Wake up America, the NFL over is after this weekend. All that’s left is an overblown exhibition game that no one wants to play in and a corporate wonderland that will decide a champion that Lord willing won’t be Tom Brady’s Patriots.
What now? Yep fair question. You won’t watch college basketball until a week into March. The NBA won’t get interesting until June and beside the Spurs have a team full of geriatrics, the Mavs let their championship nuclease walk, and the Rockets just suck.
Don’t despair, it’s Hockey Night in America pal. The NHL is alive and totally kicking. What’s that? You’ve never watched hockey? Your perception of the game is that it’s played on ice by men who like to fight, lack teeth, and aren’t even Americans? Well that’s ok, we can rehabilitate you. You’ll grow to love the puck. For the uninitiated here are 5 things that will draw you in…
5. You’re an American so we know you like the violence. Hockey is right up our ally. Get this, you can skate around whilst carrying a stick AND hit people. Welcome to Americas game! Fighting is on the decline. That’s ok. It still happens a lot and the great thing is the NHL is a self-policing entity. You take out our best player, congratulations meet Dave, he’s 6-4 240 and we only pay him to pummel guys who take out our best players. That’s right, there is a roster spot or even two for guys who just go out and engage in fisticuffs. What’s more American than that?
4. It’s fast. The rules enacted after the ’06 strike have opened up the game for skill players to be skilled. The neutral zone trap with all its awesomeness was outlawed. Players are now able to motor around almost unimpeded. That’s great for scoring, which is up by the way. That said hockey is still a contact sport and defensemen have decided to show off their wheels as well. Players are bigger, faster, more skilled, and better than ever before.
3. Rock and Roll has a home in the NHL. Remember the 80’s, that greatest of all decades? You had a jean jacket. You wished you owned a Camaro. You grew your hair out and ripped your own jeans. Those days are back my friend at your local NHL rink. In part because the Canadian and Eastern European are a solid 20 years behind and in part because of the arena rock blaring from the in house speakers the NHL is rock’s perpetual home. Tune in a game right now, you’ll hear Guns-n-Roses, mucho Metallica and its lesser known knock off contemporary Megadeath. You’ll hear songs that Rocky Balboa would have played in his walk-man while he was training to the kick the hell out of some poor communist. Enjoy the total void of all things Hoobastank and anything from the Glee cast.
2. The friendly Canadian is king. Name me a more friendly group of folks than our neighbors to the north. You absolutely cannot. The accent is adorable and they are so darned chipper. It’s like watching a pack of Koalas shoot pool. Precious. But don’t sleep on ‘em. They can be cut throat to those who live outside “the code.” Step out of line the Canadian will come at you and he won’t be bringing maple syrup. You’ll appreciate it though because you deserve the justice he dispenses and he’ll do it with a smile on his face.
1. The playoffs are coming. The NHL playoffs are the best post-season bar none. The Atlanta Hawks will make the NBA post-season this year. Newsflash they will play hard in about a third of their playoff games. They will wear headbands and they will not play defense. What’s scary is that might be enough to win a series. Lovie Smith challenged a third and two call in the second quarter of a Wild Card Weekend game. Third and two from his own 30! The NHL playoffs are the second half of Blood Sport from round one to the brutal end of the Stanley Cups finals. Hang around until teams are eliminated and they finally give their injury reports. I wouldn’t operate my toothbrush with some of the stuff these guys deal with let alone play a sport. Martin St. Louis had a double root canal after game one of the Tampa/Pittsburgh series last year after having three teeth knocked out. He was back for game two. Pissed off. Get in now so when the playoffs start you won’t feel like the last guy without a prom date. It will be epic.
Watch games on NBC Sports (formerly Versus), NBC, the NHL Network and the occasional Stars game on Fox Sports Southwest. If you’re in Houston head down to the Maple Leaf Pub at Elgin and Smith especially around playoff time.