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12-15-2012, 11:47 AM
Don't drive hungry!
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Originally Posted by Chancellor Vitale View Post
OK so I'll use Ogre's well written points to have my final clarification here so you guy don't think I hate southern hockey fans or something. Because I don't. If I thought they could be successful on the level that other cities (in the modern era not the 90s when everything was so screwed up), I'd be all for 3 extra S / SW teams not 3 fewer. But I don't believe that will ever be the case.

On your first point, I can totally understand that and agree with it, but it's a pipe dream. As someone alluded to earlier, the best athletes almost always come from poor neighborhoods, and hockey (like skiing and golf and a few other sports) is expensive. It doesn't have the excluding culture of golf per se, but it's just as expensive if not more so over time. Every time a kid breaks a composite stick, $80 out the window. Need new skates literally every year as the kid's feet grow? $200-$250 easy. New pads? New Pants? Rink fees when practicing on their own? $$$$! Hockey will NEVER be the sport that those poor kids want to play because their poor parents can't and won't foot the bill for it (understandably). I know that's a harsh attitude to take but until someone can make hockey not expensive, all over the country and not just in random pockets where someone like Mario or Sid opens up a charity to give players equipment, it's not going to happen.

Regarding the second point, I'm not 100% sure that having a few extra NHL teams scattered around the south or southwest, is the cause-and-effect required for "hockey rinks to be everywhere, so that no matter where I am there are places for my kid to learn and play". I think it's more complicated than that. A whole series of factors have to line up for the commercial validation of hockey on a community level (i.e. people willing to start businesses and open rinks / leagues in places where there were none previously), in a given state or region. It's a niche sport in this country and most likely always will be because it's not in the collective sports consciousness. American kids aren't told stories about the great Guy LaFleur or Bobby Orr the way they're told about Babe Ruth or Jim Brown or even Jerry West for cryin' out loud. In Canada, it's just the opposite. In Canada it IS the sports culture and as a consequence there are rinks in every single town no matter how small, just like there are baseball diamonds in this country, in every town, no matter how small. We can't undo history and adding NHL teams won't "make a new history" and turn us into "Canada Part II".

My friend and some of their neighbors are the perfect example. He loves sports, loves to play, loves to watch and we even used to skate some in HS. He lives in DETROIT... a place where hockey is a big deal. You know how many regular season Red Wings games he and his buddies watch (living in the one of a half dozen suburbs where people have enough money to pay for tickets and gear)? Like maybe 2, 3 on tv. Then, when the Red Wings get into the playoffs, they watch a little more, then if they get to the Conference Finals, suddenly they start caring and paying attention. And when it's over, they don't think about the Red Wings again until February of the following year. You know how many Lions games they'd watch even when the Lions sucked? All of them. A lot of NHL fans in the US are like this; they're into it when there's no football to watch and their team must be doing well. We're a niche to fill a void in this country, period. Sad but true.

He even has taught his kid to skate and shoot a puck, but do you know what will happen most likely? By the time the kid reaches 9th grade he won't be playing hockey anymore because he won't be able to hack it. The niche-fan parents who have taught their kids to breathe hockey since birth, are going to fill 100% of teh slots on that HS team. And that's the way hockey works and lives in the US. It lives BECAUSE it's a niche... because the people who love it, love it SO much more than other sports, that they constantly are involved with it, and pass it down through generations and entire neighborhoods keep it alive and going when the team isn't doing well.

Hockey is one of those things that some people, they just don't get it. They can't tolerate the randomness of the bouncing puck or the crossbar or the lucky off-skate goals. I have friends that watch hockey and they literally say "this is why hockey sucks; it's luck half the time." They just don't get it. They think ice hockey is air hockey. And they're never going to get it; watching the Winter Classic does not convince them. Watching the Cup does not convince them. They have a football / basketball mindset where total control of the object on the field is required to call it "a real sport". It's hard enough to get a hockey franchise to succeed in a more northern climate (where kids can actually skate more often if they choose to); in markets where people live and breath football from the time they're in pop-warner, it's much much more difficult.

NO I don't think watching and enjoying hockey should be reserved for everyone north of mason-dixon (that's the sarcastic part of my schpiel sometimes). Everyone should enjoy it if they want to. But that doesn't mean everyone should expect their city can support an NHL franchise. Most can't even viably support an AHL franchise south of the line.

I love hockey. I want hockey to be around forever. But I don't kid myself that it will ever be "everywher you go" like Visa or that it will ever enjoy status even remotely similar to the other big three. OR even the PGA. And I'm OK with that. If the league ends up being 20+ teams (whoever said that you were right although 20+ infers I think it would likely be more than 20 -- or "certainly no less than 20" -- hopefully you get that) and remains very healthy and few labor disputes and highly competitive, great. If it ends up being 30 teams and all of that same stuff (through relocation and better management of certain teams), great. What I care about is the quality of the game, not the expansion of it. Like I said, I don't care in 20 years hockey is still off the radar down south. Let them watch HS football instead of hockey. I don't give a ****, as long as the league is in good shape.

Hopefully that's more clear now.
I think I'll wait for the kindle version