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Thursday, October 6, 2005

The Casual Critic — Hockey 2006

The dumbest sport in the world, or at least the one with the dumbest players in the world, returned this week. That's right, after a year of "labor strife" the National Hockey League decided to lace up their skates, work hard, work hard, work hard, and put the puck in the back of the net once again.

OK, so mocking those idiotic clichés doesn't quite work without the special Canadian accent coming through a toothless hockey player's mouth.

The truth is, I'm not really a hockey hater. Hockey's a nice diversion on a cold winter night when the NBA is off and there's nothing good on TV. And playoff hockey can be great to watch even if West Wing's finally about to reveal Jed Bartlett's deep, dark secret. But that's all it is, and all it ever will be.

Die-hard hockey fans are the reason guys like me rip hockey every once in a while just to keep them in their place. They call up sports talk shows every spring when their team makes the playoffs, which is almost impossible not to do, and crow about how the rest of us are missing the best sport in the world.

This is still a sport in which every score seems to shock the hell out of the play-by-play guy. It just revamped their rule book, and most of us still don't get why 9 out of 10 penalties are called. I heard there's a tie-breaker shoot-out, but the loser still gets a point. Huh? A good fight still sends people home happy as much as a win.

But none of that is why hockey is the dumbest sport in the world. It garners that distinction for barely holding on to its less than lofty spot as the fourth major sport, and having players dumb enough to allow an entire season be cancelled because they didn't want a salary cap. Idiots like Jeremy Roenick actually got uppity about it!

He helped reduce the modicum of popularity his sport had, and went around babbling like he was going to educate fans on why we should like his sport. It was like WNBA players prattling on about what a great game they have. There's nothing more pathetic than an overpaid athlete whining because no one likes their sport, as if they have some God-given right to be popular.

Hopefully, NHL players have learned their lesson. Ironically, the hockey video game used to be the only thing on Sega to rival Madden football. It was a quick hit when you didn't have time for Madden, or good for three to four games in the time it took to play one game of Madden. Every once in a while it was worth making a point to play it even if you had time for football. Too bad watching hockey will never be as good.

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