NHL returns, but hockey's been around all along
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01
In the week leading up to the first NHL games of the season, the league put out a two-minute promotional video that had a singular theme: hockey is back.
While I watched that video, I could not have been more excited to finally see the puck drop on the season.
But I was also exceptionally mad.
The entire video was a diatribe on why the game of hockey is such a great sport, focusing mainly on its fans and their unwavering dedication to its intensity and beauty. And throughout the promo, the creators make one assumption that irked me beyond believe.
To them, the NHL is hockey.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love the NHL. I love watching my Devils play and I’ll watch just about every minute of action from any other game that I get a chance to see. In fact, some buddies and I all chipped in to buy the league’s online streaming package this season so that we could watch every single out-of-market game over the next few months.
But is the NHL all there is to hockey?
No. Not even close.
If there’s anything this latest money-grab of a lockout proved, it’s that the NHL is merely a small piece of the hockey pie.
American Hockey League, college hockey, junior hockey and even youth hockey vastly contribute to the hockey world. Hockey is a sport with dedicated and passionate followings at just about every level.
For the NHL to assert itself as the only form of hockey was just plain insulting.
Fans of the league didn’t sit around and mope during the four months of cancellations; they just found a way to get in touch with the game’s other forms.
Between October and January, if you went to any local rink, lake, pond or river, you didn’t find a deserted ghost-land with unworn gloves and sticks strewn across the ice like the game had up and left.
No, you found people playing the game they loved harder than ever.
While I was home in New Jersey for winter break, my old high school teammates and I didn’t stare at our blank TV sets hoping that an NHL game would magically appear on the screen.
Open hockey at the local rink, shinny on the ponds around town, mini-hockey in our basements – we found a way to play.
And when the playing ended, the watching began.
Credit to NBC Sports: they gave my friends and I our fix throughout the lockout by regularly broadcasting college games to keep us entertained.
When the NHL announced on Jan. 6 that it had agreed to terms with the players union, myself, my buddies and hockey fans everywhere rejoiced.
Yes, we were glad to have the league back on our television sets, in our arenas and churning out YouTube highlights.
But no, we weren’t saying “hockey is back.”
Because it had never left.
You are not hockey, NHL. You’re just a small piece of the game we love.