I first watched the movie “Miracle” in middle school when I was 13 years old. Before seeing the film, I did not know much about hockey or the fact that it was a major sport. But after, I realized just how significant hockey was to some people.
The 1980 U.S. hockey team entered the Winter Olympics as the youngest team in the field, consisting of mostly amateur players. Nonetheless, the team advanced to the semifinals, knocked off the perennial powerhouse Soviet Union 4-3 in what has been dubbed the “Miracle on Ice” and eventually went on to win the gold. It’s one of the most famous teams in American sports history.
In a country where football, basketball and baseball dominate, hockey is still a part of the “major sports” group. However, out of those, hockey is the sport that people pay the least attention to.
Currently, the National Hockey League consists of 31 teams — 24 are in the United States and seven are in Canada. The most recent team to join the NHL was the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the league in 2017. The NHL will even be welcoming its 32nd team to Seattle in 2021.
This is a good sign for the premiere ice hockey league in the world. Before the Golden Knights, the last time the NHL expanded was in 2000. The NHL adding two teams in five years is definitely a sign that the league is trying to grow its fan base.
One of the major reasons the NHL and hockey itself have not grown to the likes of the NFL and football is that hockey is much harder to get involved in. Interested players need an ice rink facility to practice and play games, the cost of equipment is high and there is a lack of recreational teams that people can get involved with.
Even though there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to hockey, there is good news. According to usahockey.com, the number of hockey players in the 2018-2019 year is 567,908 — an all-time high.
Viewership for the NHL has increased recently as well. According to NBC Sports, Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues was the most-watched Stanley Cup game in four years, with over 5 million viewers.
People are starting to recognize and appreciate hockey more. Hockey players are some of the most hardworking and dedicated athletes, and they play one of the most physical sports in the world.
As for myself, I never grew up with hockey or had friends who played. Even though I’m from Seattle, which is known for colder weather and its proximity to Canada, there were not many recreational leagues for kids my age growing up.
I am actually pretty excited to welcome an NHL team to Seattle, though, because there are many NHL fans there who have been waiting for that moment. As a result, I hope to get into hockey as well and devote more time to watching the sport.
Hockey is a great sport and it is only a matter of time before it gets more exposure. Hopefully, major networks such as ESPN and NBC will show more regular season NHL games in order to increase viewership and fan engagement.
Hockey is exciting, and I’m sure it’s a great sport to play. I understand that parents may not want their children to get involved with hockey because injuries are far more likely to happen than in less violent sports, but if those same parents get their children involved with football, I do not see much difference.
Even though it may be hard to get involved in hockey or attend an NHL game, it is easy to watch a hockey game on TV. It may be hard to understand the rules at first, but it only takes a little persistence to learn how the game is played and why the sport can be so fascinating. Give it a chance — maybe, just maybe, the game of hockey will surprise some people.
Nathan Hyun is a sophomore writing about underrepresented sports. His column, “Hyun-derrated,” ran every other Wednesday.