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A couple of years ago, in the middle of a tight early-round Stanley Cup playoff series, I posted something on Facebook, contrasting hockey to basketball, which explains the concept behind this site:

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NHL GOALS OF THE YEAR

Anaheim Ducks

Cam Fowler
Ryan Getzlaf
Brandon Montour
Corey Perry
Rickard Rakell

Arizona Coyotes

Lawson Crouse
Anthony DeAngelo
Christian Fischer
Jamie McGinn

Boston Bruins

Noel Acciari
Sean Kuraly
Dominic Moore
Riley Nash
David Pastrnak

Buffalo Sabres

Justin Bailey
William Carrier
Tyler Ennis
Brian Gionta

Calgary Flames

Mikael Backlund
Johnny Gaudreau
Sean Monahan
Matthew Tkachuk

Carolina Hurricanes

Sebastian Aho
Justin Faulk
Lee Stempniak
Valentin Zykov

Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Hartman
John Hayden
Patrick Kane
Michal Kempny
Artemi Panarin
Richard Panik
Jonathan Toews

Colorado Avalanche

J.T. Compher
Tyson Jost
Nathan MacKinnon

Columbus Blue Jackets

Cam Atkinson
Markus Hannikainen
Scott Harrington

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn
Patrick Eaves
Remi Elie
Julius Honka
Antoine Roussel
Tyler Seguin

Detroit Red Wings

Andreas Athanasiou
Danny Dekeyser
Tomas Nosek
Riley Sheahan
Tomas Tatar
Henrik Zetterberg

Edmonton Oilers

Matt Benning
David Desharnais
Leon Draisaitl
Zack Kassian
Jujar Khaira
Oscar Klefbom
Patrick Maroon

Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad
Aleksandr Barkov
Jonathan Huberdeau
Jaromir Jagr
Michael Sgarbossa
Shawn Thornton

Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Brown
Kevin Gravel
Adrian Kempe
Tyler Toffoli

Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund
Erik Haula
Mikko Koivu
Zach Parise
Jared Spurgeon
Ryan Suter
Jason Zucker

Montreal Canadiens

Paul Byron
Phillip Danault
Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty
Alexander Radulov
Nikita Scherbak

Nashville Predators

Viktor Arvidsson
Ryan Ellis
Mike Fisher
Filip Forsberg
Frederick Gaudreau
Calle Jarnkrok
Roman Josi
James Neal
Austin Watson

New Jersey Devils

Blake Coleman
Taylor Hall
Seth Hegelson
John Quenneville
Steven Santini

New York Islanders

Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier
Cal Clutterbuck
Josh Ho-Sang
John Tavares

New York Rangers

Pavel Buchnevich
Michael Grabner
Chris Kreider
Ryan McDonagh
Brady Skjei
Derek Stepan
Jimmy Vesey

Ottawa Senators

Derick Brassard
Mike Hoffman
Erik Karlsson
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Dion Phaneuf
Bobby Ryan
Kyle Turris

Philadelphia Flyers

Ivan Provorov
Wayne Simmonds
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal

Pittsburgh Penguins

Josh Archibald
Sidney Crosby
Matt Cullen
Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz
Evgeni Malkin
Carter Rowney
Justin Schultz
Conor Sheary

San Jose Sharks

Mikkel Boedker
Patrick Marleau
Daniel O’Regan
Joe Pavelski
Marcus Sorensen
Joel Ward

St. Louis Blues

Ivan Barbashev
Patrik Berglund
Colton Parayko
David Perron
Kevin Shattenkirk
Paul Stastny
Alexander Steen
Vladimir Tarasenko

Tampa Bay Lightning

Adam Erne
Yanni Gourde
Tyler Johnson
Nikita Kucherov
Matthew Peca

Toronto Maple Leafs

Tyler Bozak
Nazem Kadri
Kasperi Kapanen
Auston Matthews
William Nylander

Vancouver Canucks

Brock Boeser
Alexander Edler
Markus Granlund
Henrik Sedin
Brandon Sutter

Washington Capitals

Brett Connolly
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Matt Niskanen
Alex Ovechkin
Zach Sanford
Tom Wilson

Winnipeg Jets

Joel Armia
Dustin Byfuglien
Andrew Copp
Mathieu Perrault
Mark Scheifele
Drew Stafford

THE SEASON’S MOST INTRIGUING GOALS
TYLER BOZAK, Maple Leafs
BUT CAN HE DO IT WITH A 9-IRON?

