The truth can finally come out now that my parents have made the final payment on my college education. Four years ago, I had to make the choice between Princeton, in my home state of New Jersey, and Duke, in what might as well have been another country. Sure, the reason I gave them was that the kids at Princeton are snobby, elitist, boring jerks… and not knowing anybody at Duke, they bought it, hook, line and sinker. (Suckers!) The real reason, of course, was the weather. Make that two counts that I was disappointed on. At least in Jersey you know what the weather pattern is going to be like: crap, crap and more crap. North Carolina is the land where God taunts you with a day of 70-degree weather so that you’ll be wearing shorts when it starts to snow.
I can’t complain, though; my parents were breaking out their snow shovels once more this week while I remained blissfully snow-free, and as the five of you who are still stuck on campus are reading this, I am aboard a cruise to the Bahamas, sipping boat drinks and enjoying what is sure to be beautiful tropical sun. Yet, even as I phone this column in so I can pack my bags, I find myself longing for, of all things, ice.
The greatest sports robbery since Trent Dilfer’s Super Bowl ring was perpetrated this winter. Before history has its way with the league, let’s not forget that the NHL was poised just a few years back to finally break through and become a top-tier sports league. The game was faster, minority athletes were starting to make their mark (Jarome Iginla was set to become the first black hockey sensation) and most importantly, the advent of HDTV would finally render innovations like the stupid “puck comet” obsolete because the game would finally be visible in the way it was intended to be. This past year, though, Gary Bettman took the shotgun, which was loaded and pointed at the NBA, casually flipped it around and blew the league off at the ankles.
Overexpansion, of course, was probably the big culprit. Let’s take NASCAR: Their owners are bright enough to know that they are dealing with a primarily Southern sport. People aren’t going to go to a race up in Jersey… so they don’t hold races there. Hockey, though, thought “the more teams the merrier” and stretched the league’s profits and talent by moving into Nashville, Atlanta and right down the road in Raleigh. I’ve been to one ’Canes game since I came here and had no desire to see another. They had cheerleaders at a hockey game, for crying out loud! Their mascot is a skating hog! (Though arguably, that’s better than Huey the Hurricane, which some might consider offensive.) They had to explain icing! Go to a game on Broad Street in Philadelphia, though, and it’s a whole different world. Why has this sport not caught on? Because the rest of the nation isn’t seeing the real thing. A linebacker can’t hit a quarterback in the NFL without getting written permission, but a few years back I saw Scott Stevens knock Eric Lindros back to Kindergarten with a legal—and clean—open-ice hit. Now, the greed of the owners and the players will most likely cripple any future attempts at getting hockey to the masses, and that’s a shame. The game has grace, intensity, and takes mind-blowing skill to play. (Most people can’t ice skate, let alone skate while deking a small rubber puck and dodging goons.) Plus, if two guys don’t like each other, they can fight it out! Think Shaq wouldn’t love to clean Kobe’s clock and only get a five-minute breather as a result?
Four years ago, I left hockey country for NASCAR country. I might as well stay here, because I don’t think I have a home to return to. The puck had better drop next season, you greedy bastards, or I promise you, I WILL buy a pickup truck, slap a big number 3 on the back and give up on real sports forever.
Matt DeTura is a Trinity senior. His column appears every other Friday.
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