Hockey has origins going back some 4,000 years. The sport known as the "Ball and Stick" game has been played by great civilizations in Egypt, Rome, Scotland and even South America. (Courtesy http://www.historyofhockey.net/history_of_hockey.html)
A sport which has stood the test of time while evolving with its human fanbase has to be great. Is it the greatest of all team sports?
This slide show hopes to shed light on why I as a fan feel it is.
With that said, he is nowhere near as big of a cry baby as Lebron James or Terrell Owens.
If things went bad in Pittsburgh and Sidney wanted out, I doubt he would host a televised atrocity in the manner Lebron did when he arrived in Miami to humiliate his former city.
If he were to somehow shatter Gretzky's all-time scoring record, I doubt he would do sit-ups in his front yard with TV cameras on him in the fashion of Owens after a career year to achieve a better contract.
The only other sport I feel comes close to the business-like approach that hockey has is Baseball.
Granted, the NFL produces the hardest-hitting sport. Ice hockey, however, is a different animal. The open hits in ice hockey come a close second to those of the NFL.
When you get hit in Football, you land on grass. In hockey, you land on Ice.
I personally played football for several years growing up. I never played organized Ice hockey but did enjoy my share of pond hockey. I never lost teeth playing football but did manage to loose a tooth by landing face first on ice. What I learned: Give me a blindside hit in the open field with full football equipment any day—those two days in the dentist office sucked!
On top of the hits, at anytime a 90 mph puck could hit you in the face. At least in baseball you see the pitcher wind up before he throws the pitch. In hockey, you can be screened and at the last second have the taste of rubber and loose teeth in your palate.
In other sports, you move about in a natural way, by using your feet. With hockey, however, you need to skate around on an icy surface. Easy as this sounds, it requires a great deal of skill to be effective. On top of that, you have to maneuver through or around opposing players while using a stick to manipulate a small disc.
That is much more difficult than running around carrying a ball. The only two things which compare to that in other sports is dribbling a basketball or swinging at a 85 mph curveball. They all take practice, but the combined effect of skating and puck-handling is a more acquired skill.
Then you have the position of goaltender, which puts the best aspects of football and baseball skill positions into one. From football comes the play reading of a QB. Then from baseball you get reflexes of a catcher and hand-eye coordination of a batter. Those aspects all make up what many would agree is the hardest position to play in sports, an ice hockey goaltender.
While I don't put as much emphasis into this aspect as I did 20 years ago, it still is a part of the game. It has very little impact on outcomes of contests but provides the highest of entertainment values in all of sports.
Even in a sports bar with a seemingly uninteresting hockey game on, a sudden fight can get the room's attention. Is it barbaric? Sure it is. Do you wanna see it happen? You are lying if you say no.
Football offers first-round byes to the top teams in the playoffs. Baseball offers a shorter series in the first round.
Basketball, while having a similar format, does not have the blood-spilling, bone-crushing effect of Ice hockey.
Hockey is all out war in the playoffs. A team isn't dead until that final buzzer goes off in your fourth win of a series, just ask the Boston Bruins about that.
All sports offer a higher tempo in their postseasons, but the NHL's is a crucible of blood, guts and honor over almost two whole months. That's like half a season of football. This past Stanley Cup winner had to play 27 games just to hoist the trophy! That's like playing an NFL postseason 10 times.
The games are a day apart, except for travel nights throughout the tournament. Even basketball doesn't play that many games that close together.
Even though you get hit harder in football, the players are ground up more at the end of Lord Stanley's tournament.