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PHT’s NHL primer for disenchanted NBA fans

Oct 31, 2011, 8:09 PM EDT

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Hello and welcome to ProHockeyTalk! This is a blog covering the game of ice hockey. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

We realize today must be an especially difficult one for you as the NBA season was supposed to tip off. Is that the right term, tip off? The only other basketball term we know is chest pass and “the NBA season was supposed to chest pass” doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, we thought it’d be a nice gesture if we introduced you to the game of hockey. Oh sure, there are plenty of other sports to keep you occupied like professional football, college football, high school football, Pop Warner football or Canadian football, if you’re desperate. But there’s a chance you might want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So here’s a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the wonderful game of hockey.

Who is the best team in the NHL?

The Boston Bruins won last year’s Stanley Cup (given annually to the NHL playoff champion), but they’re off to a bad start this year. In fact, they’ve been overtaken in their division by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, the Maple Leafs are the best team?

Hahahaha, no. They’ve probably got another two, maybe three weeks left in them. The teams you want to focus on are Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Boston, San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Yeah, 11 teams. There’s a lot of parity in hockey.

Who is the LeBron James of the NHL?

If you’re talking about the most supremely talented player with unparallelled skill, that would be Sidney Crosby. If you’re talking about the most polarizing player with a knack for coming up small in the biggest moments, that would be Roberto Luongo. Some people actually call him “LeBrongo.” Seriously.

Boston is the NBA’s most storied franchise, having won 17 championships. Who is the NHL equivalent?

That would be the Montreal Canadiens, who have won 24 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens are one of the most revered franchises in all of professional sports and widely known as the NHL’s classiest organization. Last week they fired their assistant coach 90 minutes before a game.

Has the NHL ever had a similar labor dispute?


What about ethnic diversity? The NBA has tons of international players.

The NHL currently features Canadians, Americans, Russians, Finns, Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, Danes, Germans and Belorussians as well as players from France, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The league is welcoming to all ethnicities, though Raffi Torres‘ Halloween costume set the ol’ diversity program back a step or two.

Why, what did he do?

He dressed up as Jay-Z.


With face paint.


Yeah, it was kind of a thing.

Is that really racist though?

Let’s not get into that now.

Do they actually let the players fight in the NHL?

Well, they give them five minutes in the penalty box, so technically it’s penalized.

But it still happens?

Oh yeah, lots.

Why do they allow it?

Mostly because the fans like it. But it also holds players accountable on the ice. If they didn’t have fighting, there’d be all sorts of cheap shots out there.

So there are no cheap shots in hockey?

There are still quite a few cheap shots.

Why does hockey have to be so complicated?

What’s complicated about it? There’s a puck, there’s a net, each team tries to put the puck into the other team’s net.

Explain offside to me.

The puck has to enter the zone first.

Which zone?

The offensive zone.

Is offside like icing?

Maybe we could take this offline.

OK, but I’m still not convinced I’ll like hockey.

Look, just give it a try. If you’re not hooked once the Stanley Cup is awarded, we’ll give you a full refund.

But I never gave you money in the first place.

Then what’s the problem? Watch hockey. It’s awesome.

  1. flyerscup2010 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:45 PM


  2. icelovinbrotha215 - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    I hope that new fans just watch the game for themselves instead of listening to the ‘experts.’ It’s a great game to watch (and play). I’m a 4 for 4 guy so it stinks to see that the Sixers aren’t able to build off of last year’s improvement but Hockey is where it’s @!

  3. psousa1 - Nov 1, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    If you are a die hard NBA fan you will not enjoy Hockey. It’s not a game where you can just sit there mindlessly, where they play music in the middle of the game waiting to see the same slam dunk and the announcer starts screaming like 15 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert acting as though it has never been done and where they talk about your legacy or your brand.

  4. SmackSaw - Nov 1, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Hey! I just found out that I have a local NHL team! Now I have to find out when they’re on TV.

  5. critter69 - Nov 1, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    To find out when they are on TV, you might check the TV Guide section on the NHL:

    Or maybe check the local newspaper (print or online).

    Or you could go to the MSNBC sports pages, and check out the NHL pages ( Click ‘Team Pages’, then find the team you want, click ‘schedule’ to the right of the teams’ name, and the current month appears with the full listing of games and on what channel the games will be shown.

  6. greynraney - Nov 1, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Unfortunately, the racial demographic of typical NBA fans vs. NHL fans is such that the transition from watching the NBA to the NHL would seem difficult. I mean, you never hear stories of any skating out of the hood, I’m just sayin.

    • atomicpenguin76 - Nov 1, 2011 at 9:17 PM

      It’s not a racial demographic thing, it’s an economical and geographical issue. Kids don’t get to play pond hockey in Phoenix, so it’s harder to grow up on hockey there. Less affluent families can’t afford the pads, the ice time, and so on for their kids to play.
      And these days it’s harder and harder to afford tickets to actually go to a game. Biggest problem the NHL has is that it just costs too much to go for an average fan. If you can’t put butts in the seats and you can’t get kids on the rinks, your fan base can’t grow.

    • csbrownjr - Nov 6, 2011 at 8:43 PM

      Well most fans attending NBA games aren’t from the ‘hood either. Most of them look like they are in a dress-like-Vanilla-Ice contest.

      That being said, hockey is an expensive sport. Even roller hockey costs more than playing basket ball. However, USA Hockey does work to involve kids who might have not ever thought about playing hockey by providing free equipment and subsidized playing time.

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