The National Hockey League is a lot of fun, and a lot of that is correlated to the sport of hockey. I’m a hockey player myself. Call me bias all you want. It doesn’t matter because hockey is the most action-packed and fastest-paced sport there is. It’s non-stop, end to end, back and forth. Drama ensues at every turn of the game. The momentum swings are like no other and this is part of the equation. Yes, every other major sports league is light years ahead in terms of branding and popularity, but that doesn’t mean they’re more ENTERTAINING. There’s a difference. Let’s dive in.
The most glaring thing that makes the NHL stand out is the playoffs and the trophy that is hoisted at the end of them. The Stanley Cup. A full 82 game season followed up by a playoff run requiring you to get through 4 straight rounds and win 16 games. Think about that for a second. The amount of luck that is required when it comes to staying healthy all year and avoiding injuries. The trophy itself is the oldest and standing at 35 inches high, it’s also the fanciest.
Yes, the NFL playoffs are a thriller. But the winner has to win four games max. Most winners need three wins, including two home games, before they get to be Super Bowl Champions. Major League Baseball only has three rounds of playoff action, the first one being a best-of-five series. As for the NBA, usually, the winners only have one or two competitive series when they win, if that at all.
The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all of sports. Four grueling best-of-seven series’ where players work their tails off like absolutely no other sport. The intensity in playoff games is like no other. As i said, the playoffs also last two months. In the end, winning the championship matters. And the NHL’s path to winning it all is the longest, most exciting, most difficult, and most thrilling.
Every year, without fail, reporting on the ice amid a Stanley Cup celebration hits me right in the feels. Watching players achieve lifelong dreams while surrounded by family? Incredible. This photo captured it better than any words could.
Thinking of the Oshie family today. https://t.co/G7uaTvt5uG
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 4, 2021
Dont think i forgot about this. Commercials. What can you complain about? Three two-minute time-outs during each period. None during overtime or shootouts. In the NFL, one team scores (and they need to review) followed by a five-minute break. The extra point becomes another commercial break. Kickoff becomes another commercial break. MLB? They have commercials every half-inning, that’s 18 commercials guaranteed a game, plus reviews and if a team changes its pitcher. The NBA? Well, the last 40 or so seconds of a game take beyond 10 minutes to finish. So that becomes boring.
With the NHL, you know what commercials are coming. Six minutes between commercials is nothing to complain about. And that’s all there is.
Next up, sudden death overtime. No other sport does overtime right like the NHL. MLB goes to extra innings which drag on, yay. NBA gives teams five minutes to outscore the other, or it drags on forever. NFL plays one quarter, otherwise, it’s a tie. Usually, the losing team doesn’t get a chance to possess the ball in overtime. The NHL has the best finishes to their games. Even before the current 3-on-3 format was established, 4-on-4 was thrilling with the speed and open ice. Say what you want about the shootout, but the suspense makes it exciting. And 5-on-5 action to determine playoff games set up amazing finishes.
The players in the NHL are loyal. For the most part.
In so many ways, money controls sports and athletes. How many athletes say it’s not about the money yet they leave to go to an undesired place to make more dollars?
In the NHL, superstar players have a long history of sticking together to one team their entire career. Bobby Orr and Maurice Richard stuck to one team. Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman never left Detroit. Ditto for Joe Sakic in Colorado. Until his final year, Martin Brodeur stayed with New Jersey. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane have no real thoughts about leaving their cities. It’s much easier to admire athlete loyalty more than money. And the NHL proves that like no other.
Also, players come from all over the world in the NHL.
Alex Ovechkin has a massive – and still growing – hockey stick collection, with sticks from his own milestones and from players like Lemieux, Gretzky and even Crosby.
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) November 11, 2021
Almost every NFL player is American. Very few aren’t American in the NBA. Once again, not a lot of people around the world will follow if there isn’t much diversity.
In the NHL, players come from all over the world. Aside from Canada and the U.S., superstars come from Russia and all over Europe, especially Sweden, France, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin are huge in their respective homelands even if they’re playing in North America. That just makes it more enjoyable for fans all over the world. And so, making the NHL becomes a bigger deal when scouts are scouting from every corner of the planet.
It’s because of this that hockey at the Olympics is super entertaining. You get to see all these different guys playing for different countries. I remember when I first saw Slovenia playing and out comes Anze Kopitar. Granted, the NHL doesn’t always want to send their players to the Olympics but hey, the point still stands.
"We obviously know what we're up against."
China's men's team is ranked 32nd in the world, and it is in a group with the U.S. and Canada, two of the medal favourites among the 12 teams going to the Winter Games in February. https://t.co/6vMx9Ccin3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 12, 2021
With all of this in mind, the NHL has to be the most entertaining league. They have a long ways to go in terms of making things even more diverse but progress is definitely being made and hockey is always going to be enjoyable.