The Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun, and for me this is always one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. I grew up sixty miles from Detroit, so I remember watching Hockey Night in Canada and not just when the playoffs began. To me, very few sporting events can match the excitement of an overtime hockey playoff game. However, I realize I am in the minority with that opinion. Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio basically says that he ignores hockey because everyone else does. In a way, I get that. He seems like a very mass appeal sort of guy. Listening to his show, he only seems to like something if 10 million other people like it as well. Recently Jay Mohr hosted The Jim Rome Show and came right out and said, "Hockey sucks." Certainly everyone is entitled to his own opinion. I realize that only a small percentage of Americans follow hockey, but I just can't understand the pure vitriol people have for the sport. So, I started thinking about possible reasons for the hatred some folks seem to have for hockey.
Is it the violence? I have to rule this one out. After all, while the NFL doesn't have fights as a part of the game, it has some pretty violent collisions. And no one can question that the NFL is king. Mixed martial arts fighting is a bloodsport and it seems to be gaining in popularity. In addition, people seem to like a good crash in NASCAR. So, in general, American consumers don't have a problem with violence and carnage. Why would they find a hockey fight so offensive?
Is it because the NHL canceled an entire season? Frankly, I can see how this would turn people off. But let's face it, hockey isn't the only sport to suffer from a strain between the owners and players. Granted, neither the NFL nor MLB has ever canceled an entire season (although MLB did cancel one World Series), but they have had no shortage of strikes and lockouts. Both of those leagues seems to be as popular as ever. Besides, most Americans were probably too busy watching "reality" shows to notice that hockey went missing.
Is it simply a lack of familiarity? Hockey has always been less available on television than football, baseball and basketball. That being the case, a lot of Americans haven't grown up with hockey. Add to that the fact that you don't see hockey players on a lot of ads (like Peyton Manning for instance), and it is easy to see why a lot of folks are not familiar hockey like they are with other sports. Still, that doesn't seem sufficient to provoke the hatred that hockey receives.
Is it because Americans have so many other entertainment options? Again, this one has some credence. It at least explains why Americans choose not to watch hockey. Americans do have a lot of entertainment options, but hockey doesn't really interfere with Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. It doesn't even interfere with soap operas like the NCAA basketball torunament. Yes, we have options, but I can't see how that would motivate people to hate hockey.
So, I'm completely stumped. To me, hockey is way more exciting than baseball. It requires as much athletic ability as football and basketball. It has a violent component, but certainly not more so than mixed martial arts. Yet even sports guys will ignore it and hate it. What am I missing here?