Passionate hockey fans celebrate the Los Angeles Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup championship
How do you not sound like just another yahoo when you say your sport is the best and your sport's fans are better than any others?
When you are being completely honest, it's always in the eye of the beholder.
Baseball fans say they are the best, and so do football and basketball fans.
Hockey fans are no different.
If we were measuring the best fans by the total number, there is little doubt that the best fans would belong to the NFL. Professional football fans not only fill up huge stadiums on an every-game basis, they make NFL football the most watched sport by a wide margin.
When it comes to the Super Bowl, no other televised program can challenge that event's dominance.
But when we are talking about passion, energy, knowledge and level of care, it's hard to say that any fans could offer more of all those characteristics than hockey fans.
Hockey fans know history, strategy and talent. They understand what non-hockey fans don't. The game is not about high-speed collisions and randomness. It is about creating opportunities with creativity, position and vision.
The greatly talented skater with the heavy shot may or may not be a great goal scorer. If he does not combine that physical talent with the gift of being able to see the ice so that he is in the best position to unload a shot or deliver a pinpoint pass, than he is not going to be a good player despite all that talent.
Hockey fans understand this.
They understand that it is about timing, precision and open space. When these factors are involved in an offensive play, a goal or an excellent goal-scoring opportunity will result.
How often do you hear non-hockey fans say they can't follow the puck when they are watching a game on television? You probably heard this more often prior to the advent of high-definition television, but it is still a common complaint.
That's because those fans do not understand the game. They don't understand what a team with possession of the puck must do in order to create a legitimate scoring opportunity.
They don't understand how much skill is needed and how much effort needs to be applied. The non-hockey fan has not made the effort to understand what he or she is watching.
But once a hockey fan understands what is going on down below or on his television screen, it is simply mesmerizing.
That understanding comes in an instant, and is then confirmed in every ensuing game the hockey fan watches for the rest of his life.
That's what makes hockey fans the best. Nothing is spoon-fed to them. It's not easy. It takes effort to get to a level of legitimate fandom. Once a hockey fan gets to that state, nothing will take away his enjoyment of the sport.
Except a lockout that is now approaching its fifth calendar month and is doing major damage to the sport.