The Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and last night the Preds (what you call the Predators if you’re a fan-insider type) beat the Pens (” ” ” ” Penguins ” ” ” ” “) 4-1 to tie the series at two games apiece. Now it goes back to Pittsburgh, resuming Thursday.
I don’t think I ever watched any NHL before HDTV made it so pleasant, and I’m pretty sure this is the first game I’ve ever watched deliberately from beginning to end. Having been similarly drawn into the World Cup a couple of years back, and considering the inherent similarities between the games of hockey and soccer, here are my three big takeaways:
- Hockey action is much more frenetic and exciting. When there is a genuine scoring threat, it’s 5-10 seconds of intense entertainment, and there’ll be another one along shortly. A soccer scoring threat is usually one shot, and it may be 20 minutes before you see another one.
- Hockey players are tough. Elbow here, stick there, and it’s got to get sure enough bad before there’s a penalty. “Injured” soccer players too often collapse in heaps and whimper like little babies, which I can’t help but suspect is directly tied to…
- …the clock. The game clock matters in hockey. As I said at some great length before, time the game or don’t, but don’t pretend to time the game, which is what happens in soccer.
Now I may have soccer apologists preparing frenzied screeds calling me out as a rube for not appreciating the subtleties of “The Beautiful Game,” or for daring to compare barbarism and elegance merely because of superficial similarities, or whatever else, and well, that’s fine. I’m not questioning your wife’s integrity or speculating on whether you’re talking to Jesus enough. I’m just a red-blooded American male sports fan, informed mostly by football and auto racing but also some by baseball and a smidge by basketball, calling it like I see it.
And as I see it, hockey is what soccer wants to be when it grows up.