As Trevor Noah has pointed out in several of his stand-up comedy acts, Americans love sports.
We love sports more than anything else -- it's true. People pay insane amounts of money — at the bar, on television or live — to watch sports. Sports entertain us and give us a great amount of enjoyment, and with the more sports to watch, the more exciting our weekdays and weekends become.
The NHL season picks up right as the baseball season comes to an end, and it gives us something to look forward to during a football season mostly dominated by Sundays.
The NHL offers us a different group of athletes that really sets the sport apart from all the others.
1. There is constant action and excitement.
Hockey is the one sport that can offer non-stop action for nearly 20 minutes straight. Yes, soccer is also continuous, but there is rarely a scoring chance in soccer. And there are also boundaries.
The beautiful thing about hockey is there is (essentially) no "out of bounds." This means that unless a player commits a penalty, or a goal is scored, there is continuous, non-stop playing.
It takes a ridiculous amount of conditioning to be able to play continuously for that long.
The point of sports is to be entertaining and exciting, and in hockey, anything can happen at any given moment. It's a sport you don't want to look away from because in a split second, something amazing can happen.
2. The players aren't complete idiots.
In nearly every other sport, there is news of someone driving drunk, getting in a fight or taking drugs, which inevitably leads to suspensions.
The incredible thing about hockey is nearly all of the players are level-headed, and they just behave like normal human beings. Hockey players aren't going out and grabbing attention. On the contrary, most of them try to just live normal lives.
To top it all off, you can hang out with them or see them around casually, and it's not a big deal. The other day after work, I stopped at Shake Shack for dinner and saw Matt Martin, a New York Islanders winger.
We had a nice conversation in line, and I mentioned my friend spoke to him over at Boardy Barn during the summer. (He remembered.) Then, we ordered our food and went on our own ways.
I go to the office from 9 to 5, and he goes to practice from 9 to 5. But, we're both still regular people making a living.
3. The referees understand the nature of the sport.
In no other sport can you have a full-blown fist fight with an opposing player and receive a five-minute "time-out" for it.
Hockey players don't have a stigma associated with them, like soccer and basketball players do for taking dives.
They aren't looking for an interference call when they don't control a pass, and they aren't usually seen arguing with the referees. Hockey players play the game, and referees let them play the game.
Yes, the point of playing a game is to win, but we aren't paying $100 a ticket to see a team win from penalties. We want to see action and skill from the top tier of professional athletes.
The pettiness of other sports is one of the most frustrating things to watch. And while officials around the leagues have been getting better as a whole (regardless of camera review), hockey referees don't get fooled by dives, which makes the act a rarely-seen occurrence.
4. The players are the toughest athletes.
If you haven't checked out an official ice hockey puck, I advise you to do so.
You'll have a lot more respect for players putting their bodies in front of a 100-mph disk of rubber from five feet away.
One would imagine there is a primal instinct not to place oneself in front of an object moving at a high velocity, yet hockey players, with the help of a little bit of padding, do it on a daily basis.
In football, only a ball-carrier is going to get tackled, but in hockey, anyone on the ice can get completely wrecked.
Hockey players might leave with a broken nose or jaw in the first period, but they'll come back to continue playing in the second period.
Hockey is comprised of truly tough and strong individuals who have incredible amounts of passion for the game. One doesn't find that in any other sport.
5. You have to be ridiculously talented to be a professional.
Yes, every sport has the most talented individuals of our time playing professionally. But when you take a step back and think about what they are doing in order to play hockey, you might have a lot more respect for the talent they have.
Hockey players make it seem casual, but do you ever pause and think, "They're doing this while skating around on ice"?
That's right; not only are they looking around, moving at fast speeds in all directions, remembering plays, tracking a small puck around a slippery surface and shooting at a small net that is a mostly covered by huge pads, but they are doing all of this while skating.
Hockey players make skating look like jogging would be to us normal "land" people.
Hockey fan or not, you can understand why hockey is the best sport.