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Columnist enters walk-in freezer to write about hockey

It has recently come to my attention that hockey season has begun.

I know this because I was surfing the Internet recently and came upon this:

— CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — A streaker scaled the glass near the penalty box during a stoppage in play during an NHL game between Calgary and Boston on Thursday. Wearing only a pair of red socks, he slipped when his feet touched down and he landed hard on his back. He was apparently knocked unconscious when he banged his head on the ice and was motionless on his back beside the boards.



I would have never known that the NHL was under way if not for this brave, nude man. Am I the only sports fan who needs a memo every year to remind me that hockey is under way? Sadly, no. Many Americans continue to show a remarkable indifference to this cold-weather activity. Despite its place in our culture as a “major” sport, there are millions of us who cannot name a single, non-nude participant on any NHL team.

Of course, there are many sports fans who treat hockey with religious fervor, walking around wearing those oversized jerseys and saying things such as: “Alexei Zhitnick bruised his knee on a hip check last night against the Devils, eh.” Most of us would be confused by this strange babbling, if we were paying attention. Thankfully we are not.




Confined to small, frozen pockets in the colder areas of the nation, hockey continues to struggle for the hearts and minds of the mainstream sports fan.

Why isn’t the sport more popular? We looked into it. Here are our findings (and please read them with a sense of humor):

— Global warming. Hockey has little or no future simply due to the fact that our ozone layer is rapidly disintegrating. Soon the oceans will rise, and what land is left will be baked and parched — no one will be in the mood for frolicking on sheets of ice. Beach volleyball will replace hockey as the No. 4 most popular sport.

— No youth leagues. Hockey arenas are few and far between — it’s not like basketball, where all you need is a rood and two hoops. And if your parents can’t pressure you to play a sport against your will when you’re eight years old, it has no future here.

— Doesn’t translate well on TV. As we all know, our country is ruled by television. Our children are raised by the TV, and we are told how to act, how to vote and what to think by the tube. Baseball, football and basketball are kept alive due to TV hype, but hockey doesn’t draw viewers — any afternoon on Animal Planet gets higher ratings than the NHL All-Star Game.

And so hockey is doomed to obscurity.

— Canadians are goofy. Look a close look at their toques and their back bacon and those multicolored stocking caps. When you think of hockey you think of Canada, and who wants to identify with that?

— Anna Kournikova is no longer dating Sergei Federov. While the Red Wings’ star was courting Kournikova, we had a reason to care. But sadly, it’s over. The thrill is gone.

And now, my ideas to make hockey more popular:

— Combine with curling. Imagine hockey as it is now … yes, snoozeville. Now imagine all those players zipping around with curling rocks littering the ice. Things would be much more interesting (note to self: replace hockey sticks with brooms).

— Coaches to wear uniforms. No more suits, which promote decorum and civility. Put skates on these guys, and if there’s a controversial play, they should be allowed out on the ice to argue with the officials.

— NCAA Hockey Tournament. Bracket 64 teams in a big tournament, and watch the office pools pop up everywhere. This will work — people in offices will do anything to get out of work.

— More scandals. With the NFL, NBA and major league baseball you’ve got scandals on almost a daily basis. Hockey players, on the other hand, tend to sit at home watching the History Channel. Get busy, you guys! Unless you start making headlines, a la Latrell Sprewell, your sport will languish in obscurity.

— Less streaking. No one wants to see a naked guy lying on the ice like a frozen carp.

I want to like hockey, I really do. And just to prove how serious I am, I’m writing this column in a large walk-in freezer, simulating actually pro hockey conditions. It’s quite invigorating in here, just like hockey itself. Wow, it’s really cold in here. The fingers tend to loose dexterity in these temperatures, the longer jhyou are ua779 the freesuyai;;. In conclusionzx., It’s hgds;8;;’.. zjls’. Sgsyiqoppl. Thank ysiud.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at

NBCSports.com


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