people don’t like it. For those people I spoke to, I recommended readings such as Hockey For Dummies, The History of Hockey, autobiographies on Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Dominik Hasek, and instructed them to also watch the movie Miracle. I instruct all reading this to do the same. In the meantime, enjoy this very informative article busting the 10 most common misconceptions of the sport of hockey.
1. All Hockey Players are Foreign
While a good majority of the players in hockey are from other countries ie. Canada, Finland, Russia etc., arguably some of the best players currently playing in the NHL are American born citizens. Some of these names include Phil Kessel, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Justin Brown, Patrick Kane, and Zach Parise to name a few. And here’s a little fun fact: all those players I mentioned played on playoff teams this year and most, if not all, were key contributors to their teams success. Besides, if you dislike hockey because it has a little cultural diversity, then you should probably stop watching baseball, soccer, football, basketball, or really any sport for that matter.
2. Ticket Prices are Too Expensive
Yes. Ticket prices are very expensive. However, that’s only the case if you sit at center ice right up against the boards. The good thing about hockey is it’s played in an arena, and in arena’s there really aren’t any bad seats in house. For hockey, cheap seats are up in the rafters, but more often than not for this sport those are the best seats you can get. It allows you to see more of what’s going on, and to see plays develop. Up in the “Nose-bleed seats” as most sports fans affectionately refer to them as, you can buy tickets for as little as $15-$20 a seat. Besides, just about every sport is ridiculously expensive to watch nowadays. And for those who buy and sell on stubhub? You did this to yourselves.
3. Players are Missing Their Teeth
I’ll begin the next two misconceptions by saying I firmly believe that you are a product of your environment, and that you grow up either liking the sport you play or playing the sport you like. This being said, this is a common deterrent as well as the first of two common misconceptions for people getting in to playing the sport at a young age I’ve included in this article. This may have been true in the early stages but top officials in several levels of participation in the sport have come up with many ways for players to keep their pearly whites. This ranges from improved mouth guards, to full cages over a players face.
While yes, there is truth in saying that Sean Couturier (pictured above) looks like sloth from the Goonies, that’s no reason to dislike the sport is it?
4. Equipment is Too Expensive
This is the second of the two misconceptions that deter people from picking up this sport at a young age. While this is relatively true, there are ways around beating the extremely high costs of most hockey equipment. Many people re-sell their old equipment on sites like eBay and Craigslist and will sell full sets of the equipment typically for under $100. Obviously, as the age level of the equipment rises, so do the prices but it is still much cheaper than buying brand new top of the line gear, and oftentimes works just as well. If this is a sport you are thinking of picking up, or thinking of getting your kids involved in, don’t let the dollar signs deter you from doing so. You can find cheap used gear from people selling in your area on Craigslist or eBay, or even Play it Again Sports. In addition, most professional hockey clubs, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, will host free hockey clinics for kids 13 and under, and provide all of the equipment necessary.
5. Hockey Players are Animals
There are some that believe that hockey players are ruthless, bloodthirsty, animals. Not True. Well, with the exception of Joe Thornton. As is the case with most professional athletes, hockey players play the sport they love, and play with passion. Apart from that, they are down-home guys and hard-working family men. Scott Niedermayer contemplated retirement at the age of 33 so he could spend more time with his wife and kids. In addition, what other professional sport can you name that has a trophy specifically for the leagues best sportsman? The NHL has the Lady Byng trophy awarded to the leagues best sportsman and to the player who exhibited the most gentlemanly conduct throughout the season.
6. Hockey Is Boring
I just heard one giant distressed gasp from every hockey fan out there reading this. Yes brothers and sisters, some people think this wonderful sport is boring. But don’t shun those people, encourage them to seek the truth. Hockey is one of the few sports that has action in nearly every minute. In other sports such as baseball, football, basketball, and soccer sports broadcasters often find it difficult to find things to talk about during lulls in the action in their sports, and instead babel about garbage, and pump your minds full of useless knowledge that oftentimes doesn’t even make sense (not pointing any fingers). If you watch hockey on TV, you’ll notice that hockey broadcasters have a hard time just keeping up with all of the action. From fights, to 1 and 2 man advantages, to last second goals and come from behind wins, This sport is many things. Boring, is not one of them.
7. Football is King In the South
Very true, but not a good enough excuse. Unless you have half a brain you can, and most likely do, follow more than one sport. I love football, and have followed it longer than hockey, and followed baseball even longer than that. I also live over 3 hours away from the nearest hockey market, and yet I still follow the sport. Besides, there are plenty hockey fans in the northern states that follow their football teams just as passionately as the southern states. Even the athletes themselves follow other teams.
8. It Isn’t Televised
False. It just may not be televised at your house. Get some friends together, go to a bar, have some beers, and watch the game. Just about any bar (with the exception of the one that caused me to write this article) has the ability to show any hockey game you want. Pick a team, and go watch.
9. The Season is Too Long
For hockey (The NHL in particular) the season is either too long, or not long enough meaning they don’t have one. The one misconception I will remotely agree with is the fact that the frequency of lockouts do take away from the sport. Each of the last 3 collective bargaining agreements have resulted in a labor stoppage at some point, and the 2005 season saw no hockey at all. This can get frustrating for fans and can turn people off to the sport, especially those new to watching it. However, just about every other sport has seen their share of lockouts and labor disputes, and still have a thriving fan base. But the misconception that the season is too long is false. The NBA season is just as long and not nearly as entertaining, yet people tune in to every game. The MLB season is also a very long one with almost twice as many games in the same amount of months and still has a thriving fan base. Football doesn’t have nearly as many games and has a relatively short 6 month season. However, football has basically a year round spectatorship with fans tuning into their teams almost 24/7 during the season as well as offseason for the draft, and different practice and training activities teams make viewable to the public. Therefore, the misconception that the NHL season is too long isn’t a valid argument. In regards to professional sports, the NHL season sits about average as far as games and length are concerned.
10. There’s No History
First, have you watched Miracle yet? If yes, good continue to the conclusion. If not, go watch it and meet me back at this portion of the article. I’ll wait…
Hockey has a very long history and the NHL in particular has a very storied history that fans take great pride in, dating back to the early 1900’s. Six of the original teams of the NHL (aptly named the “Original Six”. Go figure) still currently play in the NHL and have some of the most heated rivalries in sports. Similar to the Yankees v. Red Sox rivalry? No, let’s try a bloods v. crips type rivalry. These teams, when matched up against each other, make for some of the most entertaining hockey, and sports you will ever see. The Original Six are the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, The Detroit Red Wings, The Chicago Blackhawks, The Montreal Canadiens, and The New York Rangers. Pick one of these match ups to watch and there really is none better in the NHL. Oftentimes, as they did this year, these teams meet up in the playoffs making for some really great hockey.
Hockey is a great sport that I feel sports fans everywhere can enjoy. It brings to the table something from every sport, and combines it into one entertaining experience. The atmosphere at the arena can’t be beat, and it is also one of the few sports that is just as entertaining of an experience to watch on TV. The intent of this article was not to force feed you thoughts and opinions on a sport you may or may not like. It was simply intended to inform you of common misconceptions that may deter you from experiencing a sport you may really learn to enjoy. I urge anyone with any remote interest in sports, to buy some cheap seats to the next hockey game at your nearest hockey arena, or turn on the TV and watch. If you feel so inclined, pick up a pair of used ice hockey skates or roller blades, a stick and go shoot around. I promise, you won’t be sorry you did.