Professional hockey entertaining, deserves more fan support

During the weekend, the National Hockey League kicked off the 2007-2008 regular season in London with a pair of games between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks.My guess would be that only about 2 percent of Americans were aware these games were even occurring as the rest of the country hunkered down for a hearty weekend of college and professional football.

The fact of the matter is professional hockey ranks somewhere between professional bowling and competitive watermelon seed spitting in the minds of most Americans.

Sad, but true.

This sentiment would change quickly, however, if everyone could experience an NHL game for themselves.

There’s nothing more exciting than a group of dentally challenged Canadians cutting up and down the ice scoring goals while trying to kill each other.

Nothing in sports compares to the rush of seeing some 250-pound defenseman sandwich a tiny winger into the Plexiglas right in front of your seats, then seeing the wee man get up and keep skating even though he sustained a blow equivalent to being struck by a Hummer.

The frequency with which fights occur is also great.

A fight on the baseball field? Five-game suspension.

Guys in the NBA throw hands? The referees are probably betting on it, and the players get a five-game suspension.

A fight in the NFL? Commissioner Roger Goodell will ban you for life and make sure your grandma’s welfare checks are ripped to shreds in front of her very eyes.

Fighting in hockey? Rarely more than a five-minute penalty.

Guys beat each other half to death, sit out for a bit, then get right back on the ice and start going after each other again.

If that doesn’t feed the bloodthirsty Roman in all of us, I don’t know what will.

Hockey appeals to everything Americans love: speed, tenacity and violence.

It’s a wonder with its close resemblance to America’s new favorite pastime, football, that it isn’t wildly popular.

Before the 2004-2005 lockout, hockey was a lot worse off in the excitement department than it is today.

However, in a bid to attract fans back to the game and increase scoring, the NHL called for goalies’ pads, blockers, gloves and jerseys all to be cut down to size.

Also, the dreaded tie was outlawed.

If no winner is decided after a five-minute overtime period, the two teams have a shootout to determine the victor.

With increased scoring and the soul-sucking possibility of a tie removed, there’s no reason not to go to a game.

Staying in town for Fall Break and have nothing to do Friday night? The Dallas Stars have the home opener against the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m.

The Trinity Railway Express train is free for students who want to avoid the stroke-inducing rush hour traffic, and it drops you off right in front of the American Airlines Center.

Not to mention, the Stars offer student discounts.

Help give a struggling, underrated sport its props. Be a fan.

David Hall is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears Wednesdays.