Wanted: Hockey Fans to Help Me See the Light

Joe Healy desperately wants to become a hockey fan. To do so, he’s looking for some help from a few good men.

There are two things you need to know about me when it comes to hockey.

1. I do not follow hockey.

2. The previous fact is one that really bothers me.

There is just something about the sport of hockey that intrigues me and makes me want to be a fan.

Fans of the sport are unlike any other group of fans. They are intensely loyal to their team and their sport through thick and thin.

Hockey doesn’t have nearly the following in America as it used to thanks in large part to the rise of the NBA and NFL and the NHL lockout of a few years back, but this incredibly dedicated group of fans still remain.

I feel like I identify with these rabid NHL fans in some way. They aren’t all that different than me. It’s just that their sport of choice differs from mine. Those similarities are precisely what bothers me about my lack of interest in the NHL. I know I could learn to love it.

If you ask anyone that considers themselves a hockey fan in the slightest which professional sports league has the best postseason, they would tell you the NHL. If you ask any person with close relationships with athletes across all sports which sport has the best characters and nicest guys, they would tell you hockey.

If these facts are true, and there is no reason to disbelieve them, how could I not get roped in? I’m just convinced that once the hockey bug bites, it will bite me hard.

I have to admit that my efforts to get into the sport have fallen off as of late. There was a time where I would have considered myself a casual hockey fan. But I would have only considered myself that because that was during the period of time that ESPN had the rights to NHL games. As often as I had ESPN on, I was bound to catch an NHL game from time to time.

In order to promote the games that their station televised, ESPN also did a much better job of showing NHL highlights on SportsCenter and their other network programming.

But when ESPN dropped the NHL following their lockout, my habit of catching the odd NHL game when I left ESPN on in the living room was over, as were the days where I could just keep up with the NHL by watching SportsCenter everyday. I have the NBC Sports Network, the network that now carries the NHL, but I don’t go out of my way to watch their coverage of the NHL.

This is where you come in, hockey fans. What do I need to do to put myself in a position to love the game that you all love so much?

I can assure you that I am not a lost cause. I love watching live games. I’ve been to a half a dozen or so live hockey games in my life, spanning all levels, and I have had a great time at each of the games. No sport is improved more than hockey when a fan is there live.

But therein lies the problem. It’s not possible for me to be at hundreds of live games every year, so how do I get the same level of enjoyment out of watching games on television? High-definition has made things, namely following the puck on the ice, much easier, but it’s still not the same.

It will help that I have a history of being able to grow my fandom in certain sports. I’ve recently done that with both tennis and soccer.

I started watching tennis back at the 2010 Australian Open. Despite the fact that I didn’t recognize half the names in the tournament draw and I didn’t understand most of the lingo used by the television analysts, I forced myself to watch as much as I could. After just a few days of watching, I had completely bought in.

I loved how each player put his or her own personal spin, no pun intended, on the game and I liked the fact that as a fan of the American players, I was rooting for the underdog. Now, I watch all the tennis I can get my hands on and I regularly write tennis columns for this very website.

Soccer was much the same. During what sports fans call the “Dog Days of Summer” back in 2010, I spent many a morning watching World Cup matches while eating my daily bowl of cereal. With little else on other than replays of SportsCenter, I figured it was worth a shot. What ended up happening, though, was I became invested. I’m still not the type of fan that gets up early on Saturdays to watch English Premier League matches, but I watch MLS matches on ESPN and Fox Soccer and I’m already excited for the 2014 World Cup.

I will admit, however, that I’m not the ideal candidate to become a hockey fan.

I have no home NHL team. I’m from Houston, Texas and I still live about 90 miles from Houston.

Houston has the Houston Aeros, a minor league team that plays in the American Hockey League. They’re nice to have so that I can occasionally scratch the itch to see a hockey game live, but because they are minor league and the roster is ever-changing, it’s hard to get too invested in them.

I’ve also considered following the Minnesota Wild, the Aeros’ parent club, but that’s troublesome too. Because they aren’t a big-ticket NHL team, their games aren’t often shown on the networks that carry the NHL and I’m not prepared to make a monetary commitment like would be required to get the NHL Center Ice package to see their games.

I’ve also considered following the St. Louis Blues. My family lives in that area, I root for other St. Louis teams like the Cardinals and Rams and they are one of the better teams in the league right now, but I would run into the same issues with them as I would with the Wild.

Geographically, the Dallas Stars make the most sense. They are located just a few hours away from where I reside and their games are often carried on channels I get. But because of my disdain for all things Dallas, I can’t bring myself to get behind them. It’s nothing personal, Dallas, it’s just sports. You understand.

All I’m looking for is a little help from some passionate hockey fans. Where do I go from here? How do I go about becoming the hockey fan that I’ve always wanted to be? Do I even have any idea what I’m trying to get myself into?

Help me become more like you.

Joseph Healy writes for The Fan Manifesto. You can follow him on Twitter at @Joe_On_Sports. You can follow the entire Fan Man team here.


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1 comment

  1. AndrewBensch says:

    was this intended for me joseph? haha

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