Monday, March 28, 2011

A few issues with hockey

Growing up in Mississippi, I never really followed hockey, which makes sense considering that Mississippi doesn't exactly have many backyard ice rinks. The sport was never discussed amongst my friends and family and for a sake of comparasion it really was a sport that was on par with cricket. (Big cricket match coming up on Wednesday between India and Pakistan if you were curious).
    I then decided to make two decisions that forced me to change to recognize hockey as a sport. I went to school at Miami and then I moved to Minnesota. Miami ended up becoming a big time hockey program that recently has been a constant in the NCAA tournament. They have made it to a couple of Frozen Fours and lost one of the most heartbreaking games of my life back in 2009. Also, by moving to self-proclaimed "State of Hockey"I am surrounded by people who think hockey is the best sport. I didn't make either decision with hockey in mind, but both decision did end up involving hockey in a way that I would never have considered.
      Now, I can understand a little bit about the appeal of hockey. It is a fast sport and there aren't many stops in the game. The consistent action and random nature of goals reminds me of a slot machine that pays a big amount every hour or so. You never really know when a goal is going to come, so it is hard not to get excited when it does happen. Also, the fact that isn't at all predictable makes it even that more addicting. Random rewards are more addicting than consistent, predictable rewards. Also, the fact that there aren't as many hockey teams out there means that if you do have a favorite hockey team then odds are better than in other sports that they will be competing in the postseason for a National Title. Finally, it gives relatively random teams (like Minnesota-Duluth or New Hampshire) a chance of winning a title. However, despite that there are a few issues I have with the sport.

        1. Great play doesn't always mean anything on the scoreboard. I have watched enough hockey games to see one team outplay the other team for a long period of time without either team scoring a goal.

        2. Goals are too random. A puck is deflected or ricocheted in just the right way and it leads to a goal. It seems like almost half the goals are the basketball equivalent of a banked in 3 pointer. They might take some skill, but there is also a lot of luck involved.

        3. A shot to win or lose the game doesn't exist in hockey. In basketball, football or baseball there can be one play (a shot down 2, a hail mary down 4 or a possible 2 run home run down 1) where if it goes in one team's favor it is a win and if it doesn't it is a loss. In hockey if a team is down 2-1 the shot at the end would either lose or tie the game. It is more exciting when the shot is to win or lose and not lose or tie.

        4. There isn't that much late game drama. If a team is down at the end they are more likely to win than in other sports. I have no data to back this up, but I feel confident that my statement is accurate. There just isn't much late game drama as there is in games like Butler-Florida or Ohio State-Kentucky.

        5. Overtime is apparantly time to leave. I was reading's recap of the Northeast semifinals and in the article the following appeared "The crowd thinned out once Merrimack and Notre Dame went to overtime." Really? I can't find a sport that exciting if fans leave once overtime starts. This would rarely happen in other sports because overtime should be even more exciting that regulation.

        6. Hockey is unjust and they don't care. Miami was a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and as such they were paired up against 4th seeded New Hampshire. Guess who had home ice advantage? New Hampshire. Why does an inferior team get to play on home ice as a 4 seed? There was never an explanation besides people on espn saying "it was a tough draw." How is hockey supposed to be taken seriously when their tournament isn't close to being neutral or fair?

        7. The soccer issue is also in full effect with hockey. I missed the first 5 minutes of the Miami-New Hampshire game and ended up missing 2/3 of the non-empty net goals including the one and only Miami goal. This was similar to how I missed the only World Cup Final goal by Spain because I went downstairs to help M move something. My point being is that if you step out for 2 minutes to do something and miss the entire game, then the sport has some real issues. I spend all of hockey and soccer games fearful of going to the bathroom and missing the one and only goal.

        8. Point allocation in the NHL. I was shocked to find out that way points were given out in the NHL. If you win the game in regulation you are given 2 points and the losing team gets 0. However, if the game goes into overtime the winner of the game still gets 2 points, but the losing team gets 1 point. Do the people in charge of hockey think that just because a game goes into overtime the game is now 50% more valuable to both teams? It is in both team's best interest to just go into overtime and ensure that each team gets at least one point. If I was a hockey coach I would try to make a deal with the opposing coach to just mess around in regulation and ensure overtime since that is mutually beneficial to both teams. The economics of this point allocation makes no sense to me. If you want to give the overtime loser some credit then I find that strange, but I'm at least ok with the concept of it if for example the winner got 1.5 points and the loser got 0.5 points. However, to give out more points just because the game went into overtime is just plain crazy. I don't understand why the NHL had to look at sports like basketball and football with their "wins" and "losses" and think to themselves that needed any sort of tweaking.

      Anyway, that is all I can think of right now, but I am sure that next year at this time (the next time I watch hockey because of Miami) I will come up with a few more complaints.

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