(Ed. Note: Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every weekend. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
If you're a fan of our Puck Daddy photoshop contests, you know who B.D. Gallof is. He's the creative mind behind some of the best entries we've seen. Remember Gary Bettman as King Leonidis? Or most recently the fantastic "When Gary Met Sidney"? All B.D.
He's also a prominent voice within the hockey blogosphere as a contributing writer at Huffington Post and has branched out with his own site, Hockey Independent. A big New York Islanders fan, B.D. is also one of the go to sources for information about Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project on Long Island.
With that, here are Five Reasons Blogger B.D. Gallof Loves Hockey:
1. The videogames.
I don't know about you, but I grew up during the Sega hockey age. Once the Isles dynasty crashed into a halt, many Isles fans were reduced to fixing Mike Milbury's god-awful trades and player development by playing Sega and then Playstation hockey. NHL and NHL2k have saved us fans from running off the cliffs as we watched talent leave for other teams and ridiculous ownership situations.
The Islanders weren't terrible then, but in NHL '93 the defense as so poorly graded in the stats, one was forced to play other teams. I used to play the St. Louis Blues for some good parity.
With Kelly Chase, Garth Butcher, and David Lowry, I could crush and pummel the competition, while scoring with Shanahan, Hull, Janney or my favorite speedster: Nelson Emerson.
My goalie? Cujo.
Loved it, and NHL video games ever since. No matter the trials, tribulations, or just hard realities of the real world, in the games we could forget the wreck on Long Island and play out our frustrations by launching Wayne Gretzky into the next zip code.
The victim here wasn't poor Wayne, but instead a cavalcade of Sega Genesis gamepads that got thrown across the room or spiked into the floor.
However, without these games (and broken joysticks), I'd have been left a crazed, gibbering mess, probably posting on a message board somewhere about yesteryear. Instead, I am a crazed lunatic of a hockey blogger. Thanks EA!
2. The Hockey Code:
Call it fighting. Call it justice. Call it tradition. Whatever it is, I believe in the system of honor that still beats in the hockey heart. Between two men and four meaty fists can be hammered out the differences of not just two players, but sometimes two entire teams.
If anything, the diluting of this with new NHL or with instigator rules has caused there to be an unbalance where we have seen a complete disregard of respect, health and even self with players. We have seen baffling, horrifying and just plain nut moves that have clipped seasons or even careers from players.
Also ... in that hockey code, there was also a balanced system of punishments given out by the NHL. Instead, that also has become an unmitigated mess and murk...with a complete turning off by fans to the NHL punishment system. What is worse, nobody has been able to effectively communicate or even prove there is a rhyme or reason to why one player skates free and the other sits 2 games.
The hockey code isn't just about fighting. It was the checks and balances that kept the NHL something beautiful and pure. The NHL meted out justice. There was far less words and excuses, or press releases. Instead it was done on the ice or handed out with a sense of ... this is what that deserved.
Maybe it is idealistically simplistic, but I recall a day of clearer standards and clearer heads ... pun, sadly, intended. Sportsmanship still has its place in the NHL and means something to me. It is one of the reasons I love hockey. I think we still are searching for these standards to come back to the game...and only then can it become something special again.
3. The Human Story
I'd sit in the press box, blog box or any other box and watch the home team eat a 7-0 drubbing. For me, when that happens, I cannot wait to head to the locker room to interview the players. It is when the PR, clichés and all else go out the window. Instead there are raw feelings and emotions. For me, as a blogger, I want to know how they are dealing with it ... how they will regroup ... how will they overcome the pressures and tough days?
No team just gets handed anything. Everyone goes through tough times, tough losses and needs to take a long hard stare in a mirror.
When the coach looking at one interviewer and wants to shoot out lasers, you get the true measure of what is going on. Or when the GM reportedly hurls a chair out from his box seat after a loss. Or when a player loses it, and launches a few well-placed curses, exasperated, unable to contain his frustrations on not just that game, but also the entire season ... this is what I want to see.
Don't give me the public relations. Those carefully crafted pieces and words that try to pretend that somehow players/coaches/GMs are invulnerable and impervious. This is a game and competition, and they feel just as the fans do. Fans want to see that and what are the underlying truths of what is going on ... not a charade or preset answers that admit nothing.
Nobody buys that. Sorry.
Many PR or media types simply do not get this. But whenever we see a story that peels away the shellac and veneer, they reverberate throughout the fandom, blogosphere or media. There is a reason that these things do. The human story is the only story worth writing about, and what people really want to read about.
It is my belief that the advent of PR in sports has also disconnected fans to the game. That it might be for protection or to keep things copasetic within the teams, but the side-effect is a disassociation between the fan and the organization because it isn't built on truth, honesty and transparency.
It is for this basic reason that I feel the injury policy of the NHL is a joke and misguided. It is done for selfish reasons for the team, but destroys that very notion between fans and the game. Sadly, the NHL doesn't quite see it that way. They see the end justifying the means.
I love the human and fallible element to this game. Whether it is in their failure or success, it is a transcendence of the game itself. It is THE story and why I love hockey.
Playoffs is what sucked me into hockey in the first place. I moved from upstate NY to Long Island in the middle of the Isles dynasty. The playoff, no matter where they landed in the standing during the season, is where the Islanders took it to teams.
What makes the Isles dynasty so great is that they won and played their best when it mattered. Even at the very end, it took the new Oilers dynasty to finally usurp the Isles from their 5th Stanley Cup. It took a legendary team with legendary players to remove them.
Since then, the NHL playoffs is where I am glued to the TV.
There is no better hockey than playoff hockey. No better passes than playoff passes. No better goals than playoff goals. No better overtime than playoff overtime.
Doesn't matter if it's my team (and it hasn't for quite a while), or another. I live to watch playoff hockey. There is no better thing to watch on the live or on TV on the planet.
5. Hockey Blogosphere
What I love about hockey, and this has only happened in the last decade, is the complete fan and NHL embrace of the new media. Lines between teams, press, and fans have blurred. In that space in-between has become a hotbed of discussion, interaction, humor and passion.
Whether you read Puck Daddy, myself on Hockey Independent, or just post on a team or sports message board ... all are a new level of interaction for all.
Most of all, we all get something from it. We become closer to the sport, or the sport closer to the fan. The blogosphere has become a life unto itself, with those taking part talking about the sport much more than with friends at a bar or with conversation at the dinner table.
This has become a symbiotic relationship for the sport and fan, which for many of us, is rewarding. Of course, my other rewards is a puck and a Versus hat from this site, but that's another story...
Fact is, the blogosphere has become a creative space for collaboration, conversation or at least a good Gary Bettman picture.
Here is the true 3rd dimension of hockey. It wasn't just introduced in the NY Rangers 5-0 thumping of the Islanders earlier this week. The blogosphere, you, me ... we have all created the depth, nuance, laugh of vent of anger for many a fan, team or even NHL Commissioner.
The fans, this sport, and many of the media's embrace of it is unique for most sports. Once again, it is why I love hockey. In fact, for me it has surpassed even my love of playoff hockey. It is why I do what I do, even with a demanding full time job, wife and kid ...
I love this sport.