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Friday, March 15, 2013

The Cascade: Scoular: Why America’s pastime trumps Canada’s bloodsport

Mission and hope,  Mission and hope…

To compare baseball to hockey is to risk that same mentality – that one is tougher, that the athletes of one sport aren’t even athletes. It’s a mixture of defensiveness from fans of a less popular sport and false bravado. But this relies on another television twisting – the knowledge of the sport through highlight reels. The emphasis of home runs and diving catches, although exciting, falls into that same trap of predictability and replay. Where baseball lives is in between, the so-called “boring” parts where “nothing’s happening.”

Baseball broadcasts aren’t groundbreaking, but they don’t have the problem of failing to show – everything is before and visible, the pitcher-catcher-batter relation clearly defined and observable. When runners reach base, the imperfect but still effective solution of splitting the screen, showing multiple perspectives, with base-running coaches in the background, cuts to managerial direction and the different plate positions all held on the screen until the last possible second, when the pitch is released, the early jump of a stealing runner or stop at the realization of a strikeout just registering at the corner of the frame.

A friend that helped re-introduce me to baseball offered one observation that also helped when it comes to season and game length: with a game every day, there is less dwelling on the past, an allowance for losses because every team will with such a packed schedule.

What it also means is just more to watch – there are those that try to see everything, but the overabundance means that there’s the routine of there always being a game on, to turn on for a few innings as inoffensive backdrop for an evening of trying-to-but-not doing homework.

Baseball extends through days, timeslots and pre-conceptions. Surely the greatest experience of watching hockey is playoff overtime when the game doesn’t end until a goal, with no commercials to interrupt. With baseball, there is the possibility for this with every game.

Every half-inning is defined this way; it could be over in regular 1-2-3 fashion, or take an hour, with nothing to break in and advertise. Sure, there’s always the signage in sight, and required broadcaster mention, but it’s a pleasant feature, and better yet an outcome of the eternal possibility in baseball – a sport unrestricted by time, where victory is always an open chance.

Repoz Posted: March 15, 2013 at 05:11 AM | 99 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hockey

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   1. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: March 15, 2013 at 05:33 AM (#4388777)
I love baseball. I love hockey.
So there.
   2. Greg K Posted: March 15, 2013 at 05:58 AM (#4388779)
Baseball broadcasts aren’t groundbreaking, but they don’t have the problem of failing to show – everything is before and visible

Isn't it a complaint around here that baseball broadcasts focus too much on the pitcher-batter and don't show us fielder positioning?

Like #1 I like both sports and don't see any problem comparing them. (They are very different sports, which are both very fun to watch).

There is quite a different dynamic in Canada though. I know of several Jays fans who seem to have a chip on their shoulder about the Leafs and hockey, because they are the more popular sport and get more coverage.

EDIT: The writer's also coming from a problematic point of view as he appears to be a Canucks fan. So it's really no surprise he's finding hockey doesn't appeal to him.
   3. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:23 AM (#4388799)
I used to watch a lot of hockey, but between the '94 strike, the dump-and-chase offense that has cemented itself since, and the truly religious (literally) fervour and pervasiveness of hockey culture in Canada, I don't watch it all all anymore.
   4. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:27 AM (#4388803)
I know of several Jays fans who seem to have a chip on their shoulder about the Leafs and hockey, because they are the more popular sport and get more coverage.


This is me. I can't stand the fact that in August a morning Sportsnet broadcast will lead with an update on the contract negotiations of a Martin Brodeur or a Rick Nash before they even show highlights of the previous nights' Jays game. Its ridiculous.
   5. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:28 AM (#4388805)
Yeah, this "either-or" hierarchical thing with sports has always bothered me, perhaps because I'm a soccer fan in the United States. It drives me absolutely crazy when people go out of their way to talk about how one sport is inferior to another. I love baseball. I also love football, soccer, and Aussie Rules football. I very much like rugby league, ice hockey, and cricket. I dig on tennis and open-wheel auto racing. Golf bores me to tears. I'm utterly indifferent to the NBA.

All of which means absolutely nothing, because those are just my opinions. I watch what I like, don't watch what I don't like, and don't really worry about what other people are watching.
   6. zack Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:26 AM (#4388824)
This is me. I can't stand the fact that in August a morning Sportsnet broadcast will lead with an update on the contract negotiations of a Martin Brodeur or a Rick Nash before they even show highlights of the previous nights' Jays game. Its ridiculous.

Come to the US, where every sports broadcast talks about the NFL, whether in-season or not, and hockey doesn't exist. Also, the game has changed radically since 2000, though it is always in danger of slipping back.

Anyway, I love both. Baseball is played from April - October. Hockey is played from October - June. They don't compete at all. And if hockey ended in May like it should, it'd be even better.

From a purely broadcast perspective like the author seems to be taking, they both have their stupid tropes they follow far too strictly and both could use some new takes on these things. For baseball, it's cutting down on the close-ups, trying new main angles besides the 3/4. And for hockey, well hockey broadcasting is innately harder but it's stuck at high-school level technology.

   7. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4388827)
Baseball extends through days, timeslots and pre-conceptions. Surely the greatest experience of watching hockey is playoff overtime when the game doesn’t end until a goal, with no commercials to interrupt. With baseball, there is the possibility for this with every game.

What? They still run commercials during playoff overtime.
   8. Spectral Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4388836)
I love both baseball and hockey, partly because of their striking polar opposite natures. I love the regimented, clock-free nature of innings, and I love the freeflowing look of a hockey. Echoing #5, I don't really see where the whole either-or dichotomy comes from. Talking about which sport has the "best" athletes is fun, but ultimately meaningless. There's no way in hell you're finding a popular sport that Mike Trout wouldn't be very good at though.
   9. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4388840)
What? They still run commercials during playoff overtime.


Yeah, its not like there are no offsides, penalties, etc. during OT.
   10. Kurt Posted: March 15, 2013 at 10:12 AM (#4388844)
Yeah, its not like there are no offsides, penalties, etc. during OT.

Well, it's a *little* bit like there are no penalties during OT. (and offsides, icing etc. don't generally result in a commercial-length timeout)
   11. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4388846)
Do we really need an entire article explaining why the NFL is superior to the CFL?
   12. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4388880)

Actually, I've been informed there aren't commercials during playoff OT. I could have sworn there were. In my defence, I'm a Leafs fan, for whom playoff hockey is but a flickering, hazy memory.
   13. fran Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4388881)
If there is a Wings game that conflicts with a Tigers game then my local radio station will broadcast the Wings. (Of course, if the Wings are playing in May the games are more important.) I would rather listen to baseball on the radio.
   14. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM (#4388887)
The only commercials during OT are between periods. It is a refreshing change from the way the NFL or NBA are televised with commercials all over the place.
   15. Greg K Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4388892)
What? They still run commercials during playoff overtime.

They don't in any broadcast I've ever seen. (Except, as noted, inbetween periods).
   16. Greg K Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4388894)
While I like them both, I do much prefer watching baseball to hockey.

But, there really is nothing like overtime playoff hockey.
   17. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4388923)
first round playoff hockey > first round March Madness > first round MLB playoffs > first round World Cup soccer > first round NFL playoffs > first round NBA playoffs

overtime hockey > extra innings baseball > overtime/shootout soccer > overtime college football > overtime basketball > overtime NFL > tennis tie-breakers > extra holes in golf
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4388927)
I really like College and Olympic hockey. NHL, not so much.

Bigger rinks, and no fighting is definitely the way to go. Is hockey the only sport where you can land a punch and not be ejected immediately?

To me, hockey works best when you're live, and have good enough seats that you can see the whole rink. Just don't like it as a TV sport.
   19. Greg K Posted: March 15, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4388945)
Bigger rinks, and no fighting is definitely the way to go. Is hockey the only sport where you can land a punch and not be ejected immediately?

Bigger rinks, definitely. No fighting...I don't think I'd miss it exactly if it was banned. It doesn't appear to serve much of a purpose towards winning the game, and is pretty barbaric...but there's just something awesome about two guys punching each other in the face in unison.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 15, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4388955)
But, there really is nothing like overtime playoff hockey.

Except maybe overtime during March Madness, an NBA playoff game 7 that comes down to the last shot, a World Series game 7 that's decided by the final pitch, a sudden death NFL championship game, a 73rd hole of the Masters, a photo finish in the Belmont involving a horse who won the Derby and the Preakness, a hill-hill game in the finals of the U.S. Open nine ball championship, or any number of other events in other sports. These all seem like the greatest moments to the people who favor those sports over all others, and for some of us who love more than one sport it's impossible to choose among them.
   21. Morty Causa Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4388964)
Is hockey the only sport where you can land a punch and not be ejected immediately?


