Around the LeagueRants

Why Can’t We Just Enjoy Hockey?

I’m about to lead this post with the understatement of the century: Twitter can be an interesting place.  I use the word interesting deliberately, because the platform can be, on a literal tweet-by-tweet basis, equal parts hilarious and infuriating.  As an avid sports fan, sometime blogger and someone who’s employed by an independent sports media business, being on the platform is essential, if not addictive.

One of the best aspects of Twitter is how it actually forms communities of like-minded people and provides them a platform to discuss their interests. During massive events – such as the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals – that discussion often turns to quips, quips transform into memes, and much hilarity ensues.

All of that is fine and good, but it’s usually not long before things turn sour and combative.  Over the last few days, hockey Twitter in particular has gone from a place that should be celebrating its sport’s  to one that has become sanctimonious and joyless.  It all begs a very simple question: why can’t hockey fans just enjoy hockey?

Last Monday, the Stanley Cup Final between Vegas and Washington opened with a bang.  Game 1 was a 6-4 barnburner, featuring four lead changes, tons of scoring chances and generally frantic play.  It was an incredible advertisement for what hockey can be, and it set the stage for what should be a memorable series.

And yet, all anyone could seemingly talk about was the pregame show.

The Golden Knights have decided to embrace the kitsch and absurdity of the city they’re based in as their brand.  Everything is big, loud, and completely over-the-top, and the pregame show is pretty much the perfect distillation of that into a 10 minute spectacle performed on ice.  And you know what?  There’s nothing wrong with that.

But many denizens of hockey twitter would have you believe that this pregame show is an affront to the game and everything it stands for.  Just search “Vegas Pregame Show” on Twitter and see for yourself.

Then hockey Twitter went from bad to worse yesterday, when everyone’s favorite former Ranger grinder Brandon Prust dropped this absolute gem:

Prust is of course referring to JR Smith’s epic gaffe in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.  The tweet above is laughable and extremely problematic for a whole host of reasons. It may very well be the Please Like My Sport Tweet to end them all.  Prust is also commenting on a sports culture that he knows literally nothing about, based on one moment in one game, when he has no idea how JR Smith’s coaches and teammates actually dealt with this situation.

The idea that hockey is superior to basketball because of some unwritten “Bro Code” steeped in honor and selflessness is of course completely absurd.  It’s an idea rooted in some weird inferiority complex that is clearly felt not only by hockey fans, but also players.  It also assumes that hockey players don’t ever engage in the type of demonstrable anger towards their teammates that LeBron James did with JR Smith.  If you’ve ever seen Henrik Lundqvist (rightfully) scold one of his defensemen for being out of position, you’ll know that isn’t the case.

The reason young people of all backgrounds enjoy the NBA more than hockey on the whole is because it institutionally embraces individuality, personality and entertainment, while hockey and its fans take deliberate steps to minimize all of those things in pursuit of some unknown distinction as Most Hono(u)rable sports league.  In the process, it does continual damage to its own ability to grow and reach new (read: young, diverse) fans.

All of this is to say, hockey fans are really good at one thing: taking the fun out of the sport.  So my message to all of you guys is, let’s just enjoy the Stanley Cup Final and try to celebrate it for what it is: the zany end to another season of our favorite sport.

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  • NuWhat’s with these last two blogs? Why are we getting into all this socio-cultural stuff?

    Is it an attempt to generate angst, or a divide among fans to increase readership? Is it too much time on Twitter? I quit Twitter two years ago to avoid political arguments with my fiance and it was a great decision. Twitter pits groups against each other, and magnifies their differences – is that what’s going on here?

    I am a hockey fan. I appreciate the sportsmanship in hockey. Its a unique type of sportsmanship. Do you remember the Anisimov shotgun goal celebration, his beat down, his contrition and changed behavior? Hockey fans liked that. I liked that.

    The last two blog posts have really turned me off. I want to ‘just enjoy’. I don’t want to be criticized for being an old school hockey guy, or in this case, a hockey fan. I don’t want to hear the young/diverse argument either. I’m not reading your blog for political opinion. If I wanted that, I could watch ESPN, and their young and diverse entertainment format. Intentionally or unintentionally, posts like this will weed out readers like me from your blog. Don’t believe it? Exhibit 1: NFL.

  • Rob –

    Think you need to put down the Twitter device. No one has taken the fun out of hockey in the real world. And what is laughable is that you see no grain of truth in Prust’s statement.

