NHL Mythbusting: Why Hockey is the Hidden Gem of American Pro Sports

John EngelCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2010

PITTSBURGH - FEBRUARY 1:  Forward Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Buffalo Sabres on February 1, 2010 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Since the gladiators first stepped foot into the Roman Coliseum, sports have been a marvel to which no other facet of life can encompass and have captured the souls of countless fans around the world.

Nearly two millenniums and three Mannings later, not much has changed in the world of sports. Precision speed, electric hits, jaw-dropping agility, pristine execution, and unparalleled intelligence are still the prime characteristics of sports, though often scattered among the major four (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) in America. 

Only one, however, entails all of the skills bequeathed to us by the ancient Romans many centuries ago.

Hockey, which is more commonly found on the frozen ponds of our neighbors to the north, has had its ups and downs in the United States.

In 1980, Americans couldn’t get enough of it after the United States Olympic team defeated the highly favored and more experienced Soviets in what has been deemed the “Miracle on Ice.” Three decades later, hockey has once again slipped into a bitterly cold hibernation.

Lord Stanley, father of the Stanley Cup, would be utterly disappointed.

The thing that baffles me the most is this—ice hockey has everything the impatient, American sports fan demands. Many people claim that there isn’t enough scoring and that five to six goals just isn’t enough for a 60-minute game. 

Three myths currently thwart Americans from enjoying such a magnificent sport.


Myth No. 1: Not enough action

Two of the most popular sports in America over the last 50 years (baseball and football) have the least amount of total “action” out of the major four, according to a study by both Sports Illustrated and Wired magazines.

Major League Baseball and National Football League games both average fewer than 12 and a half minutes of live action per game, according to the study, while averaging nearly three hours of total game duration. Only the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League fill the entire duration of the game with live action.

Methodical inning breaks, blasphemous TV timeouts, and minutes upon minutes of bulldozer-sized linemen trotting to the huddle do not plague the sport of ice hockey, only lowering the amount of time wasted at a sporting event.


Myth No. 2: No star power

Another key component for a sport looking to increase its fan base is superstar recognition.

With players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, hockey has never had a better time to acquire fans. They may not be the best-looking athletes in the world, but they’re easily some of the best athletes.


Myth No. 3: Went to a fight and hockey game broke out/Football has better hits

Every football fan loves to see the opposing quarterback thrown to the turf or a wide receiver hospitalized after a bone-crushing hit from a blood-thirsty cornerback, but, for hockey fans, these climaxes seem as stale as the two-month-old nachos that sit before them.  

Unfortunately for the athletes who set foot on the ice each night, NHL players are five times more likely to experience concussions than NFL players, according to a 2007 study by The Orange County Register.

Spine-tingling cross checks and seat-raising board collisions are never amiss at a hockey game, while many football games become a monotonous battle of who has the best place kicker.

So next time you go to a fight, maybe the greatest sport on Earth will break out.