Well, in baseball you can intentionally hit a batter with a 90mph baseball and not get ejected--or even condemned, apparently, when it is admitted, Pedro just did.
   22. Gamingboy Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4388974)
The older I get, the more of a distaste I find with arguments about what sports are "better". I mean, I still occasionally partake in them, but it just seems almost distasteful. Every sport has it's pros and it's cons, it's great moments and horrible moments, and it's legends and goats. I happen to like baseball more than other sports... that does not mean that the other sports are worse than baseball, it's just that baseball is my favorite.
   23. JJ1986 Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4388976)
Pedro just did.


They should have ejected and suspended him on the spot.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4388977)
Come to the US, where every sports broadcast talks about the NFL, whether in-season or not, and hockey doesn't exist. Also, the game has changed radically since 2000, though it is always in danger of slipping back.


Not from St Louis are you. Sure football has it's niche but it doesn't push a good hockey team out of the limelight, and both take a backseat to baseball. (Basketball is non-existent of course)


But, there really is nothing like overtime playoff hockey.

Really? As Andy pointed out, I guess it comes down to your sport of choice, I don't find anything quite as thrilling as a 1-run or tied game in the ninth inning with the heart of the order coming up facing an ace level reliever(or a starting pitcher pitching a gem)

Problem with overtime sports like basketball and hockey(and even football) is that teams change their philosophy and play the game differently, more conservatively and it just doesn't seem as exciting as it can be. It would be almost better if they allow them to play the full period, as it stands they play to avoid mistakes a little more than they would in the first period/quarter.

Hockey having the 5 on 5 nature of overtime is a great wrinkle, to help offset that conservative mindset, but it's still a different game.


   25. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 15, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4388979)
Problem with overtime sports like basketball and hockey(and even football) is that teams change their philosophy and play the game differently, more conservatively and it just doesn't seem as exciting as it can be. It would be almost better if they allow them to play the full period, as it stands they play to avoid mistakes a little more than they would in the first period/quarter.

Hockey having the 5 on 5 nature of overtime is a great wrinkle, to help offset that conservative mindset, but it's still a different game.


The absolute worst sport for overtime is college football. No other sport is even close. The NFL's revised sudden death rule is a step back from the drama** of real sudden death, but college football's OT rules are like death by a thousand subcommittees.

**and yes, "luck", but so what?
   26. Morty Causa Posted: March 15, 2013 at 02:23 PM (#4388993)
They should have ejected and suspended him on the spot.


If the batter had really been thrown at illegitimately, he would have had a way of preventing being hit, don't you mean?
   27. zack Posted: March 15, 2013 at 02:47 PM (#4389000)
Hockey having the 5 on 5 nature of overtime is a great wrinkle, to help offset that conservative mindset, but it's still a different game.

Well this thread is specifically talking about playoff overtime, where that doesn't apply. Playoff overtime is a regular 4th period, except with golden goal. And usually, due to the exhausting nature of hockey, the games are wild. That's why people are singling it out specifically, because the game changes for the great (scrubs sit, defenses get crazy, the bullshit usually evaporates) and the bad (referees act like calling a penalty will immediately end the world).
   28. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: March 15, 2013 at 03:27 PM (#4389020)
The absolute worst sport for overtime is college football. No other sport is even close. The NFL's revised sudden death rule is a step back from the drama** of real sudden death, but college football's OT rules are like death by a thousand subcommittees.

**and yes, "luck", but so what?


I completely agree with regards to college football's overtime format. I have never cared for the format, but I couldn't articulate why I didn't like it for several years. A former roommate of mine summed it up well by saying that the overtime game does not resemble regulation football. I think he nailed it. The overtime format loses the battle for field position, takes away the deep pass, rewards teams with good placekickers, and removes an element of strategy (2-point conversion) after the second OT.
   29. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: March 15, 2013 at 06:31 PM (#4389117)
It's probably due to the recent rise of my Kings, but I watch a lot more hockey than baseball now. Hockey has more of a flow, where as baseball these days just plods along. In person, hockey is better hands down, it's not even a discussion. And I'm the first to extoll the virtues of a summer night at Chavez Ravine but it loses out to seats down on the ice at Staples.

But there's plenty of room for both. Baseball is a good summer sport. I usually refer to it as a sport best watched when you are really doing something else.
   30. Greg K Posted: March 15, 2013 at 07:50 PM (#4389157)
Except maybe overtime during March Madness, an NBA playoff game 7 that comes down to the last shot, a World Series game 7 that's decided by the final pitch, a sudden death NFL championship game, a 73rd hole of the Masters, a photo finish in the Belmont involving a horse who won the Derby and the Preakness, a hill-hill game in the finals of the U.S. Open nine ball championship, or any number of other events in other sports. These all seem like the greatest moments to the people who favor those sports over all others, and for some of us who love more than one sport it's impossible to choose among them.

Well aside from the fact that I actually favour baseball by a country mile...

Agreed a great finish is a great finish, and how much you enjoy it says more about your level of interest in the sport in question than anything else.

EDIT: to be fair I also said there was nothing else like it, not necessarily that it was better. It would be like if an NBA Game 7 final came down to 10 seconds for one last shot. But extend that for a possible 2-3 hours. Extra-Inning baseball is somewhat similar in that for half the time the game could end at any moment. But an over-time hockey game that runs three or four extra periods. That's almost two hours of staring at the screen knowing it could all end at any moment. Plus no commercials! And the players visibly tiring, which makes for less crisp hockey, but really conveys the tension well. Like I (and you) say, to each his own. But there's a reason playoff overtime hockey is celebrated by hockey fans in a way that extra-inning baseball isn't by baseball fans. It is almost like a different game.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 15, 2013 at 08:52 PM (#4389198)
I completely agree with regards to college football's overtime format. I have never cared for the format, but I couldn't articulate why I didn't like it for several years. A former roommate of mine summed it up well by saying that the overtime game does not resemble regulation football. I think he nailed it. The overtime format loses the battle for field position, takes away the deep pass, rewards teams with good placekickers, and removes an element of strategy (2-point conversion) after the second OT.

You might also just look at CFB overtime as an endless series of Mulligans, and it's enough to make you wonder whether the inventors of it were really struggling for a way to say "YOU'RE ALL WINNERS!" It's got to be the wussiest set of rules to be found in any major American sport.
   32. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 15, 2013 at 09:43 PM (#4389241)
Hockey is great in the arena, not so great on TV - even with big screen HDTV. With baseball, the drop-off isn't the same, and replays can add a lot to the TV experience. However, the big advantage MLB has is that the 162 game schedule (plus 3 rounds of playoffs!) allows it to become part of your daily rhythms.
   33. cardsfanboy Posted: March 15, 2013 at 10:23 PM (#4389271)
Hockey is great in the arena, not so great on TV


I've seen people here say that before, and it seems to go against the consensus of casual fans of the two sports. I think hockey's popularity among females is a large part based upon how easily accessible the game is to a novice on tv. Of the 4 1/2 major American sports, baseball is way too complicated to be picked up by a novice, along with it's relative slow pace, and the nature of it's scoring often requiring multiple plays. Same with football. With the other 2 1/2 sports, you have a simple concept score in a type of net. Soccer is way too slow to be interesting and it's never going to grab the casual fan by tv. That leaves basketball and hockey as the only two easily approachable sports for a novice via television. I just find it hard to think of a sport that is easily understood and explained by tv as something not so great on TV.

   34. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2013 at 10:55 PM (#4389310)
Well aside from the fact that I actually favour baseball by a country mile...

Agreed a great finish is a great finish, and how much you enjoy it says more about your level of interest in the sport in question than anything else.


Your original comment was spot-on. None of Andy's examples were all that similar, and more indicative of his preferences than yours. A last-second shot or down-to-the-wire game may very well be exciting, but it's definitely in a different category than the lengthy state of anticipation that OT playoff hockey provides.

Playoff OT hockey is simply different than anything else out there. It's sudden death, but not in the same way as football where most scoring plays are built toward. Because it's a low-scoring game by nature, it holds the potential that play may go on for another hour-plus, which doesn't happen anywhere else (for the most part). And it's such a physically taxing sport that you can see the players wearing down as the game goes on.

Moreover, virtually all of those things he listed are rare occurrences, championship tilts that happen to end a certain way. Overtime playoff hockey happens multiple times per year.

As you said, quite accurately, "there really is nothing like overtime playoff hockey."
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:17 PM (#4389316)
Hockey is great in the arena, not so great on TV


I've seen people here say that before, and it seems to go against the consensus of casual fans of the two sports. I think hockey's popularity among females is a large part based upon how easily accessible the game is to a novice on tv.

