Why Hockey Is Better Than (American) Football

Zach WolfContributor IFebruary 8, 2010

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 4:  Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks fires a slapshot from the faceoff circle in a game against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on February 4, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada.  The Ottawa Senators defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

I couldn't think of a witty beginning to this essay, so I'm just going to jump in and let the facts speak for themselves.

Part One: The Game Itself

A football game is broken up into 15 minute quarters. A hockey game is broken up into three 20 minute periods. Each game is played for one hour (overtimes excluded, which will be covered later) in theory. However in football there are times when the clock is running in between plays, while in hockey the clock stops running once play is stopped. A recent Wall Street Journal article (1) notes that the average football game has an average of 11 minutes played in each game. That is from whistle to whistle actual play. Hockey has 60 minutes of play in each game. That's whistle to whistle action.

According to that same Wall Street Journal article the average football play lasts four seconds, with a maximum of 40 seconds after each play to start a new one. That means 40 seconds of inactivity. The Journal of Applied Physics (2) claims that the average amount of continuous play in hockey is about about 40 seconds (39.7 seconds, to be exact). As in both cases, plays can be longer or shorter than those times, that is just an average.

In football the ball is given to each team, without fail after every score. In hockey the puck is never given to a team, each team must battle for every second they have the puck. After an interception in football, a team is guaranteed the ball and therefore an opportunity to score. An interception in hockey guarantees nothing, and the intercepting team must fight to retain possession.

While big hits happen in both sports, in football if you're about to get clobbered by a hit, you can duck off the field to safety. When a potential hit is coming your way in hockey you only have a wall behind you, thus nowhere to go.

If a scrum/fight breaks out in football the fight isn't really awesome, because a helmet is covering each combatants face. While in hockey the most there is to protect yourself is a visor that only covers the top half of your face.
For 11 minutes of football, each team receives a maximum of eight time outs. Meanwhile in hockey, each team receives one timeout per game.
Neither football nor hockey can end in a tie, and both sports have an overtime period. Both of which are sudden death, meaning the first team to score wins. In hockey there is a faceoff and each team must earn possession of the puck to score a goal. In football the ball is given to one of the teams, and they can score in the overtime without the other team getting a chance to score, unless they stop their opponents advances or gain possession of the ball via fumble or interception.
I've heard of football players leaving games and missing weeks on end because of broken fingers and other injuries. Even hockey player Cindy Crowly (I refuse to call him by his real name) once played an entire playoff run with a broken foot and didn't tell anyone until after his team had been eliminated. Which brings me to my second point.

Part Two: The Season and the Playoffs

An NHL (National Hockey League) season and an NFL (National Football League) season are vastly different. An NHL season is comprised of 82 games from October through April, roughly 26 weeks (28 weeks if it is an Olympic year). An NFL season contains each team playing once a week for 16 games beginning in August and ending in January. That means an NFL team plays one game per week, while an NHL team averages a little over three games a week. In numbers.

NFL team—11 minutes of actual playing per week.
NHL team—Three hours of actual play a week.

If you want to win the Stanley Cup (the championship in hockey) you must win four seven-game series. That means you must play a minimum of 16 games, assuming you don't lose once throughout the entire playoffs (a feat that is extremely rare and unlikely).

Football also uses the four-round system, though each round consists of one game.

That means to win the Super Bowl (the football championship) a team must play and win four games. That is 25 percent of the minimum amount of games a hockey team must win to be crowned champions. Numerically that breaks down as follows (from the averages listed above). In numbers.

To win the Superbowl a team must be the better team through 44 minutes of play.
To win the Stanley Cup a team must be the better team through a minimum of 16 hours of play.

Part Three: Fans

A quick disclaimer, I'm not calling you stupid or think of you an idiot because you watch football, these are merely observations.

While both sports obviously have loyal fans, I think being a football fan is a little easier than being a hockey fan. To a fan following their favorite football team, they must dedicate one game a week to watching their team.

A typical broadcast of an NFL game is roughly three hours. This includes commercials, stoppages of play, half time and what not. A three-hour broadcast for 11 minutes of play. The average telecast devotes 56 percent more time to replays than they do for actual play. The same Wall Street Journal article mentioned before says that about 60 percent of total air time is dedicated to showing huddles, players standing around, and players lining up for a play.

Not unlike an NFL broadcast, an NHL broadcast is about three hours as well. This constitutes at least an hour of actual game play. The numbers, give or take.

Football—11 minutes a week.
Hockey—three hours a week.

I feel like watching football is more about the things surrounding a game than the game itself. After all, the game itself is only 11 minutes. Thing like tail-gating, betting, and eating and drinking are what makes watching football so popular more than the football itself.

So there you have it, my argument on why hockey is a better game than (American) football.


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