BY CHRIS DiFRANCESCO, Columnist
It’s already been decided that Sunday’s United States shocking Olympic win over heavy favorite Canada was by far the most exciting hockey game that’s been put on television in quite a few years, maybe even a decade.
The hockey game itself drew over 10 million viewers, and that’s on MSNBC. Imagine the numbers if the game was broadcast on NBC, the network that sponsors the NHL.
USA’s 5-3 defeat over Canada in Vancouver was an absolute instant classic. The game produced ratings that beat out last years game seven Stanley Cup Finals.
However, something was missing. Somethings been missing throughout the entire 2010 Olympic hockey tournament. Fighting.
Nobody has dropped the gloves to intentionally punch someone else in the mouth to generate a buzz in the arena or create sudden momentum for their club. What brought those aspects was great back-and-forth hockey.
USA vs Canada was hockey at its purest form.
I’m not going to negate the value of fighting in the NHL. I know there are fans of the league because of the fights that break out nightly. That’s all well and good. But those people aren’t real hockey fans. Most of those fans couldn’t identify what a double-minor is.
Furthermore, these Olympic games are proving that fighting isn’t needed in the National Hockey League to be successful. The hits are as powerful as I’ve ever seen in these games, but without the dropping of the gloves. The referees are letting these athletes play the game hockey and show what kind of talent they possess.
I respect the viewpoint that hockey institution Bill Clement always reels out when describing fighting, saying that most fans come to like the game for fighting than those who stay away because of it.
I don’t mind fighting in the NHL, but I think the game could do away with it. For those who watched that USA-Canada masterpiece on Sunday, did somebody dropping the gloves even approach your mindset? I doubt it. The game produced constant excitement, with every minute being a big hit or another clutch save by USA goaltender Ryan Miller.
Some purists thought it was the best played game they’ve every seen. That’s a stretch; however, I can believe when a fan tells me it was the most exciting game they have ever watched, or the first time in years that a hockey game had them standing up for an entire 60 minutes.
Watching — cough and sigh — Sidney Crosby try to will team Canada back in the game in the final two minutes of the was mesmerizing. It was just as special watching Miller make amazing save after save with those precious minutes remaining.
As a hockey fanatic, the excitement of a crunching hit, a penalty shot, or overtime in the playoffs can generate more entertainment than any goon on the ice that’s out there to simply find a guy and attempt to knock him out.
Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Sakic became legends because of the talent and leadership they displayed on the ice without fighting. Players today like Alex Ovechkin, Crosby, and Mike Richards don’t make a living on the ice by dropping the gloves but make it by putting forth their 100% efforts in trying to win championships and proving their skills are superior to the next guy.
The reality is, fighting will continue in the NHL, it’s always been a significant selling piece for the game. But for me, watching these Olympics and the quality of hockey that’s being performed by these NHL/Olympians is proving to me that hockey fans enjoy watching the players show their talents and play the game the way its meant to be played.
You can read this story and anything else involving the Flyers on Chris’ exclusive Flyers site ‘Faceoff with Chris’. Also be sure to catch his weekly program on USTREAM.tv, ‘At the Warning Track’ sponsored by High Hopes.