Hooray! Hockey is back | NevadaAppeal.com

Hooray! Hockey is back

Joe Ellison
Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist

Life is good once again for puckheads, because another season has just begun in the National Hockey League.

For true fans, it is always difficult for them to understand why many other people don’t like hockey. It is even harder for them to figure out why it doesn’t appeal to more fans of football, which is also a very physical and violent team sport.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that 95 percent of the people that don’t like hockey have never been to an NHL game, and 95 percent of the people who have been to an NHL game enjoyed their experience. There is no in-arena sport that is more fun to watch than hockey. People need to actually attend a game themselves before they formulate any valid negative opinions.

After the NHL’s lockout and subsequent rules changes, attendance figures have improved, even to the point of there being talks about league expansion. To get an idea of how popular hockey can be in its communities, here’s this story:

The NHL scheduled a game between the Penguins and Sabres January 1 outdoors at the football stadium at Orchard Park in Buffalo. Surely, people wouldn’t want to freeze their tails off in the dead of winter hungover, especially when there are a slew of college football games on New Year’s Day, would they? Well, the 41,000 tickets available to the public sold out in 30 minutes.

People who like to bash hockey often say that since the games are not televised on ESPN, that the sport is somehow inferior. But the fact of the matter is, the NHL doesn’t need American television to be successful. The ratings for Hockey Night in Canada are as strong as ever. For the American fan the Versus Channel broadcasts hockey and is transmitted into 65 million households. But the avid fan can simply pay for the Center Ice package, which is currently showing a free preview, and watch 1000 games a year.

Last summer the NFL’s highest-paid player Michael Vick pled guilty to financing a dogfighting operation, an NBA referee got busted for betting on games he officiated in, and baseball’s new home run King Barry Bonds was crowned with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. With all this happening around them, the men of the NHL just move on with dignity, focused on their quests of one day hoisting the sacred Stanley Cup.

Predictions:

Division winners – Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Atlanta, Detroit, Colorado and San Jose.

Other playoff teams – New York Rangers, Buffalo, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas and Calgary.

Sleeper teams – Florida and St. Louis.

Stanley Cup – There have been six different champions in the last six years. Pittsburgh defeats San Jose in the Finals.

BASEBALL

Major League Baseball’s regular season certainly was unpredictable, as all six division winners were different from last year, and only the New York Yankees returned to the postseason.

Playoffs – Since 1995, teams with home-field advantage are only 41-43 in playoff series, so that is not a factor. Historically, in five-game series, Game 1 winners have advanced 67 percent of the time.

Predictions – Boston in 4 games; New York in 5; Colorado in 3; Arizona in 5.

World Series – Boston defeats Colorado.