Completely disagree. Hockey on TV may be OK on Big Screen with high def, but for a 27" screen like mine the puck is just too damn small and hard to follow. Not to mention that hockey suffers from the same problem as soccer: It's too much like the 1968 version of baseball, in spite of what I've heard about the recent uptick in scoring. There's a reason that of the four major sports, it's the only one that's never really gone much beyond that of a medium sized cult status, at least south of the Canadian border. OTOH I loved the two games I saw live at the old Cap Centre---totally different and infinitely superior experience to the TV version.

Of the 4 1/2 major American sports, baseball is way too complicated to be picked up by a novice, along with it's relative slow pace, and the nature of it's scoring often requiring multiple plays. Same with football. With the other 2 1/2 sports, you have a simple concept score in a type of net. Soccer is way too slow to be interesting and it's never going to grab the casual fan by tv. That leaves basketball and hockey as the only two easily approachable sports for a novice via television.

This really does get down to individual preferences. The casual fan sure seems to love football, if you can believe the ratings, and baseball does pretty well for a sport whose fan base is mostly made up of people who follow only one team or one division closely. But I will admit that basketball is the easiest for the casual fan to follow, with simple rules and only ten players playing with one giant ball that doesn't move too quickly.
   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:19 PM (#4389321)
As you said, quite accurately, "there really is nothing like overtime playoff hockey."

If you're a hockey fan to begin with. If your preference is for other sports, there are many equivalent events in terms of drama, even if their format isn't exactly the same.
   37. PreservedFish Posted: March 15, 2013 at 11:40 PM (#4389330)
Hockey on TV may be OK on Big Screen with high def, but for a 27" screen like mine


This is what you watch all of your (arguably stolen) movies on?
   38. SoSH U at work Posted: March 16, 2013 at 12:04 AM (#4389337)
If you're a hockey fan to begin with. If your preference is for other sports, there are many equivalent events in terms of drama, even if their format isn't exactly the same.


You can say this as many times as you want, but you'll never stop being wrong. It has nothing to do with my preferences (I'm a modest hockey fan). Overtime playoff hockey, for the reasons outlined, is markedly different than anything you mentioned (not necessarily better, but fundamentally and unmistakably different). The true sudden death format combined with the quick strike nature of the sport, the genuine potential that the game will go on long into the night, the energy-zapping nature of the sport and the simple fact that this is a regular feature seen multiple times during the playoffs, not a rarity, all make this particular state unique among major sports. You're welcome to prefer some NBA finals game that goes down to the wire or a Game 7 that goes into the ninth tied. If you think they're more exciting, bully for you. That's a preference. But it's simply a statement of fact that these specific situations aren't comparable to OT playoff hockey for any number of reasons.


   39. PreservedFish Posted: March 16, 2013 at 12:25 AM (#4389341)
The true sudden death format combined with the quick strike nature of the sport, the genuine potential that the game will go on long into the night, the energy-zapping nature of the sport and the simple fact that this is a regular feature seen multiple times during the playoffs, not a rarity, all make this particular state unique among major sports.


This is why penalty kicks suck.

But it's simply a statement of fact that these specific situations aren't comparable to OT playoff hockey for any number of reasons.


But of course one could name unique attributes* for the overtimes of all sports, so, I think Andy is right.

*Most of those you listed are not at all unique to hockey, so I think that the "any number of reasons" is probably quite a low number.
   40. SoSH U at work Posted: March 16, 2013 at 12:52 AM (#4389346)

But of course one could name unique attributes* for the overtimes of all sports, so, I think Andy is right.


That wouldn't make Andy right.

*Most of those you listed are not at all unique to hockey, so I think that the "any number of reasons" is probably quite a low number.


I think the things I listed are pretty much exclusive to hockey. Hell, there have been 13 games in North American sports history where the extra time lasted longer than the regulation game. All 13 were NHL playoff games.

Moreover, I don't know you can look at Andy's list and think it's even a reasonable comparison. Greg was listing a generic state (overtime playoff hockey) that happens multiple times annually, and Andy's comparing it to very specific, very rare situations that can appen as infreqeuntly as once a decade (other than OT in the NCAA tournament). It's like arguing the triple is baseball's most exciting play, and countering it by saying, "no, it's a game-winning home run in the seventh game of the World Series." The latter may be true, but only because you weren't close to comparing the same things.

   41. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 16, 2013 at 09:17 AM (#4389385)
Moreover, I don't know you can look at Andy's list and think it's even a reasonable comparison. Greg was listing a generic state (overtime playoff hockey) that happens multiple times annually, and Andy's comparing it to very specific, very rare situations that can happen as infrequently as once a decade (other than OT in the NCAA tournament). It's like arguing the triple is baseball's most exciting play, and countering it by saying, "no, it's a game-winning home run in the seventh game of the World Series." The latter may be true, but only because you weren't close to comparing the same things.

Yes, but by restricting my list, I was really just trying to be polite, since there are many pre-7th (or 5th) game postseason baseball games, and many pre-championship game basketball and NFL games that have every bit as much DRAMA as an overtime playoff hockey game. There's nothing more inherently dramatic about overtime in basketball than there is in the last five minutes of a game, and a baseball game tied after 8 innings is no different in terms of anticipation than the 10th or 19th inning, other than the slow vaperizing of the bench and the bullpen. If you want to make a thing about rules, the lack of free substitution in baseball makes that sport unique.**

Of course hockey's sudden death rule makes it unique in a technical sense, but to go from that to implying that there's something more inherently dramatic about that format than there is about the climactic moments of baseball, football or basketball is simply stating a personal preference. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but don't assume that your take is universal.

**All sports have their unique elements. Football players don't play both offense and defense. Basketball ejects players for 5 or 6 routine fouls. Baseball doesn't allow for players leaving a game to return. Hockey has a form of sudden death overtime that's more "sudden" than football's. Obviously this is just a partial list, but the underlying issue is the drama of the postseason, not any particular rule that makes for but one factor of that drama.
   42. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4389389)
My older brother always makes this ridiculous argument to me, because he likes hockey but doesn't like basketball, that hockey players are "tougher" than basketball players because more hitting is allowed.

So I counter by asking him to name one hockey player who beat up Shaquille O'Neal and, being forced to think in those terms, he comes back to his senses.
   43. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4389393)
I have to admit, I dislike the NHL. Because of the fighting mentality, every team has to have at least one "goon" on the roster to make sure the other teams goon doesn't rough up the guys who can really play. It gives it a kind of WWF illegitimacy to me. And you have guys like Don Cherry who actively promote this ethos, and accuses anyone one who doesn't see it his way of being a pansy.

I remember the 1972 series between Canada and the Russians. To tell you the truth, I thought the Russians, as a whole, were better players than the NHL guys and played a flashier and more skillful, dynamic brand of hockey. Their passing and the way they attacked the net was more reminiscent of the way NBA teams run offenses than the style that was popular in the NHL at the time, which was to have big strong forwards who could out-muscle the opposition in the corners after the puck was dumped in there, and if that didn't work, rough up the other teams best skaters. In other words, reduce the game to the lowest common denominator.

Canada eventually won (barely) by playing goon hockey, with Bobby Clarke deliberately injuring the Russians best player, Valeri Kharlamov, who up to that point was skating circles around the slower, less skillful Canadian players.
   44. McCoy Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM (#4389395)
I have to admit, I dislike the NHL. Because of the fighting mentality. . .

Is this even true anymore? I know a lot of NHL fans that are complaining a bit because they seem to think the NHL has gotten less physical and has less fights now.
   45. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:03 AM (#4389396)
I know a lot of NHL fans that are complaining a bit because they seem to think the NHL has gotten less physical and has less fights now.


And that tells you all you need to know about NHL fans.
   46. Greg K Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM (#4389397)
I've seen people here say that before, and it seems to go against the consensus of casual fans of the two sports. I think hockey's popularity among females is a large part based upon how easily accessible the game is to a novice on tv.

Completely disagree. Hockey on TV may be OK on Big Screen with high def, but for a 27" screen like mine the puck is just too damn small and hard to follow.


