No doubt it’s not a primary reason – it may not even be a major one – but one reason hockey is not popular in most of the US is that it’s overly violent. Not that Hockey is worse off for not being popular in the US, cause, uhhh, baseball. And also, more broadly, Ronald Reagan, American Idol, Jessica Simpson, Taco Bell. But I’m worse off for hockey not being popular in the US since watching a game in a bar when no one else is is not particularly fun. And so, I get to thinking why hockey is not popular in most of the US. And one such reason is that it’s violent. Now, this doesn’t immediately make sense – football is popular as apple pie, and that’s even more violent. But I don’t think many Americans would agree. Hockey is seen as the manliest of man-sports (this is, for instance, mentioned in this interview with Charles Barkley. “Man, we should outlaw guys who suck at sports” :)). This is odd, since it’s the only major sport in North America to have had a woman play in its top league, as far as I know, but whatever. I’d attribute it to the fact that for about 2 months a year, all hockey players you see on TV have beards, but then, I wonder how many Americans actually know that happens? The perception of hockey as manly and violent is very ingrained – an average American thinks of hockey players as Stu Grimsons rather than Marios Lesmieux. Apart from the general misattribution that comes with all unfamiliarity, there are two reasons that hockey seems more violent than football. One is that in football, the violence is intimately important to the play. It makes little sense to complain that a tackle was violent – how else would you do it? In hockey, while the huge check into the boards makes sense, some other things don’t. Like huge open-ice hits – which I often love – and like fighting – which I usually don’t. But, yeah, it seems strange to be watching a game, and then, totally unrelatedly, here’s two dudes pummeling each other. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen lacrosse, but somehow taking away the ice totally brings out the ridiculousness in this ritual. It’s like, oh, there’s the game, and, hey, what? How is this even related? I’m not saying this to be against fighting, only to say that the violence in hockey is not always intrinsic to the game, so it seems more violent. The other thing is that hockey is dangerous in hard-to-imagine ways. Yeah, getting tackled hurts, but most people have an idea of what that means (even if their idea bears no resemblance to the reality of being tackled by a 360-lb offensive lineman or whatever). But having your throat lacerated by a skate? getting a 170 kph hard-rubber puck in the eye/gonads? That seems frightening in a can’t-really-picture-it way, and so hockey seems like something only insane people would even want to do. And so watching it becomes kind of a bloodsport for sadists.
Too bad, cause I really would like to watch tomorrow’s game in a bar full of canucks fans.