Hockey may not have enormous popularity in the U.S. or TV-friendly action or a professional league with a functional financial system that doesn't lead to work stoppages like clockwork. What it does have: a reputation for being the toughest, roughest, most grueling sports around.
Which is why this boastful new campaign from a pro box lacrosse team is, well, ballsy:
The Washington Stealth are a National Lacrosse League team out of Everett, Wash. — sharing an arena with the Everett Silvertips major junior hockey team, and making quite a pitch to their fans and other puckheads.
"We went back and forth on this thing. We didn't want to offend hockey people, because we love hockey too," said Michael Kennett, Director of Communications for the Stealth.
Obviously, it's a glorious double-entendre; it's also shorthand for the type of lacrosse the Stealth play. "Box lacrosse" is indoor lacrosse whose roots are Canadian and whose origins are found on iceless hockey rinks.
"That's how our sport is most commonly referred to: 'Hockey on feet,'" said Kennett, who notes that fighting has a place in the NLL like it does in the NHL.
"Lacrosse has this perception of the preppy kid, white collar, a lot of money perception to it. But box lacrosse is nothing like it."
While the campaign could be quickly read as one sport questioning the testicular fortitude of another, the Stealth see the campaign as flattery. It's not just a pitch to the Silvertips and NHL fans in the arena — it's using the time-tested portrayal of hockey as barbarous and punishing sport as a calling card for box lacrosse.
"This isn't solely to reach out to the hockey fan. Quite frankly, we're not the No. 1 sport in Western Washington. Down in Seattle, we aren't No. 1 on their list. It's using hockey, which a lot of people can relate to, and saying we're like hockey, except we use a ball instead of a puck," said Kennett.
It's also not the first time the Stealth has made "Hockey With Balls" its battle cry. Witness the then-San Jose Stealth from 2009:
"It's incredibly intense. Very fast, very physical, and it takes a lot of balls to play," said Kennett.
But is it ballsier than hockey?
"I wouldn't know I would say it's a 'ballsier' sport," he said.
"I would say 'as ballsy.'"