I think these two thoughts aren't necessarily contradictory. Hockey does seem like a relatively simple sport to grasp the basics of while watching. Pretty much everything a hockey player does can be fairly directly related to an obvious goal (put the puck in the net or stop the puck from going in the net). So a novice can easily understand what's going on. But the puck does seem to present a real problem to new viewers. Having grown up with hockey it's not a problem I've ever encountered (and the puck trax on the American coverage of hockey is still a source of amusement for Canadians who want to feel morally superior to their friends from the south). But, as with all sports, I think there is a learning process to watching the game. For my undergrad years I had a 12 inch TV, and those were my most dedicated hockey-watching years (it's probably been three or four years since I saw a complete hockey game). It doesn't even occur to me that this is what I'm doing, but the trick is you don't watch the puck. By the actions, movement and gestures of all the players it's always very clear where the puck is. Maybe I'm alone in watching hockey this way...I do have terrible eye-sight, but you can see the puck without always seeing the puck, if that makes sense.
   47. Greg K Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:09 AM (#4389400)
I have to admit, I dislike the NHL. Because of the fighting mentality, every team has to have at least one "goon" on the roster to make sure the other teams goon doesn't rough up the guys who can really play.

Speaking of which, Goon is a shockingly decent movie.
   48. Greg K Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:25 AM (#4389403)
Of course hockey's sudden death rule makes it unique in a technical sense, but to go from that to implying that there's something more inherently dramatic about that format than there is about the climactic moments of baseball, football or basketball is simply stating a personal preference. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but don't assume that your take is universal.

I think we're perhaps getting too bogged down in value judgements. Baseball's late-inning drama is of a different character from hockey's. I wouldn't say one or the other is more dramatic, it's just different kinds of drama. Baseball is several moments of tension with periods of intense anticipation inbetween. Overtime playoff hockey is 5-10 minutes of straight tension, punctuated by the occasional off-side call where you have 30 seconds to catch your breath.

I'm not saying one is inherently better than the other. Just that playoff overtime hockey is a different spectator experience entirely (not just from other sports but from regulation hockey). The bottom of the 10th is simply the bottom of the 9th repeated.

Of course, you are right, drama as experienced by a sports spectator is at its core a subjective experience. It may only be my experience, but watching an extra-inning game with friends the atmosphere is marked by discussion (what do you pitch here? Why are they walking him? God, Jose Valverde sucks), and pacing, so much pacing inbetween the moments of tension. I've watched triple over-time hockey games in a room full of 10-12 people, and no one has spoken for 10 minute stretches simply because there's no opportunity to do anything but pray.

With this I think I'll conclude my comments in this thread as there probably isn't much more productive to say. I probably could have picked a better word choice to prevent this turning into a "x sport better than y sport" conversation, which I find quite boring.
   49. zack Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4389405)
I have to admit, I dislike the NHL. Because of the fighting mentality, every team has to have at least one "goon" on the roster to make sure the other teams goon doesn't rough up the guys who can really play. It gives it a kind of WWF illegitimacy to me. And you have guys like Don Cherry who actively promote this ethos, and accuses anyone one who doesn't see it his way of being a pansy.

This is changing, and couldn't happen fast enough in my opinion. With the speed of the game, traditional goons are rightly getting burned out of the league. There is far too much macho bullshit, unnecessary and debilitating violence, and explicit xenophobia in the game. There are people who watch for the fights, but I don't think my opinions are uncommon among fans, that's it a stupid sideshow and can we get back to the hockey? Especially when the fight happens at the first puck drop. Might as well move it to warm ups. And no one likes Don Cherry. Some people may be amused by him.

And I absolutely agree about the summit series, the Russians were better hockey players than the Canadians by a gigantic stretch, and if the Russians hadn't put the fear of god into them then hockey today would probably still be the garbage they played in the 70's, and the NHL would have the talent level of the ECHL. Clarke's two-handed slash is so embarrassing I'm surprised any Canadians take pride in the series at all. If the series were made into a kids movie, the Canadians would be the bad guys. But I'm an American born 10 years after it the summit series, so I can say that.

   50. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM (#4389406)
I remember the 1972 series between Canada and the Russians. To tell you the truth, I thought the Russians, as a whole, were better players than the NHL guys and played a flashier and more skillful, dynamic brand of hockey. Their passing and the way they attacked the net was more reminiscent of the way NBA teams run offenses than the style that was popular in the NHL at the time, which was to have big strong forwards who could out-muscle the opposition in the corners after the puck was dumped in there, and if that didn't work, rough up the other teams best skaters. In other words, reduce the game to the lowest common denominator.

Canada eventually won (barely) by playing goon hockey, with Bobby Clarke deliberately injuring the Russians best player, Valeri Kharlamov, who up to that point was skating circles around the slower, less skillful Canadian players.


I know it might be a bit of a surprise to you, but over 40 years later the game isn't anything like that any more.

All teams use the "goal-line cycling" and intricate passing routines on the power plays that you might have seen the Soviets use back in the days.
There might be the "goon" on the team, but he gets about 5 minutes of play a night. The rest of the time, it's filled with the highest quality players in the world. In the 40 years since 1972, the influx of Russian (and Belarussian/Ukranian/Latvian), Czech, Swedish, Finnish, Slovak, Swiss, German, and Slovenian have helped transform the NHL into the second-most international sports league in the world (behind the EPL).
   51. Flynn Posted: March 16, 2013 at 11:26 AM (#4389415)
and if the Russians hadn't put the fear of god into them then hockey today would probably still be the garbage they played in the 70's,


Have you watched the 70s Canadiens? They were wonderful, some of the best, most stylish hockey ever played. They were prettier to watch than any team today. The Bruins had some great skill too behind Orr and Esposito parking his big butt in front of the net and slapping in rebounds.

The Flyers were thugs, but ironically Shero was the most pro-Soviet Canadian hockey figure of his time, lifting Soviet training drills verbatim and using them for his Flyers. But most Canadians hated the Flyers. They were too thuggish and Shero was too weird. There was practically a national celebration when the Habs swept them in 4 in the 1976 Finals and when (earlier in the year) Larry Robinson landed a flurry of punches on Dave Schultz, one of the most hated goons of all time.

It should be said that Schultz could play a bit and some of the other enforcers of that time could play a lot. Terry O'Reilly once had 90 points in a season. The 1 goal, 3 assists, 189 penalty minutes goon was very much an 80s invention.
   52. Flynn Posted: March 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4389420)
There are people who watch for the fights, but I don't think my opinions are uncommon among fans, that's it a stupid sideshow and can we get back to the hockey? Especially when the fight happens at the first puck drop. Might as well move it to warm ups. And no one likes Don Cherry. Some people may be amused by him.


Cherry's just sort of there. He's the guy who rants on Hockey Night in Canada during the first intermission, it's all pretty tongue in cheek and Don's almost 80 anyway so who can be surprised that a dinosaur has dinosaur views. Due to the time zone difference I watch most of my live hockey on Saturday night and it's about laughing at what Don wears and what Don says.

But physical intimidation is part of the game and occasionally you have to fight. Getting it out of the way actually allows you to play hockey. Even Jean Beliveau had to drop the gloves a few times in his career.
   53. Greg K Posted: March 16, 2013 at 11:53 AM (#4389425)
Clarke's two-handed slash is so embarrassing I'm surprised any Canadians take pride in the series at all. If the series were made into a kids movie, the Canadians would be the bad guys. But I'm an American born 10 years after it the summit series, so I can say that.

There was a CBC mini-series I believe called "Canada Russia '72" that showed the Canadians in less than flattering light. They start out as cocky, out-of-shape prima donnas who take the Russians for granted, get booted out of Sweden for gooning it up in some pre-series friendlies, then rough up the Russians for the crime of being better than they thought they'd be.

I too was born a deacde after '72 so I don't have first-hand experience with what '72 meant to Canadians, but I think at this point the relationship with the series is a bit of a complicated one. At least for people I know of my generation there's a tradition of shame about how Canadian international players comport themselves that starts with '72 (it helps that we can associate Clarke with the hated Flyers, but also in past Olympics I know there were some incidents from Curtis Joseph and Rick Nash that a few Canadians saw as whiny, entitled behaviour...not to mention the 1987 brawl with the Russians at the Juniors), and also '72 is seen as the beginning of the proud Canadian tradition of going into a panic about the future of hockey in Canada any time we look like we might lose a tournament. Of course it could just be the group of Canadian hockey fans I associate with.

EDIT: I should add too that if asked who was the great player of the '72 series a lot of Canadian hockey fans I know would say Tretiak.
   54. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 01:10 PM (#4389448)
I know it might be a bit of a surprise to you, but over 40 years later the game isn't anything like that any more.


Fighting and intimidation and roughing up the fast skaters still occurs. And it still occurs because many hockey fans would stop watching if it didn't.

There's already a model for how hockey should be played. It's called college hockey. You get in a fight, you're gone. You do something unsportsmanlike, you're gone. So the only thing you see in a college hockey game is hockey. If the pro game was played like college hockey, it would be a lot more popular, IMO.

