The NHL Is Great But Here's What I Hate: Why Hockey Games Can Drive Us Crazy

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IOctober 23, 2010

CHICAGO - MAY 31:  Referee Stephen Walkom makes a call in Game Two of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center on May 31, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the NHL. There are few things in this world that I'd rather be doing than watching a hockey game. If I was on death row and the prison guards asked me what I wanted for my last meal, I'd say forget the food, serve me up a Saturday night of Leafs vs. Habs, followed by Oilers vs. Flames. Hold the Mustard.

I would die a happy man.

You just can't beat hockey. It really is the coolest game on earth. The fastest too. And the most exciting.

Well, unless the Minnesota Wild are involved, but you get the picture—I love hockey. You do too. But sometimes I just can't help becoming enraged at certain aspects of the game.

I'm sure we all have those little things about the game that drive us nuts, and I am no different. When they happen it feels like a thousand pins are stabbing into your forehead. It's the smallest, most insignificant things too, that drive us mad. Yet they're part of the reason so many hockey fans are one more game away from a pacemaker.

It's not the tough calls, playing your arch rival or watching your team lose the lead with seven seconds left that's the worst. That's all part of the game. We love to hate the refs. We love to hate our rivals. We love overtime.

It's all those other little things that make you want to throw the converter through the TV (we've all felt like doing it, but it would only be satisfying for about 1.6 seconds before you realized it was the biggest mistake of your life).

So without further ado, I give you the things about watching a game of hockey that make me want to stab myself in the eye with a Popsicle stick dipped in hot sauce (you know the feeling, Wild fans).


Hey ref, drop the puck!

The faceoff. A simple, yet effective way to give each team a fair chance at gaining possession after each stoppage in play. Whoever thought of it, sheer brilliance, but there's one thing about the faceoff that makes me want to put my head through a brick wall.

It's meant to be a brief pause, as line changes take place, goalies grab a drink and players on the bench re-tape their stick for the 34th time in the period. The NHL even made a rule that teams only have so many seconds after a whistle to get to the correct dot on the ice and line up. To speed up the game, of course. A great idea, except for one thing.

It often isn't sped up because of the men in stripes. Yeah, them.

Frantic action has just played out before your eyes, a great save happened and the crowd is going nuts. You're sitting on the edge of your seat, your couch, just waiting for the ref to drop the puck, so it can start all over again. And that's when it happens.

You know what I'm talking about.

The ref just stands there, slightly bent over, staring at the ice seemingly frozen in time as he apparently contemplates his post-game activities or how uncomfortable that sock-rolled-up-in-your-skate feeling is. He doesn't drop the puck, but instead he proceeds to wait (for what? nobody knows) as if to say, "I control what happens here. I hold the game in the palm of my hand." Literally.

It makes me want to slug a small kitten. But it gets worse—much, much worse.

After waiting for what seems like six days, one of the players involved in the draw jumps early. Almost always. And before you can say Cal Clutterbuck, out goes the arm of the ref, signalling that player has been kicked out of the draw.

I hate that. It's like in the Summer Olympics if before the 100 meter finals, they screamed "On your marks. Get set... Wait. Wait. Waaaaaait." And then kicked you out of the race if you made the slightest move. 

Usain Bolt would kill somebody—in record-breaking time.

It's like the refs want them to jump. Like they enjoy faking them out just enough so they bite, then get humiliated as they're removed from the scene.

(Side note: What makes the situation more painful is that every time a player is kicked out of the draw, it's like it caught everyone on the ice off guard. Like no one saw this coming. The center man looks around dumbfounded at his wingers, who stand there confused as if saying, "who, me?" It kills me. Figure it out, you've been in this situation before guys. Three minutes ago.)

But the worst part happens next. The part that makes me want to stand up and kick the air as hard as I can, pretending there's something in front of me that would be satisfying to punt across the room.

After the players have huddled and figured out who's second-best at losing draws, the new man at center comes in towards the dot, ref and opponent waiting patiently, and before he can even slow to a stop and barely get his stick down, the ref whips that puck at the ice like it's going out of style. It happens so fast you barely even see it—a blur.

Like he's suddenly in an old Western playing the character of Quick-Draw McGee.

And I ask myself every time (out loud if enough people are around, while putting my arms out in question), why we just couldn't have done that in the first place. Why not drop the puck at lightning speed the first time around? What happened that changed you from Tim Wakefield in slow motion, to Tim Lincecum throwing heat? Did we really need to go on that entire journey before now?

Such a waste of time. The agony.

I mutter terrible things under my breath every time it happens. Terrible things.

I hate that.


The Lost Replay

The game is filled with great plays. Great moves. Great saves. Great hits. And the hockey gods have blessed us with the wonderful world of the replay. One of humankind's most incredible inventions.

That, and HD.

