Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If Loving the NHL is Wrong, I Don't Want to be Right!

Can the NHL in the U.S. be saved? No, It cannot. You know why? Because it does not need to be saved my friend!

As a life long hockey fan based in St. Louis I am here to tell you that hockey is fully alive and doing well here in the U.S. and to plead to the casual fan to not save my sport, I don't think I could handle it. I fell in love with the sport at an early age, and have been faithful to it all these years without you, please do not rain on my Stanley cup parade. Nothing gets my hockey pants in a bunch more than when I hear someone say "well, what the NHL needs to do to get the casual fan is this ...", or "what channel is the NHL on again, cause I can't find it?" or the classic "why is there a team in Columbus or Tampa Bay?".

The NHL is doing just fine, thank you. I love the fact that my sport plays under the radar of most Tom, Dick, and Harries in the United States. I don't have to worry about being forced into a fantasy hockey league at work just to "be one of the guys" and have something to talk about with my boss besides "hitting the numbers" or how the bosses new weasel grand kid is doing. I don't have to worry about going down to the Scottrade Center and having to wade through mobs of dumb 20-something girls wearing blues sweaters who are just at the game for the social scene, they are all down the street at the Cardinals games 81 nights a year. I don't have to worry about a greased mullet man talking about my sport on ESPN all the time, oh wait, never mind on that one.

The NHL suffered through a lockout, and if one more person calls it a strike I may jump off the upper deck at Scottrade during the next game (consider yourself warned section 132), and came back from that lockout with even stronger attendance than before the lockout! That just shows the passion for the game. Hockey fans are some of the most passionate out there. I think we get that from the players. Hockey players will sacrifice their bodies on a level that no other athlete will (unless you count Mike Vick's dogs, but let's not go there). To win the Stanley cup, and have your name etched on that chalice, is an honor unequaled. Sure, that baseball trophy is shiny with all those little flags on it, but it can't hold a candle to the cup, and you know this! Brett Hull scored his cup-winning goal on a torn groin in '99, a hockey player will get cut during a game, go in to the locker room and get stitched up and be back for the third period. It really cracked me up when the media made a big deal about Curt Schilling pitched with a bloody sock. The sad part is, that is probably about as courageous a baseball player would get. Don't even get me started on blocking shots!

So, the NHL is currently on the VS. network and the ratings are really, really low. Is that how the quality of a show is calculated? the ratings? In the last few years I know shows like Desperate Housewives, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars have been near the top of the ratings game in the U.S. So, are those the best shows out there? uh, no. At the movies, usually the best picture winners are not the same as the highest grossing movies. Last time I checked most of the most critically acclaimed shows usually have low ratings, because they are not appreciated on a wide scale, just like hockey. For the record, if you have any sort of legit cable provider or satellite, you can order NHL Center Ice. For about $150 bucks, you can pretty much see every game every night. It boils down to less than a dollar a day for the season. Shit, a nice chunk of the country even has access to the NHL Network as well. And if you haven't figured out how to use the guide feature on your remote control by now, or if you still have "basic" cable, well what channel hockey is on is the least of your concerns my friend.

Finally, I love how people rip the NHL because they have teams in Columbus, Nashville, Tampa Bay, and San Jose. First off, San Jose and Columbus have been two of the best markets for hockey since their inception. Ohio is a great state with a lot of hockey, and with Columbus only having the buckeyes, that team has fit in really well. They sell out nearly all games, and they have done all of this while suffering through 6 losing seasons. When the Blue Jackets get good, watch out. San Jose as well has been a rousing success story. Sure, there are a couple teams with issues, but what league doesn't have those?

We do not need all these casual fans to jump on the bandwagon to know our sport is awesome. We are a family of fans, and we would like to keep it that way, at least I would!

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