It dawned on me. There are times when I'll be hanging out with friends and the topic of sports comes up in conversation. 9 times out of 10, they talk about baseball, football, basketball, even nascar. Whenever I mention hockey, they look at me like I have 2 heads, or start saying hockey stinks, it's boring to watch, baseball's better, and blah blah blah. Living in New York, It's an area where hockey is recognized, but doesn't compare to baseball and football in popularity. I like baseball and keep up with my Yankees, think it's a great sport and all, but although most of us are fans of different hockey teams, I'm sure we've all asked what the huge craze about baseball is, and why hockey isn't nearly as popular in the US. Another thing I'm sure we can all agree on is how hockey is simply better to watch, just to mention a few points as to why...
1. Hockey is more exciting: I think it's a burden in itself to watch an inning of baseball, let alone a full game. You're glued to the screen when you watch hockey because the game is on a constant pace, there's always something going on, and the players are always moving. It's a huge thing whenever someone scores, a huge save or hit is made, when a fight breaks out...I can go on for hours. Sure there's the occasional catch ESPN puts on Sports Center's top 10, but when you really look at those plays, has anyone realized it's the same stuff done differently?
2. Hockey players are better to the fans: You're in public, you'll shake your favorite hockey player's hand or get his autograph before you even have a baseball player whose name you just recognize even acknowledge you. It's probably the difference in publicity and money that differentiates hockey and baseball players, personality wise. Sure there's a hockey player or 2 who aren't people friendly, or a baseball player that'll pose for a photo or give an autograph, but I'm talking about the general difference between hockey and baseball players.
3. Hockey players know how to fight: Baseball brawls are knee slappers to watch, but like those highlight plays, they're technically all the same. 2 players confront each other, talk smack, one throws a punch or 2, and wrestle each other, causing everyone surrounding them to mob one another. First off, look at how baseball players punch. It's not even a punch, it's more like a...closed fist swing, like they're trying to slap you, but they don't realize their hand is in a fist. I need not say more. When hockey players drop the gloves and baseball players do whatever it is they do, you know which one you'd rather see.
4. All hockey teams have opportunities on the ice and in the market: As of 4 years ago, the NHL instated a salary cap, which limits how much teams can spend per summer and how much they can offer a player, which is both lauded and scorned. Like it or hate it, I think it makes hockey a more competitive and unpredictable sport, since teams with a smaller market value have a chance to compete with teams of a bigger market value for more valuable players. This is rarely the case in baseball. When their small market teams obtain a star quality player, it's usually via trade or draft, a player that makes their name on that team, only to get traded or sign elsewhere when eligible because the team they're on can't afford the salary they demand or are deserving of. As a result, it seems that the same group of baseball teams make the playoffs, clinch the wild card, and compete in the world series, save the occasional "outsider" appearance. Looking at hockey, the last 2 Stanley Cup finals have been the latest case of recidivism in years, plus you can say the 16 playoff teams of the past 4 seasons have had several different competitors compared to the previous year.
5. Hockey is more unpredictable: This is more a combination of 1 and 4, but what I'm trying to say is in baseball, you know what's happening. The excitement can start soon as the pitcher releases the ball, which the batter either hits, fouls, strikes, or gets hit by. The bases are either empty, partially, or fully loaded, and even then a team sometimes fails to score a single run. Have we all been in the situation when we've watched a hockey game, the score's something like 2-1, we get up to get a drink, and return to see the score's changed to 3-2 or 3-3? That's spontaneity!
6. The NHL regular season is worth playing and watching: 82 games followed by 4 grueling best of 7 rounds, all to capture the hardest trophy to win in all sports. Baseball...not so much. Sure their season goes on for 160 something games in a span of 5, 6, months, causing the need to play games consecutively and those dreaded double headers. You have 30 teams playing over 160 games each only for 8 teams to compete in the playoffs. If you know you're team doesn't have a shred of hope to even finish .500, it ultimately makes the upcoming season a little purposeless, doesn't it? Since the NHL has an 82 game season, which is more spread out and makes the average fan excited for each upcoming game, not to mention the fact 16 NHL teams enter the post season, it instills the possibility of making the playoffs more realistic for the majority of the NHL's teams.
7. Contact!: Hockey's perhaps the greatest contact sport to watch in my bias opinion. I mean, can you really call a sport legit without physical contact in it? The most you'll see in baseball is a batter get hit by a pitch or intentionally colliding with the catcher as he attempts to score a run. I'll admit when I watch hockey, it's primarily to see players score goals and knock each other out. How exhilarating is it when someone gets clocked and the crowd erupts, sending a sensation of momentum through the building that I personally don't think any baseball stadium has ever experienced, save last year's outdoor classic. I bet if baseball allowed physical contact, it'd be more exciting to watch...just imagine.
8. Hockey players keep clean: Congress said the NHL was the cleanest sport in North America as far as usage of steroids or performance enhancement drugs were concerned. The last incident like that I recall is when Sean Hill got caught. The NHL does have the strictest drug policy in all sports. First offense 20 games, second 60 games, third, you're out of the league. How many baseball fans were speechless when they saw names on the Mitchell Report they thought they'd never see? The fact so many baseball stars were connected to steroids in recent years is appalling, discouraging, and taints the legitimacy and quality of any success such players and their teams amounted to. Hockey players aren't perfect, but at least we know how they play is truly them out there and hopefully nothing more.
9. Hockey's got limits: With 9 timeless innings, a baseball game can drag on and on, which is more tedious to watch especially if it's one of those drab contests. At least you're guaranteed an end to regulation in hockey. If it goes into overtime, the anticipation and knowledge that 1 goal determines the outcome is simply exhilarating. Hockey's got 3 periods lasting for 20 minutes, which not only provide a limitation for regulation, but make the game more meaningful since time becomes a huge factor. There's no focusing or taking one's time to recapture a lead or tie a game, not to mention the tide of a game can shift immensely in one period.
10. Hockey players are tougher: They play with broken fingers, feet, chipped teeth, black eyes, the list goes on. Even when they're out, they look to make a speedy recovery and get back in the game. Why is it that baseball players are out 2, 3 months with a stubbed toe or broken finger, whereas hockey players aren't even out for 2, 3 weeks? My guess is getting paid millions of dollars to sit at home is intriguing, I'd be tempted by such an opportunity. Baseball players are on the ground after getting hit with balls or those incidental collisions, which I know is painful and would knock the wind out of anyone, but it seems to me they're a level or two under the length soccer players take "injuries". Hockey players get rocked at games and finish them knowing they got fractures or concussions or whatever injuries they may endure. I don't know it just speaks for itself.