The ignorance of non-hockey fans

Sorry Stephen Cannella, but calling people who don’t follow the NHL ignorant isn’t exactly going to bolster a sport on the verge of dying. I realize he was trying to say that people just don’t understand the sport, but using a word with such negative connotations will draw the ire of those he labels. The word ignorance means “The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed”. It is generally not used to describe the disinterest in one particular area (accept perhaps law, social behavior and other concepts considered a part of common knowledge). And the analogy in which we are all third graders and hockey is astrophysics? Don’t even get me started on how idiotic that makes him sound.

What’s even more humorous is that this comment follows a query in his opening paragraph: “What information could people possibly need on the [Cowboys] in the middle of March?” So you wanna talk about ignorance? Maybe you should click on some of the other sections of the site you write for. Maybe you’ll notice that March is the start of free agency and there has been non-stop headlines in the football world – probably more than the NHL during the season. Oh, and two days after you wrote this moronic article the Cowboys-Bucs swap of receivers (Galloway for Keyshawn) finally took place. Gee, I wonder what they could possibly be looking for about the Cowboys…

And lets just get one more thing straight here – an informal poll about why people don’t follow a sport doesn’t exactly give any sort of proof as to the real issues at hand. Hockey isn’t all that difficult to follow. It’s nothing compared to the rather cumbersome rulebook of the NFL, yet people still have trouble getting into the game. It seems to me that they just aren’t that interested. I find it ludicrous to complain that it is our ignorance, rather than the inherent violence that has led to a man’s broken neck, that hurts hockey.

2 thoughts on “The ignorance of non-hockey fans”

  1. I almost feel embarrased on behalf of the hockey community… until I realize I generally don’t consider SI as part of that community 🙂

    There are boatloads of people with little to no grasp of the sport who still get to write about it – just read the NY Post. A lot of the ESPN crew is hit or miss with me as well, my favorite being John Buccigross. He seems to have a level head when writing about the sport, something that is somewhat lacking right now. ESPN’s Barry Melrose went over the West’s playoff contenders, and completely left out San Jose, sitting in third and leading their division, currently tied with the Avalanche in the standings. When you leave out a potential #2 seed in your playoff contenders… there better be a damn good reason for it. Melrose and “damn good reason” don’t appear in the same sentence too often.

    Except just now.

    Check out if you want a decent hockey site. It’s a Canadian site, so there’s a little bias there, but it’s better hockey coverage and analysis than you’ll find in a lot of US sites.

    You’re right, hockey isn’t hard to follow, but the NHL’s attempts at it have been ludicrous if not downright insulting over the years (two words – glow puck. It was a disaster.) This year, they have some celebrity commercials bringing some of the aspects of the game to the casual viewer, with some humor thrown in to make it easier to take in. Shania Twain explains “changing on the fly,” Jim Belushi explain penalties (although airing the first few minutes of Slapshot would be better, IMHO 😀 ) and Kiefer Sutherland explain some of the slang. They’re not perfect, but they’re a start.

    That comment about astrophysics… I understand the analogy he was trying to make. He simply failed in a major way, that’s all. But using the word “ignorant” certainly won’t swing any borderline fans to the NHL’s side of the fence. The game may be misunderstood, if anything. And it certainly doesn’t have the fan base of the three major sports in the US. But the NHL is doing a crap-tacular job of making the game more interesting and drawing more fans.

    For one, ESPN only shows a handful of teams on their broadcasted games. I understand the need to showcse the big-name teams, but only showing 5 different teams on TV doesn’t help the league any. And it doesn’t help the teams in need of more exposure, and more fans.

    This of course stems from the league expanding faster than it could handle… and that’s a whole other story to file under “S” for “shoot yourself in the foot.”

    The rule changes border on the assinine. Penalizing the goalie for playing the puck is like telling a quarterback he can’t lateral pass, or run the ball. When you limit the most dynamic player on the team, it doesn’t help the game at all.