Hockey players — like golfers — like to showboat during downtime a little by using their stick blade to pop the puck up and down for as many reps as they can. But after Tyler Bozak’s exploits against the Lightning, the practice might become part of every team’s morning skate drills.

The play didn’t start out well for Bozak. He pretty much fanned on a rebound that awaited him on the door step following a Nikita Zaitsev shot from the point. But then he turned dross into gold.

With his flubbed shot still loitering in mid-air above the crease, Bozak stabbed at it with the back of his blade — and still failed to provide enough force to get the puck over the line. As the puck continued to hover over the blue paint, Bozak then flicked it with the front of the stick, and this time the puck actually made it not only into the goal, but all the way to the back of the net!

And perhaps the players who master the trick the quickest at practice in southern climes will be given an early pass to go out and show their golf partners their prowess in this suddenly useful bit of hotdogging.

12/29/16 vs. Tampa Bay

The Hockey GoalDigger views every single goal from every single game. Enjoying such a visual bounty is never less than a pleasure. He has learned there is no such thing as an “ugly” goal. There are wacky goals, goals that are the result of pure grit, and efforts that should be hanging in the Louvre. All are a banquet for the GoalDigger’s eyes.

VIKTOR ARVIDSSON, Predators
NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST

Viktor Arvidsson of the Predators is among the quickest and most elusive players in the league. He also, it turns out, has a great sense of direction.

Arvidsson employed that sixth sense against St. Louis on a rush at the tail end of a 4-on-4 situation when he executed a series of moves that resulted in one of the prettiest goals of the year.

Picking up the puck just over the center-ice line, Arvidsson had defenseman Jay Bouwmeister directly in his way and no support from any teammates.

Left to his own devices, Arvidsson avoided Bouwmeister’s poke check as he hit the top of the left circle by tapping the puck between his own legs without breaking stride.

This maneuver, however, left him at the bottom of the left circle — and on his backhand, to boot. Instead of flipping a low-percentage shot from this spot, Arvidsson dipped his right shoulder and chose the x-axis for the remainder of his skate, after initiating it on the y.

Veering right above the blue paint, Arvidsson came out on the other side of the crease with the puck now on his forehand. Like Bouwmeister before him, Blues goalie Jake Allen tried to prod the puck away from the Nashville trickster, and got similar results — except he couldn’t hold on to his stick.

The difficult part behind him, Arvidsson simply coasted until he saw a maximal opening in the net and with a swipe of the stick completed one of the most skillful rushes of the season.

12/30/2016 vs. St. Louis

In this section we present those extra-special efforts or just plain bizarre episodes where the puck happens to go in the net. We start with the most recent goals of note and work our way backward to the start of the season. Included are all the categories that these goals qualify for as well as a little teaser hint to prepare you for what’s coming. Those goals labeled “Best in Show” are literally that – the best goals of a particular scoring classification.

MICHAL KEMPNY, Blackhawks
FIRST NHL GOAL

After playing the first half of his 20s in eastern Europe, Czech-born defenseman Michal Kempny was signed by the Blackhawks prior to the 2016-17 season. He played in 50 games with Chicago and scored his first NHL goal in his 25th.

Kempny had just come on the ice during a change and his momentum carried him to the top of the left circle. The always-alert Jonathan Toews spotted him and softly distributed the puck so that Kempny could one-time it while skating forward.

Kempny obliged by stepping into the puck and blasting it by Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, pinging the post in the process.