We rely on it to see what just happened over and over again. We can see it slower, from a different angle or with music added for extra puh-zaz. It truly is genius. And pure torture when at a minor league game with no replay. It's actually painful without it.

We've evolved as a species to need the replay. It's the air we breathe.

And the best part about it is the bright minds controlling the replays, whether at the game or at home, always seem to know exactly what we want to see again. And again. And again.

Well, most of the time.

Sometimes on rare occasion the Lost Replay will occur. Allow me to explain.

Something phenomenal happens during play. Let's say a mind-boggling deke just occurred, and as you stand up and scream in amazement, in the back of your mind you think, "I can't wait to see a replay of that in mere moments." And you trust those in charge of showing you the replay feel the same way and will roll the tape as soon as the next whistle happens.

Along with death and taxes, you know the replay is a guarantee. Sort of like teen pop stars doing jail time before they're 20. You're next, Bieber.

We've come to expect it, and for the next 2:28, you watch the game while anticipating the upcoming replay with the excitement of a giddy five-year-old girl on Christmas morning.

Finally the whistle blows. Here it comes. The replay. You can hardly control yourself as you imagine what that toe-drag looks like from reverse angle in slow motion. Three times. With commentary.

But something goes wrong. The play-by-play guys aren't talking about that play. It seems like they've moved on, far too soon. Have they forgotten? Surely the replay guys haven't forgotten, they couldn't have, could they? It's their job not to forget.

Panic. I can't breathe. The room is fading. Is this how it ends?

No replay appears, and as the players line up for the faceoff (oh boy), you come to the realization that all your excitement was for not, because they forgot about the play.

The Lost Replay.

I hate that.


The Intermission Interview

The intermission interview. I hate those. It's not the fact that they ask the same old, boring questions. That's fine. We're used to that. It's just that over the years The intermission interview has proven to be incredibly useless.

Like trying to convince me that global warming is real.

First of all, why is it that the powers that be always seem to pick a player who's fresh off playing a long, exhausting shift on the ice? It's bad enough he's about to dance around your question like he's wearing tights and a tutu, but that he's struggling for oxygen doesn't help the situation at all.

In fact, have you ever noticed that when they show players on the bench during the game, they're never really huffing and puffing? Just sort of sitting there, staring at the knob of their stick or playing a quick game of "who can spit the furthest?" They never seem that tired.

But put a microphone up to their mouth during the intermission and they're sucking wind like they've just finished a three-day marathon through the Sahara Desert without water.

I've thought about calling 911 on occasion or maybe FedEx-ing them my puffer, fearing the athlete in front of me is about to collapse from exhaustion. The Ondrej Pavelec incident will only further my concern.

Don't these guys work out?

It just makes no sense to me why they're so tired, and why the networks insist on questioning these players who can't utter two words without wheezing like a 76-year-old asthmatic. If you must get a word from someone, give a nod to the backup goalie, see what he thinks. He won't be tired.

Just give him a nudge to wake him up first.

The worst part is I end up focusing in on that bead of sweat hanging from the player's nose. It never seems to fall. Never drops. Ever. I want to use Jedi mind tricks and make it drip from the tip so badly, but I haven't been training long enough.

It just hangs there, teasing you.

Even if they wipe their face with the conveniently placed towel over the shoulder, network's logo clearly visible, they always miss the one bead clinging to life between the nostrils. The torture is almost unbearable, yet I can't turn away.

Like a car accident. Or an Alexander Ovechkin commercial.

Why can't they just forget about the intermission interview completely?

It's the worst. I hate that.

Everything about it.


There are other things I hate about the game. Other little things. Like when you're watching a game on TV and the play-by-play guy yells, "there's a fight!" but for some reason it takes 14 minutes before the camera switches from the coach picking his nose to the actual action. What's the hold up?

Or when the play is against the boards behind the net and the two idiot fans feel the need to slam their fists against the glass, cheering, with that stupid smile on their face. And for some reason it always seems the "ice noise" microphone is right there, so all you can here is the incessant sound as it seeps into your brain.

Every person sitting around them contemplates how many shots they could get in before security descended upon them. Over/under: 22.

It's great that they're getting their money's worth, but for the rest of us it's the most annoying thing imaginable. Worse than a Gary Bettman interview.

Each time they smash on the glass, I have the sudden urge to send Rick Rypien up there and let him shake some sense into them. Too soon?

It always seems to be the same two guys too, in every arena. They certainly get around.

I hate that.

There is no doubt that the NHL is the greatest game on earth. Pure magic on ice, and there is very little that I would change about it. I'll be a fan until the day I die, on death row or otherwise.

I just find myself occasionally getting incredibly angry at those little things about the game. And I just can't seem to get over it. They eat away at me.

You may agree with me or you may not, either way is fine.

But there is one thing you can probably agree with me on—I have anger issues.

I know.

I love that.


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