I am a hockey fan, in the true sense of the word fanatic. I moved to San Jose, California, the same year the San Jose Sharks were created, so I was there on the cusp of hockey excitement/marketing in San Jose. My young mind was very easily influenced by the hype, and I got swept up in Teal Fever. But soon I began to love the game for itself. Even after I moved away I kept watching my boys in teal and whatever other games happened to be around, NHL or otherwise. In college, I started playing (badly). It’s just–it’s my favorite sport to watch, to play, to talk about. I love hockey. When played well, it is the most beautiful sport in the world.
Not, however, a popular one, at least not in this country. One of my friends took great delight in telling me what non-news the playoffs were last season when my Sharks were battling their arch-nemesis, the Dallas Stars (boo, hiss). I’ve gotten used to it. I love my little sport, and I don’t care if everyone else would rather watch football or baseball (both of which, incidentally, I am also fond of–really I like watching most sports), I will sit by myself and yell at the tv as the Sharks once again suck at the power play.
I mean, I understand the problems. Take soccer. To play soccer, you need a roundish object and an area in which to kick it around. Those two things are easily accessible to pretty much everyone. To play hockey, you need, at the very least, ice, skates, a stick, and a flattish object to thwack around, and those first two are specialized objects that can’t be substituted. Some people are lucky enough to live in some freezing icy wasteland, but even in Minnesota most people have to buy ice time, and that ain’t cheap. And if you’re going to play properly (safely, in a league) you need hundreds of dollars worth of equipment.
So hockey’s not really accessible to the masses, which understandably makes it less enjoyable for many people to watch. That’s the nice half of my “why hockey isn’t popular” argument. The somewhat ruder half: a lot of people can’t keep up with how fast the game moves and don’t bother to try (you really do have to work to watch hockey sometimes) and therefore declare it boring. (snark, snark)
So I’ve never been surprised by hockey’s lack of fans in the U.S.
There may yet be hope.
According to this story, the NHL’s popularity may be starting to outpace the NBA’s. And hey, it’s not the NFL, but it’s a start. I’m excited. Maybe finally there will be someone to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs with me, and I won’t be stuck by myself with my Doritos and my beer.