Monday, April 7, 2008

Blame Canada?

While I realize that blog seems to have a decided NFL, MLB, and (thanks to Jeff's American Idol blog) effeminate vibe. I wanted to keep everyone apprised on one of the most entertaining/under-rated times of the year. The NHL playoffs are here, and I think its time we look past the rambling, nonsensical Canadian announcers, the mullets, and perhaps grow a playoff beard or board someone into a cubical. Still I know most of you, and America, won't...and the pertinent question is why? The sport is fast, skilled, and encourages fighting. It takes the better parts of football and soccer and combines them. While a lot of it might be that none of us ever play hockey (while we do play football, baseball, and basketball), I believe the league and the sport made some bad decisions. Here are my reasons why the NHL is under-viewed:

1) The NHL lockout, which resulted in an entire season being canceled, was a painful blow to a suffering league. The sport was already in trouble, with ESPN looking for a reason to get out of its coverage, and the NBA available to replace the NHL. Further, unlike baseball or football, the NHL did not have the same place in American culture. Think about how long it took the MLB to recover from their lockout (some would argue that its still recovering somewhat). Baseball had a storied place in the American psyche. People have fond memories of going to games with their Dad's, and dream of taking their kids to the games in the future...and it still took years to recover. The NHL was Canada's sport, that happened to be played in the US. What chance did it stand to recover?

2) The NHL got too big for its britches (I have been waiting to use those words in a sentence for years). Expansion into markets where people would prefer to watch cars drive around in circles, has condemned transcendent talent like Alex Ovechkin, and Ilya Kovlachuck to relative obscurity. Consider: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Rick Nash (WATCH THIS ONE, GOAL OF THE YEAR) represent one of the finest crop of young players in the history of sport (any sport). Ovie v. Crosby could (should be) Magic v. Bird...but only one city really cares...and Pittsburgh and Washington are not exactly LA and Boston. Put in other terms, the NHL currently has 3 Lebron James's (Crosby, Ovechkin, and Malkin), yet is being shown on Versus, leading into men who may or may not live in trailers fighting each other in steel cages. Which is a nice lead in to my next point...

3) The NHL is currently being shown once weekly on NBC, and a few times a week on Versus. We are all graced with a chance to see Ovie on Comcast, but in other parts of the nation, the best you get is maybe a minute clip at the end of a ESPNews Hour. How the mighty have fallen. Once upon a time you could watch all the games on ESPN, and Fox would broadcast the playoffs and Stanley Cup. Now, Versus shows a couple of the playoff games, and if you want to watch others you are relegated to listening on XM radio.

4) NHL fans and announcers are just too goofy, and coverage of sport lacks the seriousness and levity of MLB and NFL coverage. I blame this on the fact that 90% of the announcers are Canadians. Has anyone ever seen Strange Brew...Canadians aren't meant to be serious.

So that's it...and I know that none of you will listen, but if you get a chance check out a playoff game. I think you will like what you see.


Wilson said...

I second this call strongly. and watch that Rick Nash clip you jerks.

Ryan Smith said...

That Rick Nash goal is absurd.

After reading your post, I found myself thinking, "why am I not a bigger hockey fan?" I grew up in Maryland, which is hardly hockey country, but I still followed the exploits of Don Beaupre, Dino Ciccarelli, Al Iafrate, etc with more than passing interest. My friends and I spent hours playing seasons of NHL '95 in high school. We even hand-tabulated our stats. Plus I'm a huge soccer fan (and I agree that there are many similarities to the games. Low scoring, and ties!). Oh, and I like to watch fights. Especially between Eastern Europeans. But somewhere along he way -- long before the lockout -- I lost interest. Not sure why.

Jay Z said...

For what it's worth, I watched the Nash clip and was not impressed. I just can't identify good plays/skills while watching hockey. I guess maybe if I watched it more I'd develop the ability to do so, but that's not likely to happen. I occasionally catch 1 or 2 playoff games a year, and they're entertaining enough, but I just don't know enough about it to care.