Hockey: Appreciating the Little Things

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IJune 24, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12: Brett Lebda #22 of the Detroit Red Wings passes the puck against Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hockey isn't popular in the southeast. Its stereotype advertises a boring game that only Canadiens like. Because of this assumption, few southerners give hockey a chance. But I, as a North Carolinian, gave hockey a try. Now it's easily my favorite sport.

It's a shame that many southerners knock it before they try it. Otherwise, I'm sure that they would fall in love with hockey.

What makes hockey so special to experience is the intimate crowd atmosphere. The subtle wintry hue of the arena one can feel even from a luxury box. The perfect sheen of the freshly laid ice. The introduction ceremonies, with Metallica's "Sandman" blasting through the speakers as the overhead lights go out and the players storm onto the ice.

The sound of skate blades carving razor-thin indentations in the ice. The shrill of the referee's whistle as he drops the puck for the opening faceoff to signal the start of the game.

The kloosh! of the puck sliding across the ice as it is passed from one player to another. The clack! of the puck making impact with the hard, wood blade of a players' stick. The carome! of the puck whipping around the end boards on a determined hard-around. The crush! of the side boards bending back as a player checks an opponent into them hard.

The rising din of the crowd during a well-executed powerplay in anticipation of a big goal. The relief of seeing the puck skidding down the full length of the ice as the team you're pulling for finishes off a momentous penalty kill.

The deafening roar of the crowd when the home team scores. The sound of the goal horn blaring. The adrenaline rush of a game-clinching, empty-net goal at the end of regulation. The suspense of overtime, where the first goal wins the game.

The excitement of the playoffs and the exhilaration of the heat of the playoff race.

If more southerners gave hockey a chance, they would love it. Hockey would subsequently gain the popularity it deserves in the south.