Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Hockey Spirit

I've been watching every bit the Winter Olympics over the past ten days and I have to say, the fringe sports are starting to wear on me. While I can actively watch (and actually enjoy) men's figure skating, the primetime ice dancing is turning me away. But what is this lazy sport on the non-HD NBC news channel? It's CURLING!!! But wait. I'm not going to waste time writing a blog about curling. (Curling is easy to pick up on. There are four simple rules:  (1) Get as many of your rocks closer than the other teams' rocks. (2) The target is called the 'house'. (3) The captain is called the 'skip'. (4) John Shuster of Team USA sucks.) But this blog is not about curling.

It has been my pleasure over the past week to become reacquainted with hockey. While I have been following hockey since roughly 1996, I have lost the passion I had as a young hockey-playing Avalanche fan. Here's a very brief history of my relationship with hockey... Quebec Nordiques come to Colorado and win the Cup immediately. City of Denver falls in love with the team. I want to play hockey. I watch the Avalanche religiously as a kid, but then once I get older, BAM! LOCKOUT! I've tried to phase back into the game, but I can't regain the same die hard passion I once had. So what I'm getting at here is what Olympic hockey has done to open my eyes again. It's all-star teams playing meaningful games with no commercial breaks. Very similar to the NHL playoffs in overtime, huh? I have always thought that if the NHL could somehow someway mimic the environment and intensity of the playoffs throughout the regular season, then they could be the best professional game of all the major leagues. We get a glimpse of that during the Olympics. The best players, with national pride on the line, playing in the most meaningful tournament. Now that's playoff drama.

Here's a few of the things I've picked up on...
NHL sized ice gives the NHL players more of an advantage than they have in past Olympics. In the past, NHL players would have to adjust to travelling to another country as well as a larger ice surface. This year, it's a short travel time to Vancouver, and a minimal adjustment period to the Olympic style. While it is a disadvantage for the European-based players, they aren't necessarily the premier players who decide the outcomes anyways. It's a little harsh, but if they were wouldn't they be playing in the NHL?

No commercial breaks... kind of...  Any sport without commercials is fantastic. It allows for the game to keep its flow. The players stay focused, the fans stay on the edge of their seat. But NBC still finds a way to squeeze in 30-second commercials here and there. It's an offsides on Slovakia! Hurry, get that commercial rolling before the faceoff!

NBCs coverage, or lack there of... I'm sure the 20 people that have MSNBC in HD were thrilled to watch the USA vs. Canada game with a crystal clear picture. The premier hockey game of the tournament is on the Keith Olberman channel... huh? Anyways, this is a pro-hockey column, not an anti-NBC column. I will stop there.

With that said, I can't wait for the elimination rounds of hockey. USA! USA! USA!

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