Toews immediately embraced his Blackhawks teammate, likely fully aware of the moment, and wrapped his arm around his shoulder. Kempny returned the gesture, patting Toews repeatedly on his back — no doubt a great debt of gratitude mixed in with the excitement of his first NHL goal.

12/30/2016 vs. Carolina

So enjoy what you might have missed. And keep coming back each day for more of the most interesting goals scored during the NHL season.

THE SEASON’S MOST INTRIGUING GOALS

THE OVERTIME OVERTURE

It’s overtime! Too soon to break open the Buds? Not when they’re the “buds” it’s not. Pop a couple. Stick them in your ears. If you’re anything like me, you could last the entire 3-on-3 without a whistle on these. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing the league recognized iPods as legit performance enhancers!

This would be five minutes of uninterrupted madness. End-to-end. Sprawling poke checks. Then back on the skates for that overtime rarity: maniacal body checks. Headlong rushes whenever the puck was on my stick. If I put 10 shots on goal until one went in, that’s about what this anthem from Arcade Fire calls for. Doesn’t hurt that it was recorded not far from the Montreal Forum.

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EVERY NHL GOAL SCRUTINIZED, RANKED and CATALOGUED

S.A.T. DAY SATURDAY

1.) Which three players formed the Devils original “Crash Line”, which played a major part in the team’s 1995 Stanley Cup?

 

2.) The “Punch-Up in Piestany”, a brawl during the 1987 World Junior Championships that went on until the lights were turned out in the arena, resulted in the expulsion of which two teams from the tournament?

 

3.) Which active NHL player was born and grew up in Alabama?

 

4.) The first two native-born Koreans to play in the NHL were both drafted originally by the Penguins. Name either one.

 

5.) Which two teams were admitted to the NHL when the league expanded for a second time?

 

6.) Which defenseman captained the Flyers from 1968-73?

 

7.) Name one of the four players the Rangers gave up to acquire Mark Messier from the Oilers in 1991.

 

8.) Which school has produced the most Hobey Baker Award winners for top men’s NCAA hockey player?

a.) Harvard

b.) Minnesota-Duluth

c.) Bowling Green

d.) North Dakota

 

9.) Which Golden Gloves winner picked up in the rink where he left off in the ring for the New York Rangers?

 

10.) Which goaltender did Matt Murray supplant during the 2016 playoffs, for his first NHL postseason game?

 

 

May 27th, 2017|Categories: S.A.T. Day Saturday|2 Comments

CHRIS KUNITZ, PENGUINS — HEADS PENGUINS WIN, TAILS SENATORS LOSE

CHRIS KUNITZ, Penguins
HEADS PENGUINS WIN, TAILS SENATORS LOSE

If ever there were a game that might require a flip of a coin to guess the winner, it was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Senators and Penguins.

The two teams had split four one-goal games and each had won a blowout through the first six games of the series. Ottawa had led the series twice, Pittsburgh once. And though the Penguins had outshot the Senators 41-27 through three periods and then the first overtime, this was more an indication of Ottawa’s wait-and-pounce style than domination by Pittsburgh in Game 7.

So you might as well have tossed a coin to choose the winning team as the game went five minutes deep into the second overtime.

Or rather Chris Kunitz might as well have. But instead of a coin, the Penguins left wing, who had been held off the scoresheet in his first 13 playoff games this year, used a puck.

With a screen in front, Kunitz received a pass from Sidney Crosby just above the inside part of the left circle. He was perfectly set up for a one-timer and he timed his slap shot to greet the puck just as it entered his shooting area.

But a funny thing happened when Kunitz made contact. Well, maybe not funny in Canada’s capital, but funny as in strange. Instead of meeting it solidly and blasting it toward the Ottawa net, Kunitz struck it in such a way that the puck teetered off his stick.

