I grew up 100% steeped in the tradition of hockey. As long as I can remember I have been playing the latest NHL game, knee or street hockey, or watching my favorite teams compete for the chance to hold the coveted Stanley Cup. My favorite team has always been my hometown team, the Buffalo Sabres, and although the last 10 years have sucked, I have enjoyed the speculation, the work, the process of building. There is nothing that gets me giddier than waiting for a hockey game or season to start, and now I realize it is because there is no other game like hockey.
1. The NHL Draft is like no other draft in sports entertainment
Every year hundreds of teenagers from around the world congregate to a specified arena to hear one thing: The (blank) are proud to select (Their name). First, as previously mentioned the NHL draft brings in hundreds of young players from everywhere around the globe, some more talented than others as they find out the future of their careers. The excitement of those first thirty or so picks is unmatched as teams and fans get a first glimpse of a player who could potentially become a cornerstone of their franchise. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jack Eichel are a few recently drafted players who have immediately made an impact. Additionally, in the later rounds teams dig a little deeper and analyze a little more as they try to get a steal and draft the next Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk.
2. The farm system is easy to understand and interesting to follow.
First, you have your NHL caliber players. Then you have your team's respective AHL affiliate which contains older players with a few years left in their tank, late draft picks who have worked tirelessly to make the step to the next level, and budding stars and top-six forwards who are in the AHL to condition themselves against grown men as they look towards the NHL in the next two seasons. Then you have the Junior Teams such as the OHL, WHL and other development leagues that contain teenagers who all have the potential for the NHL some day. Lastly, you have the other leagues that may contain NHL prospects or future NHLers like the Swedish and Russian leagues
3. The Stanley Cup Playoffs
There is no other tournament like the Stanley Cup Tournament. Not one with as much emotion, excitement, and tradition at least. The closest relative is the soccer World Cup. However, the Stanley Cup playoffs are home to some of the greatest traditions such as the hoisting of the cup, Game 7, and above all, Playoff Beards. The playoffs, which can sometimes span 2 months ramp up the competition and the game becomes instantly 100% more fun to watch.
4. Greatest Athletes around
Need I say more? They do all the same things that other athletes do, fight, push shove, run, shift, and move except on skates, sliding on the ice. In other sports, you can afford to be a little out of shape if you have the talent. In hockey, you will be left in the dust.