While we have been writing about the NBA, horse racing, lacrosse, and fantasy baseball, the least popular non-fringe sport has been ignored, as usual.
The NHL’s reach is quite limited. For example, many of my friends in Dallas are huge fans of the Dallas Stars, but just 4 to 5 hours away in Austin and Houston, hockey is not even acknowledged as a sport. But for me, hockey is by far the most thrilling sport you can watch in person, no matter if it's at the high school, college, or pro level. My favorite childhood sport memory was watching Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and Brian Leetch skating around with the Stanley Cup in 1994. I had no idea the last time the NY Rangers had won was over 50 years ago.
Hockey games in high school were like no other. Fans chanted back and forth, with little censorship. In a New Canaan High versus Stamford High regular season game, the wealthy New Canaan students pulled cash from their wallets waving it at the opposing fans chanting “you're on welfare” -- clearly, nothing was too far. Regular chants consist of slowly chanting an opposing player’s name and following it with “you suck” repeated twice, or my favorite “it’s all your fault” chant while pointing at the opposing goalie after your team had just scored.
This year's NHL playoffs has not disappointed, as we have seen Ovechkin will his team past a pesky Rangers team that had multiple games go into overtime, only to follow it with a pathetic series against Tampa Bay. Once again, Ovechkin and the top-seeded Capitals had an early exit. In the west, we saw two teams overcome past demons. Finally, the Vancouver Canucks were able to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in 7 hard-fought games, where clearly being the 1 and 8 seeds did not matter. We witnessed the San Jose Sharks almost blowing a 3-0 lead, where their fans had to be thinking "here we go again" against the battle-tested and historic Red Wings. Boston got its revenge against Philadelphia, who did pull off the unbelievable last year of coming back to win after starting a series 0-3. But this time, the Boston Bruins came in angry and straight-up embarrassed the Flyers, making them pull their goalie over and over.
For a majority of Americans, hockey isn’t a sport they follow, but trust me -- give these playoffs a chance, and you will not regret watching grown men padded-up and fighting to control a tiny black puck. And if you don’t agree, there is always the Mighty Ducks movies to get you excited about HOCKEY!