Saturday, June 7, 2008

Making the Hockey World a better place

Tiger Woods disappointed me with his comments about hockey. It's hard for me to take the same position as Mike Milbury because it is hard for me to criticize someone who plays a sport well (particularly one I do not have the patience to learn). It is easy to say "Woods is a pansy because golf is so much less difficult to play than hockey" and "I'd love to see him try to last just one period of hockey." And then I remember trying to learn how to play golf and the one million small things that have to be done perfectly in order to hit a golf ball even a few yards. Your posture, grip, back-swing, follow through, and head placement (among several other things) have to be just right in order to be even remotely good at golf. And while many hockey players play golf in the off-season, there aren't any hockey players who are on the PGA tour. So while calling him a wuss makes you feel better, it's not relevant to my disappointment.

Tiger Woods' comments make me sad because he is an ambassador of sports in general. For better or worse, he is more recognizable than the most recognizable hockey player (arguably Sidney Crosby, particularly if you listen to NBC). When Tiger Woods says something like "Hockey is teh suck," many non-hockey fans are going to listen to him and find more support for their ignorance of the sport. Which is sad. I would hope that Woods would use his notoriety to encourage people to check out other sports. Is it his responsibility? Of course not. But would it be difficult to do? Absolutely not.

I know all the arguments about why hockey has a hard time getting an American audience. Lack of big flashy stars, difficulty for kids to get involved in playing it, the idea that it's Canada's game, blah, blah, blah. It's a catch 22. The media doesn't pay attention because it's not worth their dollars and yet hockey has problems expanding their audience without media exposure to draw in the causal fans. The other day James Mirtle posted the front pages of many newspapers from the day after the Cup Finals ended. On the New York Times and LA Times front page, you'd need a magnifying glass to find anything about the game and these are two big markets with hockey teams. As much as I hate the bandwagon, know-nothing fans, they are necessary for the survival of the game. Case in point: Nashville. They have a very passionate fan base that is too small to support their team. They could benefit from an influx of casual fans.

But instead of wallowing and pouting, hockey fans need to work to get their sport more notice. The hockey Internet community is a great place to start. Bloggers like James Mirtle, Greg Wyshynski, and the good people at the AOL Fanhouse are helping to bring information about hockey to the Internet masses. But fans need to be more proactive. Like Gray said, there are things fans can do make hockey more popular. I start at a small level. All my students know that I am a huge hockey fan and I have had many of them tell me this year that they started watching Sharks games (though it was often to find out if I would be in a good mood the next day *^_^*). I even did a contest for picking the winner of the Cup Finals. Simple little things that I have done to expand the hockey fan base. And now it is your turn. That means you too Tiger Woods.

Thanks to our first and greatest commenter Will for alerting us to the link

1 comment:

Will said...

Tiger watch '08 update:

About saying weeks back that nobody watches the NHL or the Stanley Cup finals, Woods said he was trying to be funny but it backfired. His point was that TV merely can't do hockey justice because it's so great live. "I've gotten a lot of grief over that," Woods said. "I said what I said."

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Tiger-Woods-Hockey-s-awesome-live-I-just-suck-?urn=nhl,87201