Buffery argues that the balanced skill level and sophisticated, stifling defensive play, make it less fun to watch the NHL. To an extent, I admit the issue. A lot of people found the WHA a lot of fun to watch, in its time, because there was no depth. One ace could skate through the opposing team over and over. And the time of Lemieux and Gretzky, post-expansion, but pre-Eastern European players, was similar. Lemieux himself admitted that there were always D-men on the other team that he could simply skate around. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts. I’ve argued also that these factors have to be considered when looking at diminished goal scoring. It’s not only about the goalie equipment.
But what draws my disagreement is the statement that this makes hockey uninteresting, at least for the expert. Buffery is free to watch the minor leagues or the juniors, and he’ll probably be better entertained. And he’ll save money. Perhaps a lot of people who don’t really think about the game would be similarly satisfied. The only thing missing would be the knowledge that there was a better league, where the best players went. But for a lot of people, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not really about enjoying the subtleties of the game. It’s about highlights, and cheering for your guys. And today’s game doesn’t produce as many highlights.
Highlights are overrated in my book. For every highlight, there is usually an accompanying low-light. A missed check, a giveaway, botched coverage, etc. It’s like a football game where you only notice the touchdown, but not the missed block that led to it, or the stumble by the safety that let the wide receiver get away. I see the lowlights. When I watch juniors play, I see the unprofessional nature of the game. I don’t enjoy that, any more than I would enjoy hearing an individual violinist in a symphony, because he’s playing out of tune, or otherwise spoiling the symphonic nature of the piece.
My advice to Buffery, and anyone else who thinks the same way: It’s your choice. Go and watch the little league players, and see your highlights. Or, learn the intricacies involved in putting together the whole unit, and appreciate the symphony on the ice for what it is.