The NHL Preseason Doesn't Suck!
The NFL Pre-season sucks! In almost every way that something can be bad, the NFL pre-season is a joke. The game is a sloppy mess, the stars play for about 25% of the game, and there’s always an undertone of laziness. Whether it’s the starters laughing it up on the sidelines or a coach replacing his starting QB as his team is 3rd & goal, about to take the lead. Football is an intense game, and the NFL uses that intensity to market itself. Without the intensity, the game deflates and becomes a poor shadow of its regular season self. Worse yet, the NFL pretends there’s no difference between Pre-season and the regular season. Games are marketed as Favre vs. Manning even though you know damn well that Brett Favre is going to see about 5 snaps. They charge full price for games and even force season ticket holders to buy these tickets. The same TV blackout rules apply to pre-season games. I’ve got nothing against the NFL making money, but don’t spit on me & tell me it’s raining! Making the 2nd half of these games even less significant is that the players who get cut are never seen again. There are no significant developmental leagues where you can follow young players such as in baseball or hockey.
The NHL Pre-season on the other hand is much closer to the real thing. If football is 20% of its real self then pre-season hockey is 80% of its regular season intensity. As far as intensity goes, the games can be just as good if not better than the regular season. It all depends on your perspective. I for one enjoy a good fight. Fight’s occur at a higher rate in the pre-season because players are trying to prove themselves and there’s no need to hold back because if you get an extra penalty, really, who cares? [As I’m writing this and watching the Sabres Pre-season game, Mike Weber(Buffalo) and Maxime Lapierre(MTL) just got into a good scrap]
I attended the Rangers-Devils game at MSG last week and the fans were into it. The Rangers fans were shouting and intense. The crowd for this pre-season game was actually better than the game I attended late in last year’s regular season. There were two good fights and the stars actually PLAYED THE WHOLE GAME. Kovalchuk, Parise, and Brodeur for The Devils and Gaborik, Mark Staal, and Frolov for The Rangers. The minute I walked in Adam Mair was at center ice wearing a Devils uniform trading punches with The Rangers, Brian Boyle. Good to see Mair with a team; hopefully he makes the Devils squad and can contribute.
The NHL Pre-season game quality suffers, but not terribly. Teams are trying out new line combinations and testing the will of their young prospects. Any lack of consistency is overshadowed by the treat of getting to see the future of your franchise skate around in the NHL uniform. As opposed to the NFL where these extra players just disappear, the players cut from the final NHL roster have a good chance of being on the team in the years ahead. It gives you a chance to say, “I saw____ ____ 3 years ago, when he was still in Juniors”
Lastly, the coaches coach like they care who wins. The trailing team pulls their goalie just like in the regular season, players complain about penalties, and they celebrate goals just as excitedly. The crowds are into the game because the players are into it. The crowd I was a part of at MSG was raucous as was the Montreal Bell Centre crowd I just watched on TV.
I’m not saying that the NFL should have it’s star players play the entire game in Pre-season. That wouldn’t make sense in a sport where injuries occur so easily. I’m merely saying for the NFL to acknowledge that Pre-season football is an absolute farce. Stop charging fans full price for a half-ass game! The NHL on the other hand needs to market their Pre-season more vigorously. Hockey needs to take a lesson from Football and get these games on TV. There is very little advertising for the NHL Pre-season and the games are somewhat difficult to find on TV. I understand that ratings play a role in what gets on TV and that Football, even in Pre-season form, beats Hockey. I believe hockey is simply overlooking the fact that its fans might be interested in watching their team’s Pre-season games.
It might be just Pre-season, but it definitely doesn’t suck!
Extra Note: Sheldon Souray was waived today by The Edmonton Oilers. I think the Sabres should sign him. Souray is a beast. His age(34) is a concern, but his size, 6’4”, 233 is awesome. He also has a cannon of a shot, something The Sabres are sorely missing on their Power Play unit. I’m not sure how the money works, but I’m fairly certain that the Sabres would use money as an excuse for not signing Souray. Claim him, Sign him, and if he sucks, trade him! What’s to lose, Darcy?