Getting back to the '72 series, I watched it. The expectation going in was that the NHL players would crush them. But after the first game, it was apparent the Russians were going to crush the NHL. The score was 7-3 and if not for some heroic goaltending by Dryden, it could have been 10-3. And the Canadians came off as sore losers, refusing to shake hands after the game. The pros fell back to plan B, which was to drag the series down into the mud.

Clarke's hack of Kharlamov was the exclamation point. It was basically saying "We can't match your hand so we're kicking over the card table instead.".
   55. Flynn Posted: March 16, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4389463)
If the pro game was played like college hockey, it would be a lot more popular, IMO.


As evidenced by the lack of interest in college hockey outside of Minnesota?

We all know Clarke slashed Kharlamov but if you're going to paint it as a the Canadians winning by being goons I'm not signing off on that. Serge Savard tightened up the defense while Paul Henderson, Yvan Cournoyer and Phil Esposito played out of their skins up front.
   56. puck Posted: March 16, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4389475)
I think we're perhaps getting too bogged down in value judgements

Isn't this the site's motto?
   57. cardsfanboy Posted: March 16, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4389489)
But the puck does seem to present a real problem to new viewers. Having grown up with hockey it's not a problem I've ever encountered (and the puck trax on the American coverage of hockey is still a source of amusement for Canadians who want to feel morally superior to their friends from the south). But, as with all sports, I think there is a learning process to watching the game. For my undergrad years I had a 12 inch TV, and those were my most dedicated hockey-watching years (it's probably been three or four years since I saw a complete hockey game). It doesn't even occur to me that this is what I'm doing, but the trick is you don't watch the puck. By the actions, movement and gestures of all the players it's always very clear where the puck is. Maybe I'm alone in watching hockey this way...I do have terrible eye-sight, but you can see the puck without always seeing the puck, if that makes sense.


I never even realized that people had a problem watching the puck until Fox started their stupid puck trax. I'm not a hard core hockey viewer, but it's never even occurred to me that people couldn't or weren't figuring out where the puck was at. As you point out, you don't need to actually see the puck to know where it's at, the actions and movements of the players tell you everything you need to know. I just find it to be by far the easiest sport to follow (with basketball you have the dribbling rules which complicate the game a little for the novice...something like you must dribble the ball for every step you take, except when charging the basket, and then you are given a number of steps based upon your popularity where you don't have to dribble, or something like that) for a novice in it's simplicity.

This is not to imply there aren't complex strategies involved etc. This is to point out how easy it is to understand the game with basically one sentence worth of rules, anything complex is about specific rules on the how and why etc. (note same could be said about almost all the games of this type, but I feel hockey is more approachable due to it's frequency of scoring along with the frequency of chances. Soccer is too low on both accounts, and basketball is too high. A casual fan seeing 10 baskets can think this game is too easy, while a soccer fan seeing a 2-1 game, and the relatively deliberate pace of the game might just find it a tad too slow. Hockey gets it about right you get 3-4 games with some regularity and they score about 1 out of every 5 scoring chances so it makes it seem difficult, and frequent enough that you can't turn your eyes away from the tv. Which is why I think it's of all the major sports, the most tv casual viewer friendly one)
   58. fra paolo Posted: March 16, 2013 at 04:25 PM (#4389553)
I think we're perhaps getting too bogged down in value judgements
Isn't this the site's motto?

Illaqueatus in valorem iudicia
   59. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 06:58 PM (#4389595)
As evidenced by the lack of interest in college hockey outside of Minnesota?


The networks don't exactly clamor all over themselves for NHL contracts either. If pro sports were a corporation, the NHL would be the mailroom clerk. The only way to rectify that is for the NHL to start taking itself seriously and get rid of all the unnecessary contact. The rationalization "hitting is part of the game" is ridiculous. It's only part of the game because that's the way it's been taught. If you reduce the hitting and emphasize the skills more, it might be more interesting to watch.

For instance, every time someone digs the puck out of the corner, the defender nails him against the boards, or at least tries to, without even bothering to go for the puck. Why? How is that a part of hockey? All it does is take both players out of play temporarily. Even football, a much more violent game, does not allow forceful contact on the skill players unless they have the ball. So it gets reduced to the least common denominator, a bunch of dimwitted brutes scrumming for the puck. I wonder how many amazing hockey players are out there who we don't know about because they would be buried under the gratuitous contact distributed by thugs on skates?
   60. Swedish Chef Posted: March 16, 2013 at 07:23 PM (#4389608)
a bunch of dimwitted brutes scrumming for the puck. I wonder how many amazing hockey players are out there who we don't know about because they would be buried under the gratuitous contact distributed by thugs on skates?

They aren't great at hockey then but some kind of basketball on ice, hockey is a physical sport.

Actually there is a kinder, gentler stick-on-ice-game, Bandy, with pro leagues in Sweden and Russia. Being a goalie in Bandy is probably one of the worst positions in terms of physical punishment in all of sports though.
   61. Publius Publicola Posted: March 16, 2013 at 07:26 PM (#4389611)
They aren't great at hockey then but some kind of basketball on ice, hockey is a physical sport.


They play real hockey in college too and it doesn't include the thuggery. I find it more interesting to watch.
   62. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:23 PM (#4389630)

Remembering 72 as 'when the Russians skated circles around Canadian thugs' not only leaves out some important reasons why Canada won the series, it also leaves out what happened next.

Unlike some other countries who, once surpassed in their national sport, flailed about in the global midcard for generations (I'm looking at you English soccer), Canadian hockey regrouped. Fifteen years later Canada won another huge game against the Russians, this time on a goal made and finished by the two greatest players since the 70s and possibly ever, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. To this day Canada produces some of the most skilled players in the world, like Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, and Nazem Kadri (hey, I said I was a Leaf fan).
   63. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:28 PM (#4389632)
double post
   64. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:34 PM (#4389636)
I never even realized that people had a problem watching the puck until Fox started their stupid puck trax. I'm not a hard core hockey viewer, but it's never even occurred to me that people couldn't or weren't figuring out where the puck was at. As you point out, you don't need to actually see the puck to know where it's at, the actions and movements of the players tell you everything you need to know. I just find it to be by far the easiest sport to follow

Are you kidding? Red lines, blue lines, "offside", and just when the action gets going, everyone stops and just skates around in circles for seemingly no reason. If you think the average casual viewer finds this easier to follow than the other three major sports, I strongly suspect you're Canadian. Or maybe it's just that I'm not.
   65. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:37 PM (#4389638)

Yeah, there's never a break in the free-flowing action of NFL football.
   66. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:53 PM (#4389641)
As you point out, you don't need to actually see the puck to know where it's at, the actions and movements of the players tell you everything you need to know.

No, I want to be able to actually see the puck, the way I can see the baseball, the basketball, and the football. I want to be able to see it easily and clearly as it passes from one player to another. Color me dense, but on TV, at least, it all comes across as a lot of dissembled motion, way too often interrupted by the puck sailing down to the wrong end of the ice, which I take it is some sort of a defensive move.

Football, OTOH, is ridiculously easy to follow on TV and understand in about five minutes. You advance the ball 10 yards or more in 3 tries, you keep going. You don't advance it 10 yards or more in 3 tries, you have the option of trying again or kicking. You cross the goal line with the ball, six points. You kick it over the crossbar, 3 points, or one point after the touchdown. But what makes it easy to understand is that the game stops after each down, so each play can immediately be set in context by the announcer. Anyone who's confused can be straightened out before the next play even begins. You don't have this breathing room in hockey.

And hockey on radio, Jesus. Sixty minutes of describing action, and maybe 6 or 7 goals a game, with no way of anticipating when they're about to be scored. Unlike the other often low scoring game (baseball), the scoring seems random to the casual listener or viewer. In this respect it's much more like soccer, another sport where the defense can totally interrupt the flow of the game with one strategic kick that makes the entire preceding action totally inconsequential. But I guess it's much like baseball or American football, in that if you grow up with it, its rhythm seems both dramatic and obvious. Basketball is the one major U.S. sport that even a 3 year old can understand and follow.
   67. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 16, 2013 at 08:56 PM (#4389642)
Yeah, there's never a break in the free-flowing action of NFL football.

Of course there is, but it's there for a clear purpose, and not just the commercial one. With hockey the interruptions are random.
   68. MHS Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:06 PM (#4389664)
My preference is for hockey. For me, the NHL version in its current incarnation is the only perfect game. It wonderfully blends skill, physicality, pace, frequency and transparency. No other sport hits on all five of those marks, at least in my view.

