The 10 Biggest Misunderstandings Non-Fans Have About Hockey
Hockey is, especially in the United States, a misunderstood game. The colorful history is too often taken for granted, and the skill around the game today is underestimated.
Because of a couple decades scarred by labor issues and lack of major media exposure, there are lot of misconceptions about the game of hockey, and its players, that are all too common.
Here are 10 of those misunderstandings that could, and should, be quickly fixed.
95 Percent of Hockey Players Are from Canada
Another popular misconception among non-hockey fans is that most/all hockey players come from Canada. That's about as accurate as saying "most baseball players were born in the United States."
Not every hockey player was born in Canada.
Sitting Closer Is Better
Unlike other sports, hockey isn't always best seen from the closest seats. Indeed, not many angles on the glass afford the fan a quality view of the entire ice surface. So, unlike most sports, hockey is a game that might be best seen from the upper bowl in most arenas, where the entire ice surface is more easily seen and the action can be viewed in its entirety.
Hockey Should Be Played in Arizona
This is apparently a misunderstanding non-fans and some in the commissioner's office share.
The Coyotes have been bankrupt for years, they're the worst in the league in attendance and yet, there are markets begging the league for a team (Quebec City, Seattle). Heck, the Coyotes aren't as popular as spring training baseball games in December, January and February.
It's time for everyone to admit this little experiment was a failure and put a hockey team back in a hockey market.
Every Player Speaks French
I once had a basketball fan ask me if every hockey fan "had to speak French" because "there are so many players in the NHL that speak French."
Every Player Is Missing Teeth
Many hockey players are indeed missing some/most/all of their grill, but not every player is a dentist's best friend. Thanks to advances in mouthguard technology, players are doing a much better job of keeping their teeth where they started today.
Just don't ask Duncan Keith...
Hockey Players Are Indestructible
Some folks think hockey players are close to indestructible; the cliche overused on SportsCenter is "He's tough, he's a hockey player."
But obviously, that isn't true, and the NHL is trying to take steps to promote player safety in a sport that is ruled by guys that play through pain.
Size Means Everything
In most sports, size means a lot. Certainly, basketball is a game in which size means a great deal, and football players are bigger than every before. But in hockey, guys like Patrick Kane (who's generously listed at 5'10") can be among the game's elite.
Hockey Players Are Crude Animals
Because hockey is a tough, physical game, many assume hockey players are like those depicted in the new movie Goon.
But the truth is, most hockey players are gentlemen who take care of themselves and respect the fans. Indeed, my personal experience is that hockey players are as respectful towards fans and the media as much/more than any professional sport, other than golf, which is close.
There's a reason the Lady Byng is awarded each year, and there are many players that are worthy of a nomination.
Wayne Gretzky Was a Good Hockey Player
Most sports have a legitimate argument regarding who was the best player ever.
Mickey Mantle? Babe Ruth? Willie Mays? Ted Williams? Each brought something to the table.
Joe Montana? John Elway? Peyton Manning? Each was great.
Michael Jordan might have the crown today, but Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and even Oscar Robertson might have something to say about that.
In hockey, the record books make the argument void quickly. Gretzky has the most undeniably dominant statistical line in any team sport. While different players have been great in different eras, none has come close to what Gretzky was, and none ever will.
Hockey Needs ESPN
Many non-fans and fans alike think the NHL needs to have a relationship with the Disney Company (ie ESPN and ABC) to be a major player in the professional sports landscape in the United States.
That, too, is false.
While ESPN and ABC (read: Gary Thorne) did a nice job while they had rights to the coverage, there might be two or three people at the four-letter network that know more than the spelling of N-H-L about the game. They can stick to loving LeBron and Tom Brady, and hockey fans will happily survive.