It’s almost comical to read the comments that inevitably follow online articles reporting on the NHL Lockout, especially those that are the, “That’s it! I’m done! I’ll never follow the NHL again!” variety. The funny part is when you read another article 3 days later, there’s the same person, with the same comment. And then, a week later, the same comment from the same user name. I’ve seen this multiple times over the course of the lockout. If these people really felt that way, they wouldn’t be reading the articles, logging in, writing their comments over and over. They would be done. But, they aren’t. Nor will they be done. No, like anyone who is reading this right now, they, we, you, me, are all hopelessly fixated with NHL hockey, the greatest sport, played at it’s highest level. As much as we all would love to say, “A pox on both your houses!” to the NHL and the NHLPA, and storm away indignantly, never to even glance over our shoulders, the NHL will draw us back.
Why? Because it will be worth it. For as much as the current lockout has bordered on the ridiculous (correct that; it’s invaded, and colonized the ridiculous), once this is settled, and the game gets back on the ice, there truly is nothing quite like hockey. NHL hockey has all the best elements of the other team sports, and leaves their weaknesses behind. Watch a game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final, and tell me it doesn’t have every bit of the high drama of a game 7 of the World Series, if not more, and there’s actually enough pace to the game of hockey to prevent you from heading out for food between plays. Also, in hockey, you see players doing everything possible to get in front of a puck going 95 mph. Granted, hockey players have the equipment to protect themselves, but watch the acrobatics of a baseball player avoiding an inside fastball. (And I like baseball.) The end to end action that people say they like about the NBA is better in the NHL, because scoring is actually an event, rather than something that happens about 40-50 times a game for each team. Hockey goals are worth celebrating.
Fans go bonkers when a goal is scored in soccer, but there’s nothing quite like a good nil-nil soccer match (insert sarcastic tone here). A soccer player goes down like he’s been pole axed if a defender even comes close to him. He then rolls around, clutching his knee, screaming in agony, until the referee makes a call, and then gets up and runs back to his position. An NHL player does the same, he’s likely to get beat up in his own dressing room, if he doesn’t get it from an opponent on the ice. I saw the highlights of a Champions League Soccer game, where a player was taken off the field on a golf cart…..with a leg bruise. If every NHL player left the ice with a bruise, a game would end with one team’s assistant coach taking shots on the other team’s equipment manager. When athletes in another sport get a tooth knocked out, they’re likely out for multiple games. A hockey player loses a couple of chiclets, he might not miss a shift.
Do you want big hits of a contact sport like pro football? Hockey is there for you my friend, and you don’t have to sit through unending breaks in the action. In some NFL games, more game clock time is used up with no actual play, than when plays are being run. Can you picture two NHL coaches, shaking hands at center ice, with 30 seconds left on a ticking clock? Every second of the 60 minutes of an NHL game is “Game on!” And no conceding in the end zone for a free pass to the 20 yard line, or a fair catch signal, to avoid getting hit. Imagine a defenseman, on a dump in, putting his hand up, and getting to take the puck out to his own blue line, unchecked. Nope. He’s going to get drilled by a hard forechecking opponent, make the pass anyway, knowing he’s going to take a hit, and then get back in the play. It’s just part of the game.
This is just a sampling of what makes hockey great, and why we all love it so much that we’ll end up forgiving the buffoonery that we have seen before us. Now that some sense has prevailed, we’ll get the NHL back on the ice where CBAs and HRRs don’t matter as much as PIMs and SOGs. With all the negative press that the NHL has had, (and has deserved) since September 15, hopefully this will remind whoever reads this about why the lockout has angered us so; because NHL hockey is just too good to lose to a bunch of labor lawyers fighting over how their poor clients can split up millions of dollars. Once the puck drops, the business stops, and the game begins. Let it be so.