(Ed. Note: Our series "5Reasons 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. We're bringing it back periodically. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
1. The Championship
Before 1995 Denver was right up there with Cleveland, Buffalo, and Seattle as cities with a long tradition of losing. Denver was a bit of a sporting laughing stock (as those of you who have seen the Hank Scorpio Simpson's episode can attest to). Then in 1995 a team showed up and changed the Denver sporting landscape forever. Sure they were loaded to the gills, and everyone in Denver feels pretty bad for the fans in Quebec, but...
...screw it. Denver deserved that team. Sakic, Forsberg, Foote, Deadmarsh, Lemieux, Kamensky, Ozolinsh, and later, Roy and Keane. These guys waltzed into a town and lifted the giant weight off the shoulders of Denver sports fans. Colorado Professional sports went back to the founding of the Denver Broncos in 1960, and it took until 1996 for Denver to win its first professional sports championship. Years of failures by the Broncos and Nuggets melted away on one warm June Florida night.
The thing I love most about hockey is that in order to be successful at hockey someone has be adept at many facets that all fall under the umbrella of athleticism. Every game, yes even an Oilers-Islanders game, combines all the instruments of sport into a symphonic masterpiece of athleticism. The combination of strength, endurance, grace, skill, talent, flexibility, vision, tactics, teamwork, balance, intuition that goes into hockey is truly astounding. The only other sport in the world that produces these kind of athletes is water polo, and there's way too much Speedo influence in that sport for me to take notice.
But even those two, frequent butts of countless hockey fan fat jokes, are Vitruvian Men when compared to the fat athletes in other sports.
3. Hockey Sweaters
Elegant, Classy, and Stylish. Hockey sweaters never go out of style. Really, does any other sport have anything that looks nearly as sharp as this
Even the AHL sweaters are great (well, 2 out of every 3).
There's a reason that hockey blogs like Jersey's and Hockey Love exist. Hockey sweaters are the best.
4. The Stanley Cup Playoffs
The most riveting two-and-a-half months in sports. Every single 7-game series becomes its own TV drama, complete with storylines, villains, heroes and a plotline with its own twists and turns. Look at every series from the last playoffs and you can identify a completely separate storyline, all with it's very own drama. Whether it's Washington blowing a 3-1 series lead, which was stunning right up until Boston blew a 3-0 series lead. Or San Jose finally shaking the choker tag against the defending Western Conference champs, until they blew it in the next round.
And there's the fascinating sub-plots, like the LA "conspiracy" in the Canucks-Kings series or Craig Anderson's(notes) 51-save gem combined with Dan Boyle's(notes) own goal that wasn't really an own goal but that's how everyone is going to remember it anyways, or Luongo "only" giving up five in the Canucks final game this time. Or the "Throw the snake" meme coming out of Phoenix.
The Stanley Cup playoffs have more interesting plotlines than a JJ Abrams story, except the NHL's plotlines actually go somewhere. And the grand finale has the greatest ending imaginable: the captain of the best team lifting and kissing the Cup.
In sports, I cheer for the Avs, Broncos, SF Giants and, when I bother to follow college sports, my alma mater Ohio State; which means I've had a frontrow seat for Avs-Detroit Red Wings, Broncos-Raiders, Giants-Dodgers and Buckeyes-Wolverines. While those other rivalries have gotten more headlines, I can tell you that the Avs-Red Wings rivalry was and is, by far, the most invective, venomous, nasty, and therefore fun rivalry I've been a part of.
God bless Wings fans: They take the smugness of Michigan fans, the front-running of Dodgers fans, the simpleminded boorishness of Raiders fans, and wrap them into one despicable red burrito. Joe Louis Arena is the Chipotle of Jackassery (and I mean that as a compliment, sort of).
The thing about it is, only hockey fans are tough enough to put up with such fans. And it doesn't have to be Detroit. Toronto-Montreal, Montreal-Boston, Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, San Jose-Anaheim, Islander-Rangers, All these fanbases need a foil from the hockey world, because if any one of these fan bases ever turned their derision towards a fan base outside of hockey it would look like an Aaron Downey-Jesse Boulerice fight.
I mean, if a hockey fan base turned their ire onto a fanbase of another sport -- say a baseball one -- they would turn into a puddle of angry paranoid jerks with persecution complexes. You know, Red Wings fans.