Thursday, February 12, 2009

“What’s so exciting about hockey? It’s just like soccer!”

A while back, I read online a comment by someone who wasn’t a hockey fan but watched a hockey game. They were trying to get into hockey and just couldn’t find the enjoyment. As they said, it was just like soccer, a sport that’s just not a big spectator event in the United States.

Many people explained the skating as being the key factor. Once you know how hard it is to skate, it’s easy to appreciate what these guys can do. This is true. It’s easy to see guys running around on ice skates, and feel like they’re running. But those who have balanced on skates know that it’s not quite as easy as running (after time, I would assume it becomes like running to hockey players. As one becomes more comfortable on skates, one doesn’t have to think about what they’re doing.) If you want to stop, you don’t just quit moving your legs--skates still glide. Also, try controlling a little piece of hard rubber as it slithers around on ice--not with your hands or your feet, but with some extension added to your hands. It’s not easy to control.

But there’s a second level to hockey. A hockey rink is approximately 200 feet long by 85-100 feet wide (depending on which rules are used: international and North American). A soccer field is 300 feet by 180 feet. Professional hockey players can reach speeds of 20 miles/hour. I’m not entirely certain how fast soccer players can run (the internet has failed me on that), but I’m feeling confident that it’s not quite as fast. Based on the playing field of soccer being approximately two (international) to three (North American) times as big as the soccer field, and the soccer players moving more slowly than the hockey players, the action in hockey is more compacted than soccer. The physical play of hockey (with checking and such) adds to the excitement. There is more adrenaline in the game. Plays need to be set up that much quicker.

I personally don’t find soccer that exciting because it’s slower paced. (And, yet, I love the slowest-paced “real” sport out there, baseball, but that’s for the poetry and precision of the game. But baseball is two days away, and that’s for-ev-er!) Watching guys run from one end of the field to the other, over the large field, doesn’t hold my interest. I like playing the game, being part of the action, but I’ll pass on watching if possible. I love the fast pace of hockey. Just because the puck is at one end of the arena is no reason why two seconds from now the other team will score. There’s uncertainty. It takes longer for a soccer ball to get down the field.

In awesome news: Twins Pitchers and Catchers must report to Spring Training on Saturday! Spring is almost here!

Timberwolves update: 17-34 (0-3 since last time, 13-19 since McHale). They’re winning 1/3 of their games, which is quite a bit to ask for, when you think about it. But save your sanity and don’t.

Marian Gaborik Injury Status: I think I’m getting a cold. I have no idea if Marian Gaborik is.

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