Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Time for a new national sport (or why hockey sucks)

Even though it hasn't been officially announced yet, I think it's pretty obvious the NHL season is history. And all I can say is . . . good riddance!

I am no fan of the NHL, which has become synonymous with ridiculous salaries, expensive tickets, ugly violence, and massive egos. Who needs it? My Canada does not include professional hockey.

I realize I'm only 30 but things really were different when I was a kid. My dad occasionally took me to watch the Leafs play at the Gardens. We'd ride the subway to College station and he'd hold my hand all the way up to our cheap seats in the nosebleed section.

I loved seeing my dad so excited, the way he'd cheer and whistle and yell louder than anyone. He'd buy me a hotdog and a pop, and I'd just sit there bursting with happiness.

Things have changed since then. The last hockey game I went to was a few years ago in Vancouver. It was boring, expensive and obnoxious. Worst of all was the way the flow of the game kept getting interrupted by players throwing punches at each other.

Can you imagine watching a swim meet where Ian Thorpe swims over to the next lane, grabs Michael Phelps by the throat and start pounding him in the head? If it's not okay in swimming (or badminton or basketball or any sport other than boxing), why is it okay in hockey?

So since I've decided hockey officially sucks, I think Canada should adopt a new national sport. Australia and South Africa are swimming fanatics. Italy is cycling-mad, and Kenya produces some of the best runners in the world. But in Canada, these three sports are marginal, under-funded and unappreciated.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can all decide we've had enough of hockey and turn our money and attention to something better. So if you had to pick a new national sport for Canada, what would it be?

I'd choose triathlon. Canada is home to some of the best triathletes in the world, like Simon Whitfield who won the gold at the 2000 Olympics. These passionate, broke and genuinely nice athletes deserve our admiration. There's no glory, no fame and no money in the sport of triathlon. The professionals in this sport simply just love to swim, bike and run.

The age of the hockey hero is over.


Anonymous said...

You're going to get comments with this one.

I stopped supporting professional sports teams about 10 years ago. Come to think of it, I wrote an op/ed piece about the 1994 baseball strike that skewered both sides. Neither the owners nor the players deserve much sympathy in any of the major league sports. When there are strikes and lockouts, pro sports lose fans. It took baseball years to recover after 1994.

You may see a change in hockey violence with the Todd Bertuzzi incident.

As for a new national sport, lacrosse is already the official national sport. Basketball, invented by Canadian Dr. James Naismith, is an obvious choice and far more affordable than hockey.

Even though you have a personal affinity for triathlon, an incredible sport, its individual nature might not appeal to those craving some team action in a stadium setting.

You should submit your blog post as an op/ed piece to the Globe, Sun or Province the day the hockey season is officially dead. I suspect that there are a lot of people who feel like you do. -K

Sarah said...

Yeah, I realize that triathlon would be a tough sell for the Canadian public. But a girl can dream :)

What about swimming then? Australia fills stadiums no problem.

Basketball is a great sport. But I haven't been to a game since the Grizzlies left Vancouver. When Steve Chao lived out here, he took me to the CTV (no, wait, I think it was VTV back then) box to watch a few games.

But I'm more partial to sports where men and women get equal play (ie. triathlon and swimming).

-- Sarah

Michael Johnson said...

Sarah - you forget, lacrosse is actually our national sport.

But I do agree with you. Personally, I'd vote for cycling, but triathlon would also do just fine!

Sarah said...

Hi Michael,

Technically, I know that lacrosse is our national sport. But, seriously, when you think of Canada, do you think lacrosse? No, you think hockey.

As for pro cycling...I'm going to sound really cynical here, but it seems like if you're not on a cocktail of EPO and growth hormones and steroids, you're not in the game. Way too many drugs in pro cycling, which makes me sad because it's such an awesome sport. I love the strategizing and the teamwork and the hot guys in spandex.

-- Sarah

Anonymous said...

Black shorts or red, Sarah?

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Canada I couldn't really grasp NHL. Having never been on ice skates I was in awe with how controlled the players are in their movements but it seemed like there were no rules. Lots of testosterone to be contained within an icerink really. But what do I know, I'm an Aussie! Everytime they show Canadian sport on TV here its either curling (?) or figure skating.

Anyway, I found your blog through Globe of Blogs - hope you have a lovely Friday! krissy from

Michael Johnson said...

Sarah - I agree with you about the drugs. It's really a shame, and I feel it's really a symptom of the excessive commercialization of sports today.
Hopefully after this NHL-lockout the league will come back as something that an average-Joe can bring his family to without having to take out a second mortgage.


Sarah said...

Curling, figure skating, hockey...I don't get it either and I'm Canadian. Just doesn't do anything for me.

-- Sarah

Anonymous said...

I think pro sports in general are going the way of jazz music, but ESPECIALLY hockey. I think it was Bobby Hull who reminded us that it's been 2 generations now of Canadians who (for the most part) could not reasonably afford to go to a professional hockey game. I live here in Ottawa and have seen the most expensive ticket go from $70 to $140 in 10 years (have people's expendable incomes doubled?). Pro sports is drugs & endorsement deals. I think I'll be keeping my kids away from that sludge thanks!