Hockey gets cold shoulder

Story by Kyle Davis

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Between watching the Stanley Cup Finals this June and seeing that the Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders played an exhibition game in Kansas City Tuesday, I wondered how many people in Kansas cared what was going on in hockeyworld.

This lead me to also wonder if hockey is in fact the most underappreciated major sport in America, or really the world.

It has to be. But why?

Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and is huge in Latin America, among other places. The NFL makes many people worship their televisions on Sundays and March Madness and the countless legends of the hardwood keeps basketball alive in well. Even soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and even if it is not widely accepted in the US, at least if you ask most people about it they say “oh yeah, that sport I played when I was 10.”

But where does that leave hockey? It does have arguably the greatest trophy in all of sports with the Stanley Cup, but is that all?

I think what the average fan misses the most about hockey is the athleticism required. Have people forgotten what the sport is played on? It’s ice. You know, that substance that makes people retire in Florida.

I’m sure there are many out there, like myself that have the coordination of a drunken baby on ice. If I were to go out and play a game today, I would probably uncontrollably run into the boards, cut myself or someone with my skate, hit myself in the head with my stick and spend more time on my stomach than on my feet. Then the game would start.

These guys skate at full speed, weaving in and out of defenders and handling the puck with grace before putting up a 90 mph slap shot. Still not convinced? Watch a goalie contort his body while stretching to deflect the puck before spinning around to stretch in the other direction and grab the puck with his glove hand on the put-back.

This is a game of inches with plenty of scoring opportunities, and if no points are on the board, it is probably because there was a series of incredible plays by the goalie or the defenders.

My final argument is that hockey players have some of the coolest names to say in all of sports. They may be a nightmare to spell, but once it is determined how the name is pronounced, it’s really fun to say.

Let’s just look at some of the names on the two Stanley Cup Finals teams, the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. For Detroit you have, Marian Hossa, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk, not to mention star players Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg. For Pittsburgh, how about Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko and Evgeni Malkin. There aren’t any Steve Smith’s on this list. Probably my favorite hockey name of all is that of Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (the K is silent).

No, hockey will not overtake the other three major sports in America in popularity, and I wouldn't necessarily want it to, but the sport still deserves more credit than it is currently receiving.<br/>