   69. cardsfanboy Posted: March 16, 2013 at 10:31 PM (#4389674)
Are you kidding? Red lines, blue lines, "offside", and just when the action gets going, everyone stops and just skates around in circles for seemingly no reason. If you think the average casual viewer finds this easier to follow than the other three major sports, I strongly suspect you're Canadian. Or maybe it's just that I'm not.


Hockey, the goal is to score a puck in the other teams net. There is a weird rule about offsides, and another rule about passing, beyond that, everything makes sense.

I'm not even going to pretend that baseball and football are remotely easy to understand by a casual viewer, to think that is nuts. Imagine trying to learn cricket... that is similar to the complexity of baseball. Football same way.

Really only basketball and soccer are comparable in ease to comprehend, and basketball (at the professional level) has the weird rules, that the number of all star game appearances a player has determines the number of steps he's allowed to make without dribbling the ball. In all seriousness, basketball is just as easy to follow as hockey, I just think the high scores create an illusion of the game being too easy. I understand both games have unique rules that stops the play, but that just takes a little bit of watching to understand.

No, I want to be able to actually see the puck, the way I can see the baseball, the basketball, and the football. I want to be able to see it easily and clearly as it passes from one player to another. Color me dense, but on TV, at least, it all comes across as a lot of dissembled motion, way too often interrupted by the puck sailing down to the wrong end of the ice, which I take it is some sort of a defensive move.


Why? I'm sorry but knowing where it is enough. The game is the athletes and their movements. I understand it's your preference and all, but I don't think that casual viewers care that much about it. There is a reason why women have a tendency to like hockey at a fairly high percentage, it's easy enough to understand if you didn't grow up with a sports background.

Football, OTOH, is ridiculously easy to follow on TV and understand in about five minutes.


You have got to be ####### kidding me with this. It's massively complicated. You have to learn the concept of downs, you have to learn concept of formations, you have to learn the concept of start and stop of plays. Line of scrimmage, etc. There is way too much for a first time viewer of the sport to take in. Saying football is easier to watch on tv than hockey is absurd. Hockey, basketball, soccer, polo, jai alai, etc. Are all the same game, the only thing you have to learn is the unique features of the individual sport(no hands in soccer, stick only in hockey, dribbling in basketball, horse and stick for polo, water for water polo etc.) but the concept is simple. Football is massively more complicated. If it was easy, like the other sports there would be no stoppage of play(it would be a lot more like rugby).

And hockey on radio, Jesus.
Any of the sports of this type is absurd on the radio. I couldn't for a second imagine enjoying a hockey radio broadcast. Only reason to ever listen to it, is if you are a fan of the team and have no way of watching the game and want the results, but yes, you are right it's a horrible medium for the sport(same with basketball, soccer etc.)

My preference is for hockey. For me, the NHL version in its current incarnation is the only perfect game. It wonderfully blends skill, physicality, pace, frequency and transparency. No other sport hits on all five of those marks, at least in my view.


I think Hockey is about the perfect tv sport. I obviously think baseball is the better sport overall, especially MLB because of the nature of the season, the value of a division title, the value of bench depth and a host of other reasons.
   70. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 17, 2013 at 12:10 AM (#4389701)
Hockey, the goal is to score a puck in the other teams net. There is a weird rule about offsides, and another rule about passing, beyond that, everything makes sense.

Sure, if you grew up with it, or had someone patiently explain to you why the action starts and stops for no apparent reason. The basic goal of all the non-baseball games is the same: Advance the ball across the goal (or through it). But the offside violations in hockey are NOT easy to pick up on TV, and yet they continually disrupt the flow of the game for what to the untrained eye seems like a mere technicality.

I'm not even going to pretend that baseball and football are remotely easy to understand by a casual viewer, to think that is nuts. Imagine trying to learn cricket... that is similar to the complexity of baseball. Football same way.

My wife grew up in Switzerland, England and France, and had been to about 2 or 3 baseball games in her entire life before we met, and I was able to explain all the basics to her over the course of the first game we went to together. There are children's books written for six year olds that explain the game with perfect clarity. And of course with all that time between pitches, you've got plenty of opportunity to further explain these concepts while the game is unfolding.

Football is massively more complicated. If it was easy, like the other sports there would be no stoppage of play(it would be a lot more like rugby).

But regulated and pre-known stoppage of play is essential to the nature of American style football. By itself, stoppage of play doesn't make it any more complicated. If anything, it just makes it easier to follow, for the simple reason that as in baseball, you have time to collect your thoughts between bursts of action. The nonstop flow of hockey, with turnovers taking place at a much higher rate than in any other major American pro sport, makes it much harder, not easier, to follow.

Football strategy is complex, but that's not what most casual fans care about. They care about feats of strength and athleticism, all of which are easy to pick up on TV without any advanced knowledge at all. A casual viewer may have no idea why the quarterback is gesticulating and yelling "Hurry, hurry!" before the play begins, or why his backs are simultaneously in motion, but he or she can easily see and appreciate when a perfect pass threads the needle between two defenders, or when a running back slithers through several tacklers to break off a long gain. There's a reason why football is the highest rated TV sport, and it doesn't all have to do with gambling or the one game a week scheduling.

As for basketball, how long does it take to explain the shot clock, the concept of fouls, or even the concept of deliberate fouling in order to delay the end of the game? To understand the Triangle offense or the floating zone defense gives a fan a greater appreciation of the game, but like football, the basic goal and appeal of the game can be understood by small children.

Any of the sports of this type is absurd on the radio. I couldn't for a second imagine enjoying a hockey radio broadcast. Only reason to ever listen to it, is if you are a fan of the team and have no way of watching the game and want the results, but yes, you are right it's a horrible medium for the sport(same with basketball, soccer etc.)

Not basketball. Basketball on the radio, in the hands of a good announcer like Marv Albert, comes to life in a way that hockey or soccer never can. The pattern of a basketball play takes place within a relatively small space, and often involves just one or two passes before a shot, all easily described. Hockey and soccer feature many more passes over much larger territory, far more turnovers, and far fewer shots relative to everything else. All of that makes the radio game inherently much less satisfying.

-------------------------------------------

My preference is for hockey. For me, the NHL version in its current incarnation is the only perfect game. It wonderfully blends skill, physicality, pace, frequency and transparency. No other sport hits on all five of those marks, at least in my view.

I'll say this for hockey: The skates add an extra dimension to the difficulty of the sport that IMO makes the overall required skill set higher than in any other sport. If I'd grown up Canadian, I'm sure I'd be singing a different tune than I've been singing on this thread so far.
   71. MHS Posted: March 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM (#4389707)
If I'd grown up Canadian, I'm sure I'd be singing a different tune than I've been singing on this thread so far.


I didn't grow up in Canada. I don't think that really matters. Exposure, and open mindedness is what I thinks differentiates.
   72. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 17, 2013 at 07:03 AM (#4389750)
"If I'd grown up in Canada" is just another way of saying "if I'd been given a hockey stick when I was four, instead of a bat, ball and glove", and if my Dad had taken me to see minor league hockey games at Uline Arena when I was seven instead of Major League baseball games at Griffith Stadium.

As for openmindededness being much of a factor: Perhaps it is, but then why don't most Americans eat like rural Koreans or 19th century Frenchmen, munching on Big Fidos or filet of Secretariat? Is it because we're not "open minded", or simply because the cultural preferences of another time or another place don't particularly resonate with us?
   73. Der-K thinks the Essex Green were a good band. Posted: March 17, 2013 at 09:18 AM (#4389762)
Sosh, not a timed game, but there have been baseball games where extra innings took longer than regulation. As you know...
   74. SoSH U at work Posted: March 17, 2013 at 09:43 AM (#4389769)
Sosh, not a timed game, but there have been baseball games where extra innings took longer than regulation. As you know...


Not in the postseason, which is the parameters Andy set up with his list. The longest one of those merely matched the regular game's length.
   75. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4389798)
Hockey is lame. There's a whole generation of Canadian kids who will be fortunate enough to want to grow up to be Georges St. Pierre instead of some figure skater.
   76. zack Posted: March 18, 2013 at 09:40 AM (#4390400)
Hockey has like 2 rules, calling it more complex than football is ridiculous. You put the puck in the net and you can't cross the blue line before the puck does*. Everything else is about the ways contact are limited, which do not effect understanding of the game at all. How is that a complicated offsides? Its much less so that soccer's, or god forbid, football's, where having the wrong number of guys lined up at the line is a penalty, and you can run around before the play but only in certain ways. And there is no red-line or two-line pass rule anymore. The red line is there, but it's meaningless now.

