Learn to appreciate hockey

Thomas Gallick

Well, we’ve reached another hockey season, and I’m tired of all the excuses from non-hockey fans.

From this point on I refuse to listen to any of the following complaints:

1. The arena is too cold.

2. The game is too violent.

3. The rules are too byzantine.

4. The team names and logos are too unrelated to ice and/or winter (I mean, how can the Flames play hockey – am I right, people?).

Nope, the general public just needs to accept hockey for what it is: a weird game with rules that look as if they were drawn up by preteens with no knowledge of what is acceptable or possible in the world of sport.

I can’t even imagine anyone being the first to say: “I want to hit a vulcanized rubber disc around with a stick until it goes into a net. Oh, and by the way, I want every player to constantly check other players, fight and skate on ice.”

Yep, those are the rules they kept.

One can only imagine the first draft contained numerous references to fireworks and dragons.

But what’s wrong with that?

Why is the American public so adverse to the over-the-top lunacy that makes hockey such an addictive sport to die-hard fans? I understand the conditions to play ice hockey (namely ice) do not exist everywhere in the continental United States, but take some time to watch the sport as a curiosity.

I mean, if figure skating can get good enough ratings to be on network TV, why can’t a sport that takes everything terrible about figure skating and makes it better? I can’t remember the last time a figure skating competition included a full-out brawl, objective judging or the song “Rock and Roll Part 2.”

Also, hockey has the best names, hands down, in the history of sports. The NHL can boast Guy Lafleur, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Espen Knutsen and Hannes Hyvonen, to name just a few from the past.

The other major sports leagues do have the occasional awesome name (World B. Free springs to mind), but they get bogged down in the Smiths, Browns and Garcias.

Hockey doesn’t boast the most storied history (I’ll give the nod to baseball), but it definitely has the most eccentric. Where else can you find characters like former Detroit Red Wings forward Petr Klima, who, according to legend, broke his stick after every goal he scored because he thought each stick only had one goal in it?

Has the championship trophy for any other sport been left in a ditch by the side of the road? Lord Stanley’s Cup has.

My challenge to the general public is to simply watch one full game of hockey and try to not get hooked. The rules are admittedly hard to follow at first, but the reward for watching is brilliant.

Yes, players will fall down on the ice. Yes, they will fight for no reason. Yes, they might hit players on the other team excessively hard just to show the coach they are accomplishing something.

That’s the beauty of hockey. It’s an eccentric sport, with an eccentric history, played by eccentrics.

If you want hamburgers and french fries out of life, by all means settle down with some nice baseball or football.

If you’re the type of person who likes to walk into a restaurant where all the dishes are in a foreign language and you can’t understand the menu, maybe it’s time you tried hockey.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallic at [email protected].