Hockey is Big in Tampa

A few weeks ago, my grandson and I were getting set to watch an NFL game when he mentioned there was a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game on that night. An avid hockey fan, he follows the Bolts much more than I do. I remain a devoted pigskin purist, but it’s easy to see why hockey has taken off here in Tampa.

We experimented with our remote control and discovered because of the speed of hockey versus the slower pace of football, it was possible to switch channels, watch both games, almost in their entirety, simultaneously.

Hockey is three speedy twenty minute periods. Players charge madly on and off the ice while play continues. Each team is allotted one time out per game. Commercial breaks occur mostly between periods. There is simply no time for players primping, preening and posing.

Hockey is the only sport where all the players were literally born to play it. Most are gifted early with a hockey stick, are well coached in junior and minor leagues and college, and when the NHL calls, know more about their game than other professional athletes.

Football, on the other hand, is long and sometimes boring. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal noted that in a typical NFL game of 3 hours and 11 minutes, 56% of the time is taken up with annoying commercials, times out, play reviews, instant replay, players standing around, views of sideline and press box coaches, commentators blabbing on camera, huddles, and players incessantly celebrating touchdowns and every first down for post game viewing by even more talking heads. The study also found that only eleven minutes of a game is pure action, each play averaging a scant four seconds to complete.

In a fan-friendly Bolts hockey game, the ice becomes an integral part of the show. From before game excitement with players’ pictures flashed on both the ice and the Jumbotrons hanging above, to the Zamboni machines driven by families helping to clear the ice between periods, to the donation of $50,000 to a worthy community project by owner Jeff Vinik at every game, it is by far the best show in town, outpacing the Rays and the Bucs in excitement.

Our experience of switching with the remote paid off. I doubt we missed a dozen plays of football while seeing 90% of the hockey game. And the announcers in hockey seem much better, all as knowledgeable of hockey as Tony Romo is of football.

Plays developing in hockey feature twelve total skaters in well practiced variations of choreographed maneuvers. It is a much more exciting team spectacle than football.

A perfect example is scoring. Groups of players cluster around the goal, some protecting their goalie while opponents try to rattle him by blocking his vision of the puck flying towards him.

And when that light goes on to signify a home team goal, bedlam breaks out from rink to rafters through three fan-full levels of blue clad cheering Amalie Arena faithful!

Go, Bolts!

(Over the next six months, until football begins anew, Coach’s Corner will appear less frequently. Thank you. Coach Jim Reese.)

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2 responses to “Hockey is Big in Tampa

  1. Could not agree more. I have always loved watching hockey, wish I could skate! I do understand why it is not more popular, its gaining but slowly. And hockey has great traditions and players have greater respect for each other than other team sports. And thats at every level, my 10 and 8 year old grandkids play and I am amazed at how they, their teammates, and their opponents respect the unwritten rules of the game (its coaching, both have former NHL players as coaches) so its ingrained and continues for as long as the game is played. Here on Cape Cod, it does continue, they have a non checking seniors league, and some of the players are in their 60s and a few even older. Hockey is the best.

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