I have literally never in my life heard someone argue that pre-planned stoppages in play are an asset to a sport. One of hockey's best features is that, in games between skilled teams, they can go 10 minutes or more without a stoppage, with full player substitutions every 45 seconds, without breaking the flow of play. If you need bathroom breaks, they stop for 20 minutes every 20 minutes of game, 30-45 minutes of real time. And the stoppages aren't complicated at all, it's when the puck is lost, either to the goalie or going out of play, or a penalty.

Unless you are arguing that you, personally, find hockey more complicated than baseball or football, Andy, you are objectively wrong.

*Unless you play for the Avalanche.
   77. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 18, 2013 at 09:58 AM (#4390406)
I have literally never in my life heard someone argue that pre-planned stoppages in play are an asset to a sport.

It's an asset in that it gives players a chance to regroup. What's the alternative?

One of hockey's best features is that, in games between skilled teams, they can go 10 minutes or more without a stoppage, with full player substitutions every 45 seconds, without breaking the flow of play.

It may be one of hockey's best features, but to say that this makes hockey somehow superior to football is about on the same level as saying that football is superior to soccer because in soccer only goalies can use their hands. All sports have their distinctive features, and all of us have our preferences among them. There's nothing "objective" about any of these preferences one way or the other.

And all all of the major sports other than perhaps basketball are extremely difficult for a casual viewer to pick up on without having someone explain the intricacies of the rule as they go along. TV announcers certainly don't do this, as they rightly assume that the great majority of their viewers understand the basics already.

   78. Greg K Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM (#4390410)
And there is no red-line or two-line pass rule anymore. The red line is there, but it's meaningless now.

I assume you mean meaningless for off-sides. It does still play a role in determining icing.

Not meant to be conclusive data, merely my personal experience, but hockey is a very simple game for the unfamiliar to grasp fairly quickly. I'd say soccer may be easier, simply because it moves a bit slower. Baseball is certainly the most complicated that I can think of for a newbie...possibly cricket, though it's tough for me to say because I have zero memory of ever being a newbie to baseball.

One way of thinking about it is to think of how many times a person would stop and ask "why did he do that?/what is he trying to accomplish?" in the course of their first game. For hockey I would think most of the questions would arise over the off-side rule - why did the play stop? Why did that player stop at the blue-line? which comes up every now and then, but can be explained fair succinctly. Puck has to cross the blue-line first to prevent people from hanging around the net. Other things like pulling the goalie are pretty easily explained as well.

Just think of all the concepts you need to explain in baseball...when is it a force, when is it a tag play? Why is a pop fly in foul territory live but a ground ball in foul territory foul? Why is that pitcher throwing the ball 4 feet outside? If a foul is a strike why didn't that guy just strike out? Why does the runner run on a ground ball but not on a fly ball? (This one seems particularly difficult to grasp for new players) Why does the runner run through first base but not the other bases?

And these are all things that happen every game, not even getting into infield fly rules, dropped third strikes etc.

EDIT: I do think Andy has a good point that the form baseball and football take (the regular pauses in action) are a benefit to teaching someone the game.
   79. zack Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4390417)
It may be one of hockey's best features, but to say that this makes hockey somehow superior to football is about on the same level as saying that football is superior to soccer because in soccer only goalies can use their hands

On the other hand, football's absolute worst feature is that it is constantly going to commercial. Especially if you actually bother to attend.

And I was not saying that my preferences were objective. Don't move the goal posts, they're fine at 6 ft. What I was saying was objective was that football and baseball are more complicated, objectively, than hockey to learn.
   80. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:18 AM (#4390420)
One way of thinking about it is to think of how many times a person would stop and ask "why did he do that?/what is he trying to accomplish?" in the course of their first game.

That's a good way of looking at it, but to that you have to add "How many times does this basic confusion present itself during the course of a game, and does the TV announcer ever bother to explain it to the first time viewer?"

And that's why I don't think hockey is all that obvious to the casual viewer. You constantly see "real" action, with players fighting over the puck and advancing it with passes. And them suddenly everything stops, players just skate around in circles, and nothing is explained. WTF?

OTOH baseball, for all its complications, spends most of its camera time focusing on the duel between the pitcher and the batter. It's easy to grasp intuitively that the object of the batter is to try to hit the ball as solidly as he can, and for the pitcher to stymie him in his attempt. And the pleasure of watching that duel doesn't require any particular knowledge of the rules, any more than it takes rule knowledge to enjoy the spectacle of an uninterrupted hockey play.

Now once you get past that, and concepts such as "icing", then hockey is a lot more basic a sport than baseball or American football. That doesn't make it "better" or "worse", it just makes it different, and subject to personal preferences.
   81. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM (#4390422)
On the other hand, football's absolute worst feature is that it is constantly going to commercial. Especially if you actually bother to attend.

I'd say the worst by far is late game basketball when the score is close and deliberate fouling combines with about 10,000 time outs. That's as close to insufferable as I can imagine. Football is pretty bad, however, hard to argue with that.

And I was not saying that my preferences were objective. Don't move the goal posts, they're fine at 6 ft. What I was saying was objective was that football and baseball are more complicated, objectively, than hockey to learn.

As I just said above, I think that it depends on what stage you're at. For the absolute virginal viewer, all sports seem complicated. The learning curve is probably steepest for baseball, followed by American football, basketball, and then hockey. But all of those sports can be learned fairly thoroughly during the course of any given complete game, given the companionship of a patient spouse/fellow fan and a willingness to pay attention to the explanations. Even baseball's not really all that complex in its basics.
   82. Greg K Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:26 AM (#4390423)
That's a good way of looking at it, but to that you have to add "How many times does this basic confusion present itself during the course of a game, and does the TV announcer ever bother to explain it to the first time viewer?"

I do find this frustrating about rugby broadcasts. I don't know enough about the rules so the play seems to stop at random intervals. In this I suspect Andy-the-hockey-viewer and Greg-the-rugby-viewer are very similar people.

Though I think this points to style of broadcast more than anything else. I've noticed that European broadcasts seem to assume a level of familiarity with the sport. American broadcasts seem to almost take upon thesmelves an educational role. I usually tune out baseball announcers when they go into "explanation" mode, but my British friends getting into baseball here absolutely love it, because it's a great way to pick up on some of the basics of strategy and technique if you're not familiar. There's not really the same tradition in broadcasting here, which when it comes to soccer I find refreshing. The announcer is very much describing action, not teaching. However, when it comes to rugby I probably could use a little bit of help.
   83. Greg K Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM (#4390425)
Now once you get past that, and concepts such as "icing", then hockey is a lot more basic a sport than baseball or American football. That doesn't make it "better" or "worse", it just makes it different, and subject to personal preferences.

I think we can all agree on this sentiment, and (I'd have to read the thread in more detail to be sure) no one has suggested otherwise.
   84. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM (#4390434)
Though I think this points to style of broadcast more than anything else. I've noticed that European broadcasts seem to assume a level of familiarity with the sport. American broadcasts seem to almost take upon thesmelves an educational role. I usually tune out baseball announcers when they go into "explanation" mode, but my British friends getting into baseball here absolutely love it, because it's a great way to pick up on some of the basics of strategy and technique if you're not familiar.

That's funny, since of all the thousands of baseball games I've probably watched on TV, I can't recall any explanations of anything but (somewhat) advanced strategies. But then I nearly always keep a book or magazine nearby between pitches, so I'm often only half-listening.

The real "other extreme" is the ESPN telecasts of nine ball tournaments, where at the beginning of each match, and often at least once later on, the announcer says "the object of nine ball is to pocket the nine ball, and you do that by pocketing the balls in numerical order, with the nine ball last....[etc.]" At first this used to annoy me somewhat, but then it dawned on me that this is necessary to keep first time viewers from being only time viewers. So if you can skip the stupid cartoon graphics, I think that this insight might be applied by announcers of all the major sports.
   85. cardsfanboy Posted: March 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4390438)
Not basketball. Basketball on the radio, in the hands of a good announcer like Marv Albert, comes to life in a way that hockey or soccer never can. The pattern of a basketball play takes place within a relatively small space, and often involves just one or two passes before a shot, all easily described. Hockey and soccer feature many more passes over much larger territory, far more turnovers, and far fewer shots relative to everything else. All of that makes the radio game inherently much less satisfying.


Sorry, I don't see how any of those type of sports could be satisfying on the radio, maybe soccer just because grass grows faster than the action, so the announcer could realistically give you a verbal cue at the positioning of the relevant players. But basketball and hockey just move too fast to get a good feel of the game to a casual viewer. Baseball is the only sport that works on the radio as more than just getting the information of what is going on in the game to a fan. Basketball is too fast paced to be good radio.


