Opinion: Where are all the hockey fans?

Drew Taylor

Drew Taylor

If you’re a die-hard sports fan like me, fall is probably the most enjoyable time on the calendar.

For football fans, the NFL and college football seasons start up. For basketball fanatics, the NBA season starts in just a few weeks. And, for the baseball die-hards that remain, the MLB playoffs are right around the corner.

However, the fourth major sports league in North America doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love in Kent or Northeast Ohio.

The NHL season starts Oct. 4 with the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Winnipeg Jets and a nationally televised game between the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the St. Louis Blues.

So I ask the question: Why doesn’t the area seem to have much interest in professional hockey?

The lack of a Cleveland team probably hurts, given most sports fans in the area are Cleveland fans more than they are fans of particular teams.

The city briefly had a team, the Cleveland Barons, in the 1970s, and is currently home to the minor league Cleveland Monsters. Yet, no NHL team is in the area to get Cleveland fans interested.

The high cost to play the game hurts it as some grow interested in sports through playing, and the unaffordability of it cuts a part of sports fans from gaining interest.

However, even someone like me, who has never played the game, can still be a fan. Whether cheering for the somewhat-nearby Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings, my beloved Columbus Blue Jackets or another team far from here, it’s never too late to watch a game and see if you enjoy the fast pace and physical nature of the sport.

Also, the perceived lack of scoring pushes away potential fans. Soccer has this problem too, with the running joke being “nobody wants to watch a three-hour game for it to end 1-0.”

However, games with lots of shots on net and great goaltending that end up 1-0 can be as exciting, if not more exciting, than say 4-3 games.

It is also undoubtedly the most fun sport to watch in person. As previously stated, the fast pace of the game means there is always something to watch closely.

There are no 20-second intervals between pitches like baseball or no 30-second delays in between plays like football. While those things are fine if you’re watching a game on television, it can become boring in real life. Hockey rarely has delays like that.

None of this is to put down other sports or to say hockey is objectively better. But if you enjoy sports, give hockey a try this upcoming season. While it’s not for everyone, you may just find a new pastime to enjoy.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].