Two years ago, hockey was nearly dead. I could’ve made a strong argument that golf had surpassed the sport of hockey in popularity. The ratings were at an all time low, the players were striking for more money, and one out of three games would end in a tie.
To make it even worse, you couldn’t pronounce more than three players’ names on any given team.
Lets face it, the sport of hockey at the time was lamer than an episode of Gilmore Girls.
I’m not going to lie, I thought the sport was done.
I gave it another year before it folded. It was boring to watch and even more boring to talk about.
In fact, if you asked me a year ago, I like to think I had a better chance of getting a date with Rihanna than writing a column about hockey.
But here I am. Giving the sport of hockey some love. Why, you ask? Cause after the ground breaking(or should I say ice breaking) New Years game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabers, love is exactly what this sport deserves.for once.
If you missed it, you missed out. It was the first ever outside hockey game in NHL history and NBC held the game that had everything but a snowmobile.
It was 20 degrees outside and snowing, yet the game set a single game NHL attendance record with over 71,000 people showing up.
I turned to the game on accident and was immediately sucked in. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one.
According to Neilson’s TV ratings, the game had higher ratings than every single college football bowl game that day.
It also boasted the best single game hockey rating in over ten years, including the playoffs.
The game was also exciting, believe it or not. It was close from beginning to end and it took a dramatic overtime and shootout to determine the winner.
Play was stopped 3 times due to an excessive amount of snow on the ice. Everybody loved it though. Nobody was upset at the time delay. Not the fans, the players, not even the sports number one critic…me. Heck, I expected the delays. After all, it was outside in Buffalo.
Even with the weather, nobody left the stadium. Sports shows actually talked about hockey the next day.
I actually spent some of my day thinking about hockey, another first for the past decade.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner deserves a lot of the credit here though. I feel as though he single handedly brought a sport in the ruins back to a respectable state again.
He was the one to instill a shootout at the end of games to prevent ties. He also gave the final ok to the New Years outside game.
It doesn’t stop there. The players are happy and talks about more money hasn’t surfaced in a long time.
Sydney Crosby has also given the sport its first marketable player since Wayne Gretsky. And now a remarkable success in the sports first ever outside hockey game. What more could you ask for?
While steroids, betting, and dog fighting have plagued the other major sports, it seems as though hockey has come through for American sports and finally showed some upside.
I can’t promise I will be a fan of hockey. But I can promise on New Year’s I was fan and it felt good. So here’s a cheers to the sport of hockey!