Cassilo: If your football team stinks, give hockey a try

David Cassilo

The last couple of years, hockey has received a bad rap in America. This all comes with good reason as the NHL has become impossible to find on television these days. Part of the problem is that the NHL made the awful decision to put its games on Versus, and the other part is that its former television network, ESPN, controls what highlights we see and has decided to keep the hockey to a bare minimum. As a result, I take it upon myself to reach out to the public and tell you that hockey is not all bad. For all the bad that can be said about the NHL, there is even more good that gets ignored all too often. For once, you will hear the good.


One of the many changes to the NHL over recent years has been the addition of the shootout to decide tie games. In no other sport is there the thrill of a one-on-one matchup to decide the contest. There is no better treat in sports than to watch your team’s best forward against their best goalie alone on the ice for the win.


Bob Hartley and Claude Julien no longer have a job in the NHL, and that is why hockey is so much fun. The Atlanta Thrashers made their first ever playoff appearance last season when they won the Southeast division. That’s enough for ownership to ensure that its job is safe, right? Wrong. After an 0-6 start this season, Hartley was fired by Atlanta. Last year the Devils fired Head Coach Claude Julien. It was just days before the Devils, who had 102 points, were about to enter the playoffs. In what other league would this ever take place? It’s as if George Steinbrenner owns every team.


It’s been said before, but fighting is really one of the main reasons the hockey can be a lot more fun than other sports. In other sports you’ll see a couple of guys flail their arms at each other in a pathetic attempt at fighting. A couple days later you’ll see they were suspended. In the NHL, the referees don’t intervene; they just watch as a classic beat-down ensues. Then when the two men are bloody and bruised, they only serve a five-minute penalty before getting back on the ice. An added bonus is when goalies decide to fight each other. This is an easy 10 on the unintentional comedy scale.


No league has utilized the Internet better than the NHL has over recent years. On its Web site, you can listen to the radio broadcasts of games for free, and if you pay an extra fee, you can watch every single game of the ’07-’08 season live. The NHL has also used YouTube to give fans easy access to games from this season as well as classic games in the past. If you remember a great NHL game you saw and want to see it again, there is a good chance you can find it on the Internet.


The immortal Chris Chelios is one of my favorite players ever to don a pair of skates. Chelios broke in with the Montreal Canadiens … in 1983. Now at the age of 45, he continues to play in the NHL. This year with the Red Wings is his 24th season. He has already won multiple Stanley Cups and has enough money for his grandchildren to be set for life. The reason he plays is simply that he loves the game.


From those who are old to those that are young. Chances are that Sidney Crosby is one of the few names you have actually heard of in the NHL. However, until you watch this 20-year-old play, you will never actually realize just how amazing he is. He not only does everything well but does it with such grace and ease it will leave you in awe of how truly remarkable he is. With years of hockey ahead of him, it is only a matter of time before Crosby becomes as dominant a player as Wayne Gretzky was in his prime.


Out of all the ESPN personalities, Barry Melrose is my favorite. ESPN basically has eliminated all of its NHL coverage with the exception of Melrose, whom they seem to dig out of hibernation every fall. When you see Melrose, you come face to face with the most Canadian-looking man on earth. Give him a Molson Ice and a Nickelback CD and this guy could practically become prime minister. From his thick accent to his even thicker mullet, Melrose is hockey. It is only a matter of time before he makes an appearance on the Canadian flag.


The NHL is one of those leagues that you can legitimately say could have a different winner every year. There are no Kansas City Royals or Arizona Cardinals in the NHL. Small-market teams like the Carolina Hurricanes have just as good a shot to win as the big-market New York Rangers. Parity has never been higher in the NHL. There have been six different winners the last six seasons, three from each conference. Perhaps nothing can show better that anyone has a shot in the NHL than what the Philadelphia Flyers are doing this season. Last year they had the worst record in the league with a pathetic 22 wins. This year they already have six in their first seven games. Now that’s something that’ll take your mind off the Eagles.


David Cassilo is a sophomore from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]