Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/20/14



I haven’t seen a hockey game since somewhere between Milli Vanilli and “Can’t Touch This,” but every year about this time I’m reminded by everyone from a cold-weather-state, with an officially licensed sweater, and a soccer-like infatuation for a sport played with a paddle and a frozen Ding Dong, that I’m missing out on the premiere post-season in professional sports.

And I have no response.

Why?  Because I’m incapable of mustering-up the level of interest worthy of a three hour television stint and/or Sportscenter highlight montage, appealing enough to vest me in a sport on the outskirts of the outskirts of my sports fanatic radar.

 

I broach this due to a never-ending sentiment that this town needs hockey.  That’s not to say that the Winterhawks aren’t “hockey,” but more so that they’re a lesser version of a big-boy alternative which a faction of Portland clamors for on a year-to-year basis.

Do I think an NHL team would work in this market?  Absolutely.  The Winterhawks do, and always have drawn an in inordinate number of fans considering the level at which they play, the Rose Garden has always been considered a very “NHL-friendly” arena, and the borderline niche classification which the sport of hockey tends to fall under makes for a relatively good bed-fellow for a city that prides itself in the abnormal.  There’s a reason “Stay Weird Portland” bumper-stickers exist.  There’s a reason a show like Portlandia is…well…about Portland.  And there’s a reason we’ve had every professional sports league not named the NFL or Major League Baseball put down some semblance of roots (in spite of the length of its tenure) in or around this town since the Trail Blazers arrival in 1970.

But I still don’t get it.

I’ve come around on Soccer.  It wasn’t long ago that I too chuckled at a sport I thought merely to be a destination for those lacking the necessary sized cojonés to strap-on a football helmet, but since the last couple of World Cups, a friendly dare to follow an English Premier League team, and a little team we call the Timbers, I’ve become a very fringe fan of a sport previously thought to be far from fringe-worthy.

I’ve also moved a bit on the UFC, which I still think is a far less exciting and far more barbaric alternative to boxing, but can appreciate the technique involved and do admire the courage needed to enter the arena they call the “Octagon.”

And yes, even Women’s Basketball has…well…not really, but maybe in a decade or two the WNBA might have a shot.

But I can’t bring Hockey to my table, for it offers me nothing appetizing to eat.

My point is this; If I never played the sport as a kid, didn’t grow-up rooting for a team, and/or don’t have reason to appreciate the skill involved (e.g., different disciplines involved with Mixed Martial Arts) in said activity, I can’t and won’t invest time in something…I just can’t invest time in.

Trust me; I’ve tried to watch the NHL.  In recent years – at the urging of friends around me – I’ve given the game a shot.  I’ve listened to various podcasts dedicated to the hardcore fans, made efforts to follow the season via box scores in my morning paper, and even imprisoned myself in front of my television at home, force-feeding a couple Game-7’s down my – for the most part – disinterested throat, but throughout it all I’ve yet to succumb to the alleged excitement of Canada’s national pastime.

Regardless of attempts to the contrary, I can’t hate the Vancouver Canucks (which Puck Daddy tells me I should), can’t get behind “playoff beards,” and will never appreciate the game to the point of not appreciating the fights.  Since the onset of round-1 of this year’s NHL playoffs, pundits everywhere have been preaching to the damage that the over-the-top-physical-play is inflicting on the quality of the game itself, and in the process condemning it as an unnecessary distraction to a game “better than that.”  Huh?  Fighting in hockey is like crashing in auto racing:  Sure, you don’t want people to be seriously injured in the process of such, but a game without a fight or a race without a wreck is like a burger without fries, chips without salsa, or sex without…you get the point.  It’s better with it, and without it hockey lacks a key ingredient to luring laymen to the game.  Of which I am.

NHL in Portland?  I think it would sell, but I can’t say whether or not they could sell it to me.  I like my football, still manage a baseball allegiance or two, and maintain a reasonable affection for the NBA in spite of the hard luck backhand our “Blazer Daddy’s” been hitting us with for the better part of 3 years, so I can’t say whether or not a hometown team is enough to tip my scales in the direction of a sport incapable of drawing me in for more than the time of a commercial break, during a “The Challenge:  Rivals” re-run.  As I sit here, the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers are playing a Game-7 for the right to advance to the 2nd round; am I watching it?  No, I’m more interested in who the Tennessee Titans are taking more than half-way through the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.

There’s no question that hockey has a following, and there’s little question that such a following exists in this town, but there are ample questions in my mind as to whether or not I can get behind a game more likely to be decided by a deflection, than a designed play, coaching adjustment or predetermined strategy.

But then again; what do I know about hockey?  Enough to know I like the fights, and that probably sums it up.

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