I was working in the washingtonpost.com sports department back in 1999 when I realized that I was the only editor who liked hockey. It was mind-boggling. The other editors favored football, baseball, and even golf. But hockey? An afterthought. Even Tiger Woods dismissed the sport.
It wasn’t just Washington D.C. (though the Capitals had just a year earlier made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals). It was most other U.S. markets, as well. While having a local winning team will typically increase interest in the sport, that shouldn’t be the only reason more people should enjoy hockey.
The reason is simple: There is more action in hockey than any other professional sport.
Nothing happens in the vast majority of a baseball game. It’s a game of waiting for something to happen. Multiply that by 162 MLB games and it collectively adds up to more time of nothing happening than entire seasons of other sports combined.
Though football is the most popular sport in the U.S., that, too, has most of its time eaten by a running clock between plays. It helps that there are only 16 games, which vastly increases the importance of each game, but there is far less action than the time allows. That’s not to say the game ought to be changed, but teams eating clock certainly robs fans of seeing more things that are actually interesting.
Basketball, relatively speaking, is end-to-end action because the clock only runs while the ball is in motion. Also, there is far more scoring in basketball than in any other sport, and fans dig offense. The nature of the game, however, allows for teams to slow down the pace of the game. The ease in which a player can commit a foul – whether by accident or to stop the clock – slows down the game, and an absurd number of timeouts can make the last minute take forever. But the kicker? There are only 48 minutes in an NBA game, 12 fewer than football and hockey. Yet an NBA game typically takes as long as a hockey game due to play stoppages. Therefore, there is ultimately less action in the same amount of time.
At 90 minutes, soccer is the longest timed game, but hardly has the most action considering the number of players on the field and the lack of scoring.
That brings us to hockey. Can an NHL game be boring? Sure. Teams can play poorly, defenses may tighten up, offsides and icing may make fans roll their eyes… But those are hardly the reasons why some people don’t care about hockey. There is more action in a hockey game per minute than baseball, football, soccer, and basketball. A minute in hockey, even without a goal, can have shots, saves, body checks, blocked shots, and other fast-paced things that you won’t see consistently in other sports.
So why, exactly, do people dismiss hockey and focus their attention on sports where much less happens?
I’ve seen people make arguments as to why baseball sucks, why golf sucks, why soccer sucks, and many people complain about rules in the NFL. But hockey? I’ve never seen a valid argument as to why the NHL sucks, just ignorant comments about it being a sport where Canadians fight on ice skates.
So, my point? Simple. Hockey is the best.