By Jenna Frisby | Social Media Editor
In America, the major professional sports are football, baseball, basketball and soccer. These are the sports that receive the most television coverage and national attention. But, one major sport is missing: hockey. The NHL (National Hockey League) is seriously underrated and does not receive the same amount of exposure the other national leagues do.
Hockey is one of the most physically demanding sports, requiring extreme control and stamina. Not only do players have to focus on accuracy when shooting the puck, they also are balancing on razor-thin skates while 220-pound men are hitting each other with full force. Skating up and down the length of the rink at top speed while coordinating the movement of the puck is an essential skill in hockey, and that is very difficult to master.
Even though Canada is considered the hockey hub of the world, the United States also has top world prospects. Many players from the NHL come out of college programs like the University of Minnesota, Boston College and the University of North Dakota. The U.S. Olympic hockey team is always competitive at the games against other countries where hockey is more prominent than other sports.
Since networks in the United States do not broadcast hockey on the same national level that football and basketball receive, the sport does not have as broad a fanbase. I’ve noticed that the NHL does not have as strong a fandom in the south because of the culture and emphasis on other sports. Growing up in the Washington D.C. area, hockey was prominent. The cold, winter climate supported youth hockey leagues more than a warmer climate such as Texas could provide.
If you take a look at the NHL’s biggest stars, their contracts do not compare to stars in other sports. The NHL’s top earner in 2021 is Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, making $16 million in salary and endorsements. However, if you look at the NBA’s top earner, Stephen Curry at $43 million, the two numbers don’t even compare. The NHL doesn’t have the same merchandise and ticket volume that other major leagues have, and their lack of national television coverage isn’t doing them any favors to expand the fanbase.
Personally, hockey is my favorite sport to watch. The sport offers the total fan experience, with an electric stadium atmosphere, high-energy gameplay and constant action. As a fan of the game for so long, I’ve been able to appreciate the grind hockey players go through to exhibit skillful gameplay on the ice. The NHL is unique in that there are players in the league that represent countries from all over the world. The fact that players from all walks of life and different upbringings can come together and form a strong team is fascinating to me.
If you wouldn’t consider yourself a hockey fan, I would encourage you to watch a game on TV. If you take a moment to watch the players zoom across the ice and shoot the perfect shot, I think you may be surprised as to how fun hockey is to watch. Hockey will forever be my favorite sport to follow, and I hope you can appreciate the sport too.