Ottawa’s J.G. Pageau was directly in front of goalie Craig Anderson, however. So as the puck wobbled dangerously toward the net, Anderson never caught sight of it. In fact, while Kunitz’ intention for the puck was for it soar like a bird, instead, well . . . it rather resembled a Penguin in motion as it wavered its way over the shoulder of Anderson.

And in a flash, there were 19 Penguins looking more like peregrine falcons as they flew from the bench and ice to swarm the hero of the moment.

It seems in this postseason every Penguin has his day. And Kunitz chose his at the best possible time, scoring two of the three Pittburgh goals and assisting on the other in leading his team to the Stanley Cup finals.

5/25/2017 vs. Ottawa
May 26th, 2017|Categories: Goal Box|0 Comments

THREE-FER THURSDAY: Nikita Filatov Scores Half His Career Total in One Game

It wasn’t quite a hat trick of Joe Colborne proportions. Colborne on opening night this season scored three goals in the first 27 minutes of the game against Dallas — and then scored exactly once more in his remaining 61 games of the season for the Avalanche.

But when Nikita Filatov of Columbus netted his only career hat trick on Jan. 11, 2009, he accumulated half of his lifetime goals in one game. The Muscovite also became the first Blue Jacket player to score a hat trick, a shocking eight years into the franchise’s history.

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 entry draft ended up scoring four goals in eight games in his rookie year. But he drifted after that, scoring just twice more over parts of three seasons when his NHL career concluded in 2011-12 with Ottawa.

Filatov’s first goal of his hat trick, which came against the Wild in Columbus, was of the “luck is the residue of design” stripe. He split the defense just outside the Wild blue line and came in alone on goaltender Josh Harding, who made a lunge with his stick in between the circles to try to interrupt Filakov’s rush. The puck eluded him, however, and Filakov needed to do nothing more as the puck slid into the vacant net — with Filatov right behind it.

For the middle goal, Filatov received a diagonal pass from Michael Peca while streaking down the left wing. When he reached the top of the left circle, he slung a wrist shot by Harding which beat him cleanly.

Filatov completed his hat trick on another feed from Peca, this time positioning himself in the middle of the right circle. Peca dug the puck out of the corner and blindly backhanded a pass right on to his stick. Filakov had to pivot slightly to face the net and then ripped a hard wrist shot under Harding’s gloved hand.

And it was hats off in Columbus for Filatov, whose flame burned brightest on that history-making night not just for him, but the Blue Jackets franchise. But Filatov’s NHL candle was also pretty much extinguished on this night. Though Columbus made the playoffs for the first time in club history, Filatov was not part of the postseason team and, in fact, never got to experience a Stanley Cup tournament, before going back to play professionally in his native Russia.

May 26th, 2017|Categories: Three-fer Thursday|0 Comments

MIKE HOFFMAN, SENATORS — BEST IN CLASS (SLAP SHOT)

MIKE HOFFMAN, Senators
BEST IN CLASS — SLAP SHOT

Quick sticks by the Penguins had frustrated Ottawa all series from getting the transition game going which was so instrumental in the Senators wins over Boston and New York in the first two rounds.

The Erik Karlsson stretch passes have been nowhere to be seen. J.G. Pageau bolts from the blue have succumbed to the muck and the mire of alert Pittsburgh stick work on breakout passes. So when Ottawa finally got some open ice last night, it was up to Mike Hoffman to capitalize on it.

Defenseman Frederik Claesson centered a 3-on-2 rush after the Penguins Scott Wilson got caught up-ice after throwing a monster — but largely superflous — hit on Clarke MacArthur.

With wingers on either side accompanying him, Claesson dished off to Hoffman, who was a few strides ahead, but planted at the blue line on the left half boards to make sure Claesson entered the zone first.

Hoffman burst forward after receiving the puck, completely unattended to by the Pittsburgh defense. He stepped just inside the top of the left circle, waited for an instant to allow Claesson to cut across goaltender Matt Murray’s sight line, and ripped a slap shot in full stride past the glove of Murray and off the post and in.

The mere sight of all that open ice was enough to allow the fans at Canadian