Why the NBA lockout is hockey's new best friend

By The Beacon | November 15, 2011 9:00pm

(-- The Beacon)

By Lesley Dawson

"Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that's what we have here tonight, boys."

While this phrase may mean nothing to you, it resonates with many hockey fans. The quote hails from the first line of the famous speech delivered by Coach Herb Brooks (played by actor Kurt Russell) in the 2004 film "Miracle" as the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team skated to victory over the Russians.

What the NHL has here is a tremendous opportunity, as a result of the NBA lockout, to boost game attendance, awareness and support for the fine sport of hockey.

Amidst the confusion and general strife of the NBA lockout, hockey remains standing tall. As winter approaches, basketball fans are scrambling to find something, anything, to hold on to. For some, college basketball just isn't cutting it anymore.

For most sports fans in the U.S., hockey doesn't mean much. It's one of those sports that most people see when they flip through the channels. You glance at the score, which likely means nothing to you, and settle on a Little League World Final or a Sportscenter re-run because, in your eyes, nothing else is on.

Hockey is the average sports fan's back-up plan. Hockey is like the person you plan on marrying, no questions asked, if you're still single and living in your parents' basement by the age of 30.

Hockey has always been there for you, waiting patiently in the background until you realize how wonderful the sport truly is. Hockey wants you to be the best you can be. Hockey cares.

For those hockey lovers out there who want the NHL fan-base to grow, the NBA lockout couldn't have come at a better time. Yes, basketball is great. Yes, it's fun to watch. But it's time for hockey to shine.

As professional sports leagues, the NHL and the NBA are not that different from one another.

NHL team rivalries run as deep as any found in the NBA. The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have faced each other in playoffs over 30 times in an extremely heated Northeast Division rivalry that has lasted almost 87 years. The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks have likewise been cultivating a vicious rivalry over the past few decades as they compete for the top spot in the Central Division.

The intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs puts the NBA Finals to shame. Last June, the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7, winning the Stanley Cup and setting off riots in downtown Vancouver, B.C.

The NHL has its very own Kobe/LeBron rivalry between Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, complete with fierce playoff matches, as they battle to prove which team captain is the best player in the NHL.

Even the NHL has experienced two lockouts in its 94-year history. A lockout in 2004-05, similar to the current NBA lockout, cancelled what would have been the 88th season of NHL play, boosting attendance in other sports such as lacrosse, football and even basketball throughout Canada and the United States.

The NBA lockout has the potential to benefit both NHL teams and junior hockey teams everywhere. Already, some basketball fans are giving hockey a chance by purchasing tickets to NHL games to get their fix of sports played at the highest level.

Locally, the Portland Winterhawks Hockey Club, a member of the Western Hockey League, has been forced to move some games to the Rose Garden to account for an increase in ticket sales and game attendance.

For some fans, hockey will never fill the void left by the NBA lockout. But rather than complaining about the lockout, NBA fans should seize the opportunity to experience a different, fast-paced and equally, if not more competitive, winter sport: hockey.