    • I would counter that these reasons you give for the greater popularity of the NBA are incorrect. The popularity comes from the universality of basketball. As a child you go to the schoolyard with just a ball and you have a game. Three on three, or full court 5 on 5. It can be played indoors or outdoors during every season.
      Hockey,on the other hand, requires both money and time. The ice time for the few centers outside the northern US and Canada is very limited. Parents commitment is very important. Without it , the number of participants would be further limited. I fell in love with the game playing street hockey with electrical tape and roller skates. I think a good wooden stick cost about ten dollars.

      • Nah it depends where you grew up as a kid in the states. Where I lived it was 0-20 degrees on a average day once January comes through. Than add all the lakes around the area into the equation and you have winter wonderland in the forms of basketball courts until late March. I was lucky to have the famous 1980s Olmypic center as a resort so tournaments were always played over there and it allowed me to play against every type of hockey player around the country/world. As for street hockey I rather just play indoor/outdoor lacrosse but I guess that’s a type of regional privilege as well. I would come down quite frequently into NYC Queens, Flushing Gardens as a kid every summer due to family. I tried so many times to get the boys into the game of street hockey but they weren’t ever having it. People from the city are lucky to have MSG in their backyard. Hockey culture in the states suck, beer league’s are frowned upon because you suck and aren’t playing in the minors which makes you a plug to begin with, all based on stereotypes. There’s never any leagues that allow you to play with contact but than playing basketball at the gym after your glory days is always a “hip” thing to do.

  • Did I get moderated out?

    I’ll try again. I quit Twitter to avoid conversations like this and my life is better for it.

    Anyhow, I’m a hockey fan. Do you remember the Anisimov goal celebration from a few years ago? Most hockey fans I know appreciated the entire situation. Punishment on the ice for showing up an opponent in an unsportsmanlike way. Anisimov learned from it and expressed his regret and desire to change. We like that. It was against the rangers, yet we still like it. He deserved it and learned from it.

    Why the negativity toward ‘hockey fans’?
    Why the divisiveness?

    The stats article and this one share a common dislike for a certain group of fans… Why?

    It is a turn off, and will push some readers away.

  • classic point the finger 3 point back post.

    Only reason I do not watch basketball is all the time outs at the end of the game. BB is also a team sport
    Hockey players are as a whole are more community oriented people vs BB players
    Prust making that statement, which I have no idea what occurred but from reading your post, if accurate then those teammates were wrong when you are in the limelight you need to not bring controversy on to yourself. End the chatter before it starts.
    Lundqvist….oh boy….did you really have to bring that up? Is that a bait statement to generate traffic? Sure feels like it. I guarantee you 90% of the readers wouldn’t even consider that until they get enticed to rally for or against. I would call this coercion which all media do for own gain vs the better of the community.

    Lets talk about what and or who with #9 overall

    • I’ll play the devil’s advocate by putting Hank’s recent temper tantrum in perspective. The fans that we’re all guilty to love and hate on Staal, Mcd, Girardi and even Holden have never been outed in public by Hank. Than you have a young player like Skjei who people think is the next coming and who’s a lock for the foreseeable future tend to always rub Hank wrong way no matter if it’s after a save or goal. Are you denying that Hank doesn’t show clear cut animosity towards certain player’s on his team? It’s a worthy topic because he’s been doing it alot in the last two years. Any broadcast has identified it and even Stepan who would probably let his wife get beat on up the ice has had to tell him to chill out. It seems you didn’t like that example which is fine but facts are facts and hockey players hold each other to a standard everywhere they go. Ps go watch the video of everyone who was playing or on the bench. I haven’t found anybody who called JR out besides the media and fans. He brought that upon himself with the camera catching him tell LeBron that he thought they were up and than switching stories after the game.

  • Hey Rob, why don’t you go cover basketball! I can’t believe I actually read your post. I love hockey just the way it was and I can’t stand any pregame ceremonies! I want to see the game that is it. I used to have season tickets way back when, but I barely go to a game at all now. I record all my games so I don’t have to see or listen to all the garbage that comes along with today’s hockey or any other sport for that matter.

  • The photo tells it all, “What’s wrong with you”? Prust has a point that in hockey they play for each other, and the sweater they are wearing. In BB they are playing for themselves for the most part. I hate BB, too many hot dogs, and not enough mustard to cover them all!!!!!!!!

