Puck Daddy - NHL

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 day through August. Enjoy.

In reading the comments here on Puck Daddy whenever the word "Twitter" is mentioned, there are a few holdouts that don't see the value in the micro-blogging site and even consider it a waste of time. Let's just say Dani Muccio slightly disagrees.

Dani's the driving force behind NHLtweetup.com, which uses the social media network to connect puckheads in different cities all over the world; from street hockey games in New York to watching Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in Seattle. It's a way to network, to break the ice (pun intended) and these gathers have helped show the NHL the power and potential of social media to turn "casual" fans into passionate ones. You can follow her on @dani3boyz and @nhltweetup.

Dani's a mother of three hockey-playing boys and the wife to a goalie who happens to be a life-long New York Islanders fan (condolences). What makes her an unique entry into our "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" series (which continues over this weekend, by the way) is that she's a newbie puckhead -- this will only be her second full season as an NHL fan.

Here are Five Reasons (or so) Dani Muccio of NHLtweetup Loves Hockey. The players alone give her two reasons:

1. How The Players Hone Their Skills.

I spent 12 years being a "hockey widow" while my husband yelled at the Islanders through the TV, but then it only took one incredible week to get me hooked on NHL hockey.

We sent our oldest to a week-long hockey camp at Iceworks (the Islanders practice facility) and I found myself not wanting to leave. I was compelled to stay and watch the Islanders practice while the campers were off the ice. I had watched my son do drills a million times, but this was different. To watch these adults, these "professionals" practice amazed me. After years taking for granted the game my children played, it finally hit me: The amount of skill to play hockey overshadows any other sport. The speed, the precision, the strength, the agility... all done on skates. No other sport even comes close to that.

2. How The Players Interact With The Fans.

Coming off the ice, sweaty, tired, and sometimes defeated, the players would stop and talk to whoever wanted an autograph or a picture, or even just a high five. They never complained and never ignored anyone. They paid special attention to the kids and engaged them in conversation about the game. I just sat back and watched all of this... loving what I saw. I fell in love with the game through the energy coming off of the players and the way they shared it with those that are equally as passionate.

3. The Fans.

Interacting with other fans and watching them embrace the idea of NHLtweetup has made me love the game even more. Hockey fans are not only loyal to their teams, but also their fellow fans. We go out of our way to connect with one another because we have to. You can walk out of your house and go up to just about any door in your neighborhood and find someone to watch a baseball or football game with. Chances are that you're going to need to go a little farther to find a fellow hockey fan.

When we do find people that enjoy the game as much as we do, it's like finding a long lost sibling. Many lasting friendships have come out of us seeking one another out on Twitter and then stepping from behind the computer to enjoy games together.

4. The New York Islanders.

I don't know how anyone that lives on Long Island could root for any other team.

This team and the history behind it makes it easy to love hockey. Four Cups. In a row. Who cares about the last 20 years? We're loyal. We believe. We have thick skin.

5. Hockey Is The Red-Headed Step Child Of The Sports World.

If you like rooting for the underdog you need not even pick a team, just this sport. Hockey as a whole just doesn't get treated as a mainstream sport. Yes, it's a professional sport just like football and baseball but it doesn't get the respect that the others command. Whether it be in the media, or even the real estate it's given on the shelves of a sporting goods store, hockey clearly doesn't get the attention it deserves. I really have high hopes of seeing this change some day.

Every time I "recruit" a new fan, I feel like I'm helping this happen. Strength in numbers? Perhaps. If not, at least I've gained another fan to talk about the game with.

6. Finally, My Boys.

Well before I was a fan of NHL hockey, I was a hockey mom. It happened naturally, not as a conscious choice. I watched my oldest son, now 14, take his first steps with a mini-hockey stick in his hand. He was born with a love (obsession, really) for the game. His third word was "ockey" but was usually chanted "ockey-ockey-ockey". He would spend hour upon hour hitting a hockey ball around the living room into the mini nets that he treasured... and rarely missed.

When he started to play on a league, there was never a question of whether I would trek him and his two baby brothers for 7:00 practice on a Saturday morning. He loved it. He ate it. He breathed it. I would have gone anywhere at any time to allow him to play as long as he wanted to do it.

Watching him teach his two little brothers, now 9 and 10, about the game and helping them "perfect" their moves has been incredible to watch. He wants everyone to love the game like he does, and he's more than willing to take all the time and patience needed to teach you what you want to know. Also, watching the two younger ones absorb and practice what he teaches them is amazing.

Now, as he plays for his high school team, I sit in the stands quietly not to let on that I'm the goalie's mom. I listen to what the other parents are saying about him, some praising and some critiquing, and just quietly think to myself, "If you only knew how much he loves what he's doing. What you think doesn't really matter."

Hockey takes heart. The kids show us that.

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