The NHL Playoffs are off and running, well into the run with the first round under the teams' belts. Here's guest writer Tony Garcia with more...
Before I get on with my blog, I need to throw something out there. My #1, hands down, unquestioned, head honcho, king of the crop favorite sport is… hockey. Over the next few weeks you're going to be getting a lot of hockey news from yours truly. I don't apologize for that and I never will. I think one of the reasons Troy and I became friends and remain friends is because of hockey. I also feel like part of the reason he reached out to me is because of my love for the game. Sports writing and sports blogging needs more hockey people. Average Joe sports fan needs to watch more of this game and I'm going to attempt to bridge the gap or lend a hand to assist people to flock to what I feel is the greatest team sport in the land. And since I have this space to write and express my views and opinions, you better believe I'm going to use it.
If you haven't been watching Stanley Cup playoff hockey, start now. I mean literally turn on NBC Sports Network or scramble through your channel guide to find CNBC (nothing says hockey like CNBC). Chances are a game is on. As I write this, Boston and Montreal are in the middle of Game 1 of their series. I'll get more into that series later. This is the part of the blog where I pound my chest and say playoff hockey is like nothing else. If you're going to only reserve a little time to watch the game, watch it during the playoffs. The players risk life and limb out there at this time of year. Injuries? What injuries? There's no such thing this time of year. Once a playoff series is over you will find players have played with injuries that you wouldn't think one could function with, let alone play a sport at a professional level. Hockey players are nuts and that's why we love them.
If you did watch the first round of the playoffs, you viewed what was probably one of the best first rounds of all time. You picked a good time to start your hockey fandom. Last night there were three games 7 (or game 7's). I don't know which is proper English, but my last name is Garcia so we'll just agree that there must be some kind of language barrier here that I just simply can't overcome. Games 7 makes more sense to me grammatically but game 7's sounds right phonetically.
To me there is no better drama than a sports game. Not just hockey but sports in general. I hate to play spoiler for you, but your "reality TV" isn't reality at all. It's either scripted or driven to a pre-determined storyline by some kind of producer or director that it might as well be scripted. I speak from experience. During my stint in LA I worked on many reality shows and every show I worked for had some kind of script or storyline that the producer wanted to follow. Shows that you would think there wasn't any way it could be scripted… they were scripted. It left me with a cold feeling towards that particular niche in the TV industry. But like many employees, after a few jobs, you just turn a blind eye to it and accept that you are just doing a job. And if that job pays a few bills and allows you to eat, you zip it and do that job.
Okay, enough of that. Why should you watch hockey? More specifically why should you watch Stanley Cup Playoff hockey?
The skill of these guys is amazing. The combination of speed, skill, agility, endurance and toughness is like no other sport out there. I think what happens is the viewer sometimes gets lost in how difficult it actually is to do some of the things they do. Go to your nearest ice arena and go to a public skate some time. Strap on your skates and once you've mastered the art of standing on the ice, take your first stride. Now that you've got yourself moving and the boards are coming up, try to stop. It's not easy. Now imagine you have a stick in your hands. Look around. Now imagine everyone else has a stick in their hands too. Oh, and don't forget all those other people out there are going to hit you. You're going to get hit by a big, fast person with a stick. Now look down to the other end of the ice. There's a goalie there. He's 6 foot 5 and he has big pads on. There's so much that goes into a hockey player's head at one time. You literally have less than a second to decide what to do. Then once you decide what you're doing with the puck, you have to execute. On skates. With someone hitting you. There are so many elements that just get ignored and tossed away because these guys make it look easy and effortless. The most mundane hockey play is poetry in motion.
One common thread or complaint I get from Average Joe sports fan about hockey is they can't relate or don't understand the rules. Football, America's Game, is generally simple. Throw ball, catch ball, tackle guy with ball. Basketball, run and throw ball in basket. Baseball, hit ball and catch ball. Sure every one of these sports have nuances to them. Offensive schemes, defensive schemes, zone vs man defense, etc. The rules are just more simple in those games, I get it. It's hard to explain icing and offsides without a dry erase board. Those are the two most common rules people don't understand. What I tell many people that are new to the game is to simplify their viewing at first and just accept that the whistle just happened. Not everyone gets ALL of the rules in football, baseball and basketball. They accept it and move on. But for some reason they get hung up on icing and offsides. After a while you will start to understand it. Then it's on like Donkey Kong.
If you're reading this and saying, "but Tony, I understand the rules already. What are your thoughts on the first round and what do you see happening in the second round?" I'm saying I'm sorry but you're gonna have to wait 24 hours for that. This one was for Average Joe sports fan that needs to be lead to the game of hockey. Watch a Stanley Cup playoff overtime game and tell me it was boring. Blasphemy! Once you've made it through these playoffs you'll be ready for more complicated things. Things I promise I'm going to be covering in the future. Things like CORSI and FENWICK and the trap and umbrella power play. These things are so exciting to me and I can't wait to share them with all of you.
Every time I attempt to attract more people to the game I always feel like I'm a lawyer trying to sway a jury one way or another. Hopefully I did in this case. If my words don't do it for you, just turn on the game like I suggested earlier. You'll get hooked. Because of the drama. Because of the grit. Because it's the Cup.