Would people care more about hockey if there were better players to root for?
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) talk about pro hockey.
With the always-interesting Pro Bowl coming up on Sunday, let's delve into the matchups... ORRR we could talk about the most interesting regular season going on (at least on this side of the Atlantic). That would be the NHL, where a combination of Original Six teams and marquee franchises are tearing up the competition and setting the stage for the most exciting postseason since this happened.
Just like in 1994, the Rangers are atop the points standings and rounding into form thanks to Henrik Lundqvist's superb goaltending and a series of memorable game-winning goals by the team's stars. I've stayed away from the Rangers since they plunged into mediocrity around 2000, but Brad Richards' impossible game-winning goal with one-tenth of a second left earlier this year sucked me in. Now that the Blueshirts have won the Winter Classic and beat Boston on another last-second game-winner, I'm ready to break out my Mark Messier jersey.
New York will have to compete with the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins in the East, not to mention the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in the West. For those of you scoring at home, that's four of the Original Six franchises—the four U.S. ones. Sounds like a good recipe to get the general public back into hockey.
There have been off-the-field concerns, sure, from Sidney Crosby's aborted return to issue of transparency. What've you been following, Hampton? Or are you too busy watching Kansas basketball?