Tom Brady capped off the 2016 NFL season in arguably one of the best Super Bowls in NFL history. After overcoming a twenty-five point deficit, he lead the Patriots to an overtime victory. As exciting as this Super Bowl was, this excitement exists in every hockey game played. Below are my top five reasons Hockey is the greatest sport on the planet.
1. Chaos and Beauty
In the early-mid 1990s, Fox Sports introduced the glow puck. Hockey expanded to Southern markets exposing new viewers to what can be chaotic unforeseen bounces of the puck. In a low-definition era of television, tracking the puck to the casual viewer made it difficult. Even on the ice, scrambles and losing sight of the puck cause players, referees, and fans to pause. Three years ago I was fortunate to catch this Red Wings highlight of Nick Kronwall scoring a goal that deflected up into the netting, bounced off of it to Johnathan Quick’s back, and went into the net.
The other side of the game shows just how skilled hockey players can be. With the stick handling of Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, and Rick Nash shows just how smooth you have to be to handle the puck. Patrick Kane shows his puck handling abilities are in the video below. There’s another, non-NHL player, to watch for stick handling. Pavel Barber provides stick handling drills and creativity unseen elsewhere.
With the lack of friction on ice versus a football field, hockey players can skate up to 25+/mph. The speed at which players are flying around the ice can lead to spectacular collisions. Personally, being a shorter person, I enjoy watching taller players flip over after a good hip check.
If hip checks aren’t your flavor, and you enjoy more open ice hits:
Sometimes they go through the glass:
3. Hockey Players Police Themselves
Hockey can be a dangerous sport. Sticks come up, bodies thrown into the walls, and trash talk can send any player to dropping the gloves and starting a fight. Refereees, as good as some of them can be, can’t catch everything in an instance of a play. Star players getting slashed with no recognition can warrant an all out ass kicking. While I’m not sure if the Calgary Flames retaliated for this, Johnny Guedreu hands were slashed eleven times:
Or, in the playoffs the season before, a player checks another player from behind into the boards causing serious face fractures. After a season to boil over, this happens:
4. Athletic Ability
Brendan Shanahan sums it up best about the amount of athletic ability hockey takes.
“Is hockey hard? I don’t know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner, and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while 5 other guys use clubs to try and kill us. Oh yeah, did I mention that this whole time we’re standing on blades 1/8 of an inch thick? Is ice hockey hard? I don’t know, you tell me. Next question.”
To add to Shanahan’s quote, try doing thirty minutes of HIIT training with a minute on as hard as you can and then two minutes rest. Next, while going at full speed on a slippery surface, try keeping your head looking forward while keeping 3″ diameter disc in control with your hockey stick. Remember, people will be trying to collide with you in order gain possession of that disc. Now, if you can do those things, remember those 1/8″ blade of steel? Hopefully you tied your skates tight enough so your ankles don’t bend and your blades are sharpened. If you don’t have those couple of things assured, you may find yourself slow, unable to turn, and falling over constantly. Remember that 3″ diameter disc, not that you’re close enough, a shot that barely goes faster than you can skate isn’t going to suffice, although there are exceptions.
Here’s some of the best “dangles” you’ll see to showcase this athleticism.
5. NHL Playoffs Are the Best Sports Tournament
Since I’ve been watching professional hockey in the 1990’s, I’ve been spoiled to have a team to have a chance at winning hockey’s ultimate chalice, the Stanley Cup, twenty-five years in a row. This isn’t saying that March Madenss doesn’t have it’s qualities of excitement and drama. The NHL playoffs offer this every single game through a grueling two month battle that extends hockey season into the month of June. All while during this two month battle, players battle through pretty serious injuries. Steve Yzerman, long time captain of the Detroit Red Wings, in the 2002 playoffs battled a serious knee issue. Every Red Wings fan winced after Yzerman would fall and watch him get back up using his hockey stick to help push himself back to his skates. Patrice Burgeron has his own slew of injuries in the 2013 playoffs.
“Boston fans didn’t know it beforehand, but Bergeron played with a broken rib and torn cartilage. During the sixth game, he also suffered a separated shoulder. It was also revealed that he sustained a small puncture in his lung, which Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports was caused by the fractured rib or a nerve-blocking injection.”
In the end, your admiration on their dedication for this tournament, hockey, and team is unlike any other in sports.
Through all the injuries, the four rounds of best of seven series, teams can NEVER be discounted in any game. In the NHL there’s more parity between teams, and therefore you can have a team like the Los Angeles Kings of 2012 and 2014 be a bottom seeded team coming into the playoffs and make a run to win the finals. In order to make those sort of runs, Game 7 overtime magic is needed.
The NHL Playoffs are by far the best tournament, but today, February 22nd, marks the anniversary of the Miracle On Ice of the United States beating the Soviet Union to go onto the Gold Medal. The surrounding battling political philosophies and titans of the world made this more than a hockey game at it’s time. What’s more, the Soviet Union’s team were basically professional hockey players, playing NHL all-star teams and beating them. A young group of college aged kids, 22 on average, out worked this Soviet Union Army Hockey team in arguably the best hockey game played.
Anything I left off that makes hockey the best sport on the planet? Leave your comments below.