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Debate: Is hockey the best sport?

brady langsports writer versus
john loeppky | sports editor

puck
In the words of the great Autumn McDowell… What the puck?/matt boulton

 

Pro (Editor’s note: or in hockey speak, “Fuckin’ eh bud!”)

Ain’t nothing wrong with a little puck, eh? (Close enough)

Even though my colleague and editor, John Loeppky, believes that ball is, in fact, life, for me, puck is life. Personally, from the time I could walk, I was skating. It was by far my earliest childhood memory, skating on an old dugout in the booming metropolis of Abernethy, Saskatchewan.

For many people growing up in Saskatchewan, there isn’t much to do in the winter, and what better to pass time than Canada’s national sport? Sure, Basketball was created in Canada, but at the same time, winter means hockey in Canada.

I grew up in a small town of 700 people that was centred around the local rink. There was nothing better than going to the rink on a Friday just to watch the senior hockey team. Hockey is a part of the lifestyle that most Canadians grow up with, wherever you are.

Putting grassroots aside, the game of hockey is the most exciting game to play. Anyone who has laced up a pair of skates can attest to the feeling of being on the ice. Whether it’s a game, practice, a game of shinny, or just simply going out for a skate, there is just something about being on the ice. In terms of the entertainment you get out of watching a hockey game – at any level – it’s the most exciting game out there.

The game is so unpredictable. A great fight, solid hits, or an amazing goal could all be the highlight of a game, but as the game has changed in the past few years, it has always been entertaining. From a professional standpoint, the game’s constantly evolving with new players and idols to watch.

Instead of Gretzky, Lemieux, Jagr and Sakic, we now have Crosby, McDavid, Toews, and Kane. For many Canadian kids, your favourite team or player dictates who your friends are, or what type of connection you have with certain people. Whenever I’m talking to someone and they say that they’re a Flames fan, my eyes immediately light up and you develop that special connection.

When it comes down to it, hockey is the greatest sport in the world due to the fact that it is all a part of the Canadian culture. When people think Canada, they think hockey. When people think hockey, they think Canada. I don’t want to sound too patriotic, but what other sport can you play eight months out of the year because it is -40 outside?

I know Loeppky probably put up some great points about how ball is life; unfortunately for him, ice will always run in my veins.

 

Contra (Editor’s note: also known as the correct opinion)

Good points, but sadly, you’re wrong, Mr. Lang. Hockey in this country has many things to answer for before it can truly regain its crown as Canada’s patron sport because, let’s be honest, we worship athletes more than we do anyone wearing a cross.

Here’s a quiz question for you: which sport is played by the most Canadians? Not basketball, not hockey, not disc golf, but soccer. And there are multiple reasons for this. For one, hockey has become prohibitively expensive for many young Canadians and their families. Second, our teams, quite frankly, suck. If we’re still the best, then why did none of our professional teams make the playoffs?

The nostalgia that Canadians have with hockey is rightly justified… sometimes. Other times, we forget that our shit, in fact, does stink. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Most of the reports from the Summit Series have the players drinking on the beach beforehand and bragging about how they were going to destroy the Russians. We all know how that turned out.

Basketball is better because, just like hockey, a Canadian created the thing; we have a team in Toronto that people worship (although that is a new development for the Raptors). We are actually winning a substantial amount on the hardwood, and you are seeing a massive upswing in cultural capital that hockey has sustained itself off of (while mailing it in) since about 1970. Hockey presumes itself the king of the castle, but basketball is poised to take a little bit of that kingdom.

Astoundingly terrible metaphor aside (Drs. Grande, Decoste, Johnston and the rest of my beloved department, please don’t revoke my degree), basketball is a more fun game to play, is easier to play recreationally (have you see the price for ice time!), and can be enjoyed across the globe.

Plus, from a purely aesthetic point of view, something has to be said for the fact that you can see the athleticism on display at all times. Don’t get me wrong, hockey players are amazing athletes, but is and always will be the problem of the NHL’s PR department that wearing all that equipment means that the freakish athleticism of those who wear it is diminished in the public eye.

Hockey also has a concussion problem. Forgetting fights for a second, and ignoring that Carmelo Anthony backpedal or “The Malice at The Palace,” hockey can’t seem to stop two things: concussions and needless expansion. On that second subject, it is a testament to basketball’s popularity that every market it has expanded into has succeeded. The only reason a team moved (RIP Sonics) was because an owner got money hungry and not because some moron with too much power and an astronomical salary (Gary Bettman) built a hockey rink with palm trees in the parking lot.

Yes, hockey will always have a place in Canadian culture, but to say hockey is the best is a stretch farther than a good save by a butterfly-style goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Happy now, hockey fanboy?

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I’m not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.