    They want to move the nets back 2 feet closer to the board, to reduce the amount of space behind the net and increase scoring. This is a logical followup to when they moved the nets three feet further away from the boards. You know, to increase scoring. *rolls eyes*

    They want to increase the width of the lines that seperate the zones, this in theory will increase the amount of ice that can be covered in a single pass by about 2 feet. They want to keep the center red line, though, and the 2-line pass, because givng the players 2 extra feet to create a play is good, but giving them about 30 more feet to work with is a bad idea. This might lead to more breakaways if we’re not careful. And more breakaways mean more goals. This is obviously not in line with their attempts to increase scoring.

    If you have a lawn gnome, find a teeny tiny suit jacket to put on it, and call it “Gary Beman.” This will, faster than anything else, illustrate why I feel that this league is in trouble – the lawn gnome won’t make the sport better, but he certainly won’t find creative new ways to fuck it up even more.

    And yes, the violence… The violence in the sport is a cycle that isn’t going to end until the officials start doing their jobs, and doing them consistently. The Bertuzzi thing may not have been preventable once the game started – banning fighting wouldn’t stop it, since it wasn’t during a fight, and he only held Moore’s jersey before delivering what will be remembered as the cheap shot of the year. What Bertuzzi did was so boneheaded that there aren’t even rules specifically in place to prevent it, other than common sense and the knowledge that something like this will be reviewed by the league, and will likely result in a suspension. This should have been acted on before the game.

    For their part, the NHL slapped Bertuzzi with a very long suspension, which is also contingent on Moore’s recovery. And they fined the team, which although they can easily pay, sends the message of “this should have been addressed before your players stepped onto the ice.” I think a stiffer penalty was in order, especially with the players talking openly about payback. That should have been the clearest indication that something was going to happen that night (as if the league and the fans didn’t already know it by that point.)

    Worse yet is, the players don’t seem to care about the image of the NHL. The players union has already said that they won’t accept a salary cap – god forbid they model themselves after the NFL, a system that WORKS – but there have been 3 or 4 ugly incidents since Bertuzzi’s. You’d think that now, when people are looking at the league more closely than they ever have in the last 10 years, the players – hell, the coaches too – would be on their toes to prevent any more negative press for their already struggling sport. But no.

    Toronto’s Wade Belak takes a 2-handed whack at Colorado’s Ossi Vaananen (I hope I spelled that right…) and earned an 8 game suspension. He says he was “off balance.” I don’t buy it.

    Calgary, losing 3-1 at home, sends out the goon squad to take the last face-off with 3 seconds left. It was funny in Slapshot, because it was a movie. This wasn’t a movie, this was another black eye for the sport – starting a 6-on-6 brawl (the goalies eventually got involved) because you’re losing at home.

    From coach Sutter sending out his fighting primates, to Krystof Oliwa challenging a Nashville player to a fight before the puck was dropped and then switching positions so he could challenge another Nashville player when the first one refused, to the fans chanting O-LI-WA, O-LI-WA to start it all off, it was a textbook example of how to end a game in the most classless way. Oliwa and Sutter were both suspended (3 and 2 games, respectively.)

    To cap of the crappiest week in hockey this season, the NHL’s Golden Boy, Mark Messier, gets thrown out of a game and suspended for 2 for spearing Pittsburgh’s Martin Strbak while the Rangers trailed 2-1.

    When Messier get’s ejected and suspended, you know things are bad.

    Mario Lemieux pulled the same crap last year, instigating a fight (which is rare in itself for ol’ Mario) and getting thrown out of a game. The fight came with Pittsburgh losing 6-0 to lowly Florida.

    Mario Lemieux being ejected for fighting is not only surprising, but exactly what the League doesn’t need. These are the role models the league relies on. These are the guys whose jerseys kids want for Christmas. It’s a bit unfair to tell them they can never lose their cool or get angry because they have a spotlight on them. But they are aware that they’re the ones in that spotlight, and with that comes an unsaid responsibility to do what’s best for the league. And that means… well, not doing what Bertuzzi did. Striving for the opposite, in fact.

    Sorry this got so long – between SI having crappy hockey coverage, Bertuzzi being an idiot, everyone else following suit, and the league trying to change the rules to show that they hate good goaltenders, you just reminded me about just about everything about my favorite sport that makes me hang my head in shame.

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