I’m not the typical American, I’m not the typical Californian, I’m not the typical sports fan. Why? Because I love puck.
Whether it manifested due to the release of Disney’s The Mighty Ducks trilogy, or because of the then expansion San Jose Sharks, (or both), doesn’t really matter; somehow, someway, rollerblading and eventually street hockey, became wildly popular in Northern California during the 1990′s.
Back in those days, the thing for kids to do in my neighborhood was not to play basketball, baseball or football but that’s right… hockey.
So in a sense, yes, I am extremely biased on this topic.
But not as biased as you might believe. The first organized sports I ever played were soccer, baseball and flag football. Organized hockey came way later, middle of my high school career to be exact.
Other sports have a place in my heart as well.
However, hockey just has the best versions of everything I look for in a sport: speed, violence, teamwork, stoppages and drama.
Ever since I was a wee lad, I’ve loved going fast. (most of you men out there can probably relate to that). Most of us were little energizer bunnies wanting to move about the house at a thousand miles per hour.
Hockey is the fastest sport in the world.
Boston Bruin’s captain Zdeno Chara recently increased his world record hardest slap shot to 108.8 mph. Sure, tennis serves are clocked at a faster rate and NASCAR stock cars travel at higher rates of speed.
But neither tennis stars nor NASCAR drivers have to work at a high rate of speed while also intertwining with 11 other players. And neither do they have to worry about anticipating a blistering black rubber puck shattering their fibula/ankle.
Hockey is the most violent team sport in the world.
One could make the case for football or rugby. But when I mean violence, I’m talking the speed and impact level of collisions. Rugby certainly can be argued as tougher because injuries are more frequent sans the protective gear but the fastest NHL skater skates much, much faster than the fastest football or rugby player can run.
Therefore, the hardest collision in hockey trumps any other collision in team sport.
Hockey is the most intricate sport when it comes to teamwork.
In a given shift, typically all six players touch the puck. In football, the offensive line rarely if ever touches the ball, and some receivers go games without catching a pass. In baseball, players often go long stretches without touching the ball with either glove or bat. And in basketball there is teamwork certainly, but it’s also widely accepted to be a super star dominant sport.
Soccer is a close second to hockey, but decisions on ice are still made that much faster and in tighter spaces than on the pitch.
Hockey has the least amount of stoppages of all the four major sports.
Basketball has a ridiculous amount of timeouts and don’t get me started on fouling (aka taking a penalty) being a strategy. That’s just an absurd notion. That strategy also prolongs the game with an insane amount of down time between free throws when nothing is going on! Boring!
The NFL is awesome but the clock stops for every incomplete pass and seriously a commercial after a touchdown, and then one play (kickoff) and immediately another commercial? That would be like if a hockey game had a commercial after every goal. Talk about a buzz kill that would be.
Baseball was one of the first sports I played but there is just too much downtime between pitches and freezing runners at first base, batters calling for timeout, coaches coming to the mound. Games are just too slow and too long.
Hockey has a quick pace that remains quick from beginning to end. Stoppages are limited. An entire period of hockey can be played without a single stoppage.
And finally, the kicker, the anchor of why hockey is my favorite sport: the drama.
Hockey is the most dramatic of team sports.
If you have yet to watch an overtime period of an NHL playoff game, you are really missing out. The game could literally end at any moment. You can’t say that about any other team sport. Basketball is not sudden death. Football is no longer first to score wins and even when it was, genuine scoring opportunities are few and far between. Baseball the visiting team can score but it’s not sudden death when they do.
Trust me, even if you only know the basics of hockey, if you call yourself a sports fan, playoff overtime will have you glued to your seat.
The anticipation of a team about to score because they are circling around the opponents zone is unlike that of any other team sport. In fact, a hockey team could be threatening to score for a good two minutes straight without any stoppages in action.
Can you say that about any other sport? Not even in soccer do we see scoring chances that frequent in a two minute time span.
There is simply nothing that matches the build up of anticipation when your favorite hockey team is about to score and is getting chance after chance after chance after chance and then, in a split second….GOAL!! STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!!!
You won’t see an NBA title won in that fashion. Shots that don’t go in almost always get turned over to the other team’s clear possession and then they get go on offense. End of anticipation.
Baseball and football just have too many stoppages for an equal amount of constant build up and anticipation.
No doubt about it, hockey is king of drama.
It’s my favorite sport, and I think it would be yours too if you gave it a chance. Speed, violence, teamwork, continuous action and drama!
Andrew Bensch writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @AndyBensch