Every other week in The Coach’s Box, Timothy Thomas explores the various lessons that can be learned from the world of sports.
I think I’m a hockey fan, though “fan” might be too loose of a word here. While I enjoy watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs this time of year, I don’t have a favorite team. I root for the home team (Dallas Stars), my family roots team (Washington Capitals), and the team with the arguably best color scheme, jersey, and mascot name (Seattle Kraken). The Dallas Stars are currently in the Western Conference Finals, so like a natural fair weather fan, I have the lights outside my house lit green in support.
But seriously, hockey doesn’t get the widespread respect in American sports it probably deserves. Or maybe it does, and I’m only now publicly recognizing the sports’ awesomeness. So if you’re like me, a skeptic of hockey or someone who figures the game isn’t really for “us” (historically, the sport has lacked diverse superstars), let me encourage you to give it a try. There’s no better time to do so than during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Besides, sitting with something different and outside of our familiarity can help us appreciate the beauty and nuance of everything else.
Hockey combines all the elements of the sports we already love in America: the intensity of American football; the nonstop pace of basketball; the spacing elements of soccer; and the strategy and history of baseball and golf. (The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in American professional sports.) It even has fighting in the same vein as boxing and soft MMA matches.
So why doesn’t hockey garner more widespread attention? Some have speculated that the immense cost of participation in youth hockey (compared to basketball or football) prevents the sport from experiencing rapid youth growth in America. Others have highlighted hockey’s lack of diversity. Finally, some blame the marketing strategies. Or maybe it’s just because the Stanley Cup Playoffs occur at the same time as the NBA Playoffs.
Whatever your reason for not watching or caring, I urge you to sit through an entire game. Of course, you probably won’t know the rules, positions, or superstars. But sit, watch, and learn, anyway.
God has given us authority over all of creation (Genesis 1:26-28). But when we overemphasize our jurisdiction, we can forget that all power belongs to him. So sitting and watching a sport we don’t know much about can be an act of submission and humility in a culture where we’re supposed to know everything and control our time and entertainment (Matthew 23:12; 1 Peter 5:5). Submitting to hockey (for non-hockey fans, anyway) is a rather trivial task, but it can still be a way to practice humility in the different areas of life where God calls us to be submissive (Philippians 2:3; Proverbs 18:12).
Perhaps there is no easy solution to increasing hockey’s fandom. Maybe all of the aforementioned factors (e.g., cost of participation, lack of diversity, failed marketing) are what makes hockey so enjoyable in the first place for its current niche audience. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
So here’s some coaching advice for the curious fan: Pick a team to root for or against during the playoffs. Sit back and enjoy the beautifully organized chaos unfolding on the ice. You might learn to love it. Or at least you’ll have something else to enjoy during halftime in the NBA Finals.
In any case, engaging in hockey (or any sport we’re unfamiliar with) is a fantastic exercise in practicing submission and humility—two traits we could all use to learn from and love one another.