It happens to sports fans every year. We get swept up in a football season that, for the past few seasons, has culminated in a Super Bowl worthy of the name, and we forget about the lull that will inevitably turn February into the month that sports forgot.
From now until March Madness begins, there is a void for many that the start of NASCAR just can’t fill.

What options do we have? The NBA carries some big-name superstars, but with those big names come referees and rules that tailor to their five-step, jump-stop, bunny-hop without-any-dribble ‘moves.”

College basketball is always a fan favorite, but conference play tends to drag at this time of year plus, we don’t want to be too burnt out when March rolls around. A little Dickie V. goes a long way.

If you really want to fill the gap, take a hint from the weather and watch some hockey.
It’s a sport that, in America, has become very much of a niche game. There are a good number of fans who love their team and hate their rivals, but it lacks the casual interest of other major sports.

It shows in the amount of TV time devoted toward hockey. Football, basketball and baseball all get their national airtime on big-name networks, while hockey is stuck on Versus and MSG. This is not meant to be a knock on the big guns of television, but it’s a pretty clear indicator that hockey doesn’t have a broad viewership.

It’s a mystery in my mind as to what hockey is lacking for the fan that lives for Sundays in the fall.

It has the physicality sure, someone isn’t getting tackled every 30 seconds, but there are players whose highlight reels are composed solely of hits that would make Brian Dawkins proud.

The game boasts offensive creativity and defensive grit, set plays and on-the-fly improvisation.

Plus, in hockey’s version of overtime, there’s no coin toss you have to play offense and defense at the same time to earn a win in extra time.

And if you’re unsure about the difficulty, head across the river to the ice rink on a Friday night for some skating just because it looks easy on TV doesn’t make it so.

As for the timing, it couldn’t be better. The All-Star break is over, and there are less than 30 games left to decide who gets a shot at the oldest trophy in North-American sports. It’s not down to the wire yet, but it’s the time when some teams make a push up the standings and others lose their focus and sink like rocks.

It’s also close to the trade deadline, which means there will be a flurry of players changing teams as general managers work around the clock to find the final pieces of their championship puzzles.

So, if you are looking for something to quench your thirst for competition in February, look past the World’s Strongest Man and World Series of Poker reruns on ESPN. Find someone who can explain the nuances of hockey, grab some drinks and flip on a game.

It might take a few games to get the rules down, but if you stick with it, you’ll come to have more than a passing interest and maybe even a new favorite team that turns into a Stanley Cup champion.

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.



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