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Give hockey a chance

April 28, 2016

BLAKE BRANCH

News Editor | mbb029@latech.edu

 

BRANCH

BRANCH

 

Football will always be king in the South, with baseball and basketball in a distant second place.

 

 

However, it’s past time for the South to catch on to the best kept secret in sports, playoff hockey.

 

 

The NHL is nearing the conclusion of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and so far the typically riveting sporting spectacle has been true to form.

 

 

The defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, were eliminated from contention Monday night in Game 7 by the St. Louis Blues in front of a raucous Midwestern crowd.

 

 

Anyone tuned in to this game would have a hard time denying the excitement that comes with grown men skating with speed and grace, violent collisions and slapshots finding the back of the net as nearly 20,000 fans roar in applause.

 

 

With that said, hockey lingers in the shadows of sports in the South.

 

 

It doesn’t take Rhodes Scholar to figure out the reasons why.

 

 

Around these parts, the temperature rarely dips below 30 degrees in the winter, whereas in Northern states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Massachusetts, conditions are ideal for hockey, not baseball or football, the majority of the calendar year.

 

 

To put it simply, kids in those states grow up on frozen ponds dreaming of being Wayne Gretzky and kids in our region grow up in grassy fields with hopes of being the next Peyton Manning or Clayton Kershaw.

 

 

One reason for the lack of enthusiasm is the lack of familiarity.

 

 

It’s not uncommon for someone to turn on a hockey game and say, “I don’t even know what’s going on.”

 

 

It’s honestly not that complicated.

 

 

The players are trying to get the puck into the net without getting pulverized by their opponent. The intricacies such as offsides, icing and the strategy behind scoring opportunities explain themselves if you watch the game, but most will opt for the NBA or MLB if the games are on simultaneously.

 

 

Another contributing factor is the lack of local teams to support.

 

 

Hockey was played in Shreveport from 1997-2011 with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs enjoying significant success in the area.

 

 

However attendance gradually fell and the Mudbugs were forced to cease operations after bowing out of the playoffs in 2011.

 

 

The closest thing to local hockey these days is the NHL’s Dallas Stars. The Stars are one of the NHL’s youngest and most energetic teams, earning a No. 1 seed this year.

 

 

This is my plea to sports fans. If you like the fast pace of basketball, hard-hitting of football and the occasional bare-knuckle brawl, tune in this week. You might like what you see.

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