    I can’t wait for the start of next season, that’s for sure………….

  • Sorry Rob,
    Garbage piece, BB has no place for discussion on a Hockey Blog and actually Prust did hit the nail on the head, team plays together win together and also lose together.
    Like Walt said the Picture says it all, to a “Me” sport such as BB.

    • No offense to Walt but I remember asking him last year if he ever played competitive puck and he said no. The dude has good comments on here but using that as a source to help your point is a bit suspect.

      I’ve never once seen a championship caliber basketball team be all about “me”. Final 4 is all about whatever team is sharing and caring with the rock. The brotherhood after a win or one of the many loses is true sight to see in those young men and especially when they’re crying together. NBA having a tag team like Jordan and Pip or Kobe and Shaq were awesome, they made the others better players by their team ball. Detroit’s Pistons D during the Ben Wallace era was scary, everyone locked down on someone to play team ball up and down the court. GSW might be the best super team in all of sports and all they do is pass up to hit open shots due to the ball movements. My favorite was when the Heat had Wade, LeBron and Bosh. Those three made role player’s look like stars. A big center like Birdman Anderson would always get the ball kicked out to him from little Wade who risked his body every night by driving to the paint. Spurs who might have had the best franchise in recent years are all about sharing the ball.

      I’m still trying to think of a reasonable example from what you’re trying to say here.

  • I enjoy the game and I’m glad that the personalities in hockey don’t tend to become a sideshow. From my experience anyway during my playing years as a much younger fellow it was definitely cultural to the sport in North America. Sure personality is great if it is in a positive way, love me some pk subban, but I hate when players act like they’re bigger than the game (full disclosure though I absolutely give a pass to Sean Avery for picking an awesome feud with fatso!).

    On the other hand, it is absolutely ***ing ridiculous to get on your high horse about the ethical superiority of hockey players over BB players. How does the NBA need to deal on the court with high hits, late hits, intent to injure cheap shots, slashing and croschecks from behind? It’s not even the same order of magnitude. Brandon prust should know this as well as anyone. How many player concussions in the NBA this year caused by dirty hits?

    As for the pregame show, give me a break. Just don’t watch it. It’s for the Vegas fans in their home arena, do you hear them complaining? People need to chill out and stop acting like the whole world revolves around them 🙂

    • Wait so Subban just chilling and dancing during the warmups makes him bigger than the game? Or it his same signature celly that got under your skin? That’s worst than Avery bumping heads with Marty through the media? Weise and him bringing that type of attention to the public after a post game were wrong all wrong for the love of the sport. Imo it was a welcome wagon for it to be like a drama show after the game which is bad but I loved when he broke the cultural barrier with the Avery rule, it was legal. There’s always this borderline racist thing that I can’t put my finger on but I damn well know the tone when I hear it.

      Everything else you said was spot on. I think in the states hockey is a spectator sport. My late high school days involved people who never played screaming the most for out of position hits and blood during scrums while they show up drunk or high. I think Ovi is a prime example of making the sport a about him. He’s in his first ECF and he pulls the hush signal to the crowd with the finger over the mouth as if it’s his normal stage that he’s use to vein in. Then he sprays Fluery in the finals and gives him a love tap during warmups, he’s to much of a diva imo. That’s what makes the 2015 down by 3 series such a memorable moment for me. He’ll talk smack to Hank who has already beaten him in 2012 and 13 and than act like he finally win one until reality hits. Go watch him in 08 and 09, besides throwing vicious hits he’s the complete opposite to a Crosby in being a team player.

      • No, mintgecko, you got it backwards. I like pk, I think he’s an amusing and generally positive personality. I thought it wa silly or beyond that anyone complain about the dancing. It’s a hockey game not a funeral. Avery on the other hand did not represent the sport well on or off the ice. I am just admitting to being a bit hypocritical here because I loved it how he goaded brodeur, though if I was a fan of any other team but the rangers I’m sure I would have said that garbage has no place in the sport. Hope that helps clear things up 🙂

        Yeah, Ovie is a real diva. Full of excuses and that “all series” moment with Hank rubbed me the wrong way forever. Such a crybaby about playoff seedings system, officiating, and others through the years. I will never root for him.