For the absolute virginal viewer, all sports seem complicated. The learning curve is probably steepest for baseball, followed by American football, basketball, and then hockey.

Which is what I have been saying. Hockey is easy to watch on tv, and outside of your personal preference to see the puck, there is absolutely no reason that is necessary. It doesn't take a genius on physics to find the puck. Heck I have an old baseball annual, where they showed a play that you can see all 10 players on the field, and the goal was to pick out where the ball was based upon the positioning of the players bodies, arms and head. It isn't that difficult, and it's intuitive.

I can see arguing that basketball is as approachable as hockey for a new tv sports viewer, but there is zero chance that either football or baseball come close to being as approachable.


As to the silliness of "there is nothing like ot playoff hockey".... so what, the same can be said about every other major sport. There is nothing inherent in hockeys style of play that makes it better. Baseball is by far the most fair post season style. Football is just stupid. Basketball combines a lot of the same game strategy with a sense of urgency that doesn't remove you from the actual game. (mind you I find basketball to be painfully boring, but that doesn't mean I'm going to undermine it's viability in this argument, I'll accept what it's fans say about the sport's relative merits...except silliness like "it's great on the radio"...sorry, but it's pace completely ruins the ability of the radio guys to tell a good story, so you are usually getting half a story.)

   86. SoSH U at work Posted: March 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4390452)
Not basketball. Basketball on the radio, in the hands of a good announcer like Marv Albert, comes to life in a way that hockey or soccer never can. The pattern of a basketball play takes place within a relatively small space, and often involves just one or two passes before a shot, all easily described. Hockey and soccer feature many more passes over much larger territory, far more turnovers, and far fewer shots relative to everything else. All of that makes the radio game inherently much less satisfying.


That guy who was caterwauling about "personal preferences" would like a word with you.
   87. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 18, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4390485)
Cherry's just sort of there. He's the guy who rants on Hockey Night in Canada during the first intermission, it's all pretty tongue in cheek and Don's almost 80 anyway so who can be surprised that a dinosaur has dinosaur views. Due to the time zone difference I watch most of my live hockey on Saturday night and it's about laughing at what Don wears and what Don says.

He's part of the fabric of the sport. Doesn't stop Hockey Night in Canada from being the most appealingly broadcast sports production in North America for at least two decades, probably longer.

Hockey Night in Canada covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs versus Fox Sports covering the baseball World Series is a Foreman-Frazier size mismatch.
   88. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4390487)
The networks don't exactly clamor all over themselves for NHL contracts either.

Good. And hopefully they never will. The last thing hockey needs is to be ruined by the "casual fan."

Hockey's too energetic and complicated for most Americans.

EDIT: Are you kidding? Red lines, blue lines, "offside", and just when the action gets going, everyone stops and just skates around in circles for seemingly no reason. If you think the average casual viewer finds this easier to follow than the other three major sports, I strongly suspect you're Canadian. Or maybe it's just that I'm not.

Exhibit A.
   89. zack Posted: March 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4390492)
Baseball is the only sport that works on the radio as more than just getting the information of what is going on in the game to a fan.

You should listen to test cricket sometime. You get to learn about the weather, how lovely the trees outside the ground are, what time tea is, and, in exacting detail, the firmness, moisture content and condition of the grass. Though the latter is actually important to the game.
   90. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4390499)
The networks don't exactly clamor all over themselves for NHL contracts either.


Good. And hopefully they never will. The last thing hockey needs is to be ruined by the "casual fan."

Hockey's too energetic and complicated for most Americans.

EDIT: Are you kidding? Red lines, blue lines, "offside", and just when the action gets going, everyone stops and just skates around in circles for seemingly no reason. If you think the average casual viewer finds this easier to follow than the other three major sports, I strongly suspect you're Canadian. Or maybe it's just that I'm not.

Exhibit A
.

I know that's a slam, but believe it or not, I agree with the sentiment that underlies it. If I were a hockey fan, the last thing I'd want would be for the sport to Foxify itself just in order to gain converts among doltish non-hockey fans like me in my current state of hockey ignorance. From everything I can gather from this thread, you've got a sport that's at least somewhat resisted the bells and whistle BS that accompany the three major U.S. sports, and I can certainly understand why you'd want to keep it that way. We all have our lines in the sand, and that's as good a one as any.
   91. Ron J2 Posted: March 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM (#4390541)
the bad (referees act like calling a penalty will immediately end the world)


There's an old Hockey News cover (clearly set in overtime) that shows a defenseman with a smoking pistol standing over the body of an opposing player. The caption is something close to, "This is your last warning!"
   92. Ron J2 Posted: March 18, 2013 at 01:14 PM (#4390557)
#43 There were specific roster problem -- in part caused by the fact that Canada's best defensman (Bobby Orr) was (shock) injured. In the early games they dressed a couple of defensemen that were just too slow. (Harry Sinden wrote that he'd never seen Don Awrey get beat to the outside before. The Soviets were doing so more or less at will) They went with more mobile defensemen in the later games and that helped an awful lot.

Worth noting that Canada's series start (Paul Henderson) was probably the fastest skater on the team (with Bobby Hull not being on the team and Orr injured). He wasn't anything like a star in the NHL (still isn't in the HOF -- and probably doesn't belong). In other words, the Canadians weren't the only team that had problems with speedy forwards.

Also note that style cut both ways. On one key play the Soviet defense was simply unable to deal with a more powerful forward (Pete Mahovlich), and they had a lot of problems dealing with Phil Esposito.

As other have noted, both sides learned a lot from each other.
   93. Ron J2 Posted: March 18, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4390562)
The Flyers were thugs


Sure. But thugs with a great goaltender (note that after Parent left they stopped being a dominant team) with several very good offensive players.

A lot of teams copied the Flyers gooning, but they didn't have the other players to make it work.

Worth noting that one of their players set a record for goals in a playoff year that still stands.
   94. Ron J2 Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:03 PM (#4391751)
I do find this frustrating about rugby broadcasts. I don't know enough about the rules so the play seems to stop at random intervals.


In all of the broadcasts I've heard recently the referee was miked and they give an explanation of what caused the stoppage (rugby refs never seem to stop talking -- and they take absolutely no crap from the players. It's really quite a culture shock. I'd love to see how a rugby ref would fare with soccer players -- who never stop pissing and moaning at the ref)
   95. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:15 PM (#4391766)
(rugby refs never seem to stop talking -- and they take absolutely no crap from the players. It's really quite a culture shock. I'd love to see how a rugby ref would fare with soccer players -- who never stop pissing and moaning at the ref)

One thing I've learned from the rugby players I've met is that rule one is that the officials are always treated with the utmost respect, (to the point that it is customary to call the ref, "sir" on the field).

Notts County Football Club* plays at Meadow Lane. The Nottingham Rugby Football Club also play in the same field, but the set-up is very different depending on who's playing. When it's the soccer guys in town, the home fans and visiting fans are separated into different sections, with a section of empty seats between them which is patrolled by police officers. You can buy beer, but you have to drink it in the concourse, not at your seat. When the rugby team is playing, visting fans and home fans inter-mingle in the crowd and beer freely flows.

It's a well-worn cliche here that soccer is a gentleman's game played by (and watched by) hooligans, and rugby is a hooligan's game played by (and watched by) gentlemen. Hmm, google says that was originally an Oscar Wilde line, so I guess it's been that way for a while.

*Oldest football club in the world, as they proclaim proudly, and often.

EDIT: I suppose my bigger problem is I'm usually watching rugby in a pub where I can't hear anything anyway...maybe the broadcast isn't the problem after all.
   96. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4391770)
On the topic of respect to officials, British Elite League Ice Hockey players seem to have zero respect for refs. They're constantly throwing their sticks across the ice on their way to the penalty box, and often continue fights well after the linesmen come in to break it up. Not that NHL players set a great example, but these guys really go nuts.
   97. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:35 PM (#4391787)
Hockey's too energetic and complicated for most Americans.


How great can it be if Canadians are so good at it?
   98. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2013 at 06:25 PM (#4391835)

How great can it be if Canadians are so good at it?

And I suppose you'll have us believe curling, shoveling snow, and writing poems about beavers aren't great past-times as well!
   99. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4391865)
And I suppose you'll have us believe curling, shoveling snow, and writing poems about beavers aren't great past-times as well!


Curling is legitimately great. :) or at least a blast to watch every 4 years. I have no idea what it's ratings are during the Olympics, but every bar I was in, everyone was into it.

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