  • I’m agreeing with the article for once but how it’s getting all this seamless hate is beyond me. First off I can debunk what Prust is saying in one second but he’s abusing his power because he already knows that love/hate relationship between basketball and hockey. Anyone actually agreeing that hockey players would lift him up is someone who has never been on the bench or the very least doesn’t watch much.

    I’ll start with the NYR hockey, there was countless times when I would see Zucc cussing out Kreider if the camera randomly pans to them after a shift. How many times does Hank shake his head in pure hate? I don’t need a mic’d up to see him telling off the D in a hardcore fashion these last few season and yes he’s earned that right. If you screw up in hockey than you come back to the bench and if no coaches talk to you than nobody will blink a eye and play comfort sitter like Prust is alluding too. If it cost the game or you don’t redeem yourself than consider yourself dead. Are we all going to act like the Holtby hasn’t been on the outs all season long on his team until now? The Caps shauned him at one point this past year. Chara not only will verbally assult you you if you mess up but will go face to face to you and burn a hole in your soul through his eyes. If you never been on the bench than do you really have a say in what happens? This feels like that old argument that females can coach football because they been watching it for 20+ years, yeah right….. It’s all about experience in my book.

    Hockey culture sucks as a whole… If you’re black and you play as a kid than expect racist tension for about 80% of your career. The more you like to be involve then the more it intensifies and than your bench will feel it ( trust me from experience). If you’re a white boy balling in basketball and you end up being good than your group of friends just got that much bigger lol. That N bomb on the ice will happen if you crush someone’s son or celebrate a little to hard though. Again I’m going to assume that all of you who are going in on this article are not talking from any playing experience let alone being a different race while playing.

    Prust played you guys to become relevant again for a second. How someone like that has enough balls to lie to the public about footage that a 7 year can look up is beyond me. LeBron just made history and beat a super team all on his own and the most he did was give JR a wtf kind of moment. After that he played it extremely cool along with every other player and coaches from both sides. JR has one to many high time moment’s and rumors that he likes to get messed up in between halfs and his team still played it off as if it was nothing to bad. Btw the pre game show and the hype fest in the LV crowd is a amazing sight to see. I guess that thw people that never played miss watching the old slow Zamboni while us player’s were in the locker room figuring out the X’ s and O’s.

    • Give me a break with this post. LeBron is all about himself. He’s one of the most selfish players in sports. Its always about him. The team always has to do what he wants and when it doesn’t he whines. He got a successful coach fired because he didn’t like him. He has no problem attacking teammates. He did it to Kevin Love and others.

      If you hate hockey’s culture go play/watch something else that’s more in line with your views. Prust is 100% right. Hockey is definitely more about team then basketball. When hockey players give interviews they always mention team.

      • If you think LeBron is all about him, just turn your sports card in. He’s been Wayne Gretzky in Eric Lindros’ body since before he was 17. All he does is look to get teammates easy baskets. He’s dealt with crummy team management most of his career.

        I won’t defend “the decision” but beyond that I’d want his effort on my team 8 days a week.

    • I have no idea where your getting this racial shit from, I’ve never seen anyone make any such remarks on this site, EVER. If that’s what your reading, then your the only one who is!!!!!

  • I’ll hijack this thread to go to draft info.

    Joe Veleno weighed in at 151 lbs on a 6’1.5” frame. In comparison, Adam Boqvist(who is also skinny for his size) is 2” shorter, yet weighed 165. It’ll kill his draft position, but he’ll be the next Matt Barzal in 3 years.

    • That only makes me want him even more unless there’s a serious medical reason behind his lack of weight … although I remember Tom Poti when he got drafted and went to BU out of Cushing Academy, he was barely over 175# at 6’3″ and suffered from a lot of food allergies … he still managed to add enough weight.

      • To get to a average draft weight, he’d have to put on almost 40 lbs. To get to the NHL player average, he’d have to put on over 50, more like 60.

        That’s a ton of weight to put on. If he kills it training, he can put on 8-10 lbs a summer for the remainder of his time in junior, then could put a bunch more his rookie AHL the way the schedules go now. By his 2nd provseasin he should be big enough.

  • It’s easier to tolerate the idiots (who unfortunately make up more than half of the population )when you stay away from social media outlets the attract those cowards. Some people like hiding behind the security of the username.

  • Twitter is great to get information quickly, if it is legit, that is.

    But otherwise, it is becoming part of the ruination of our society.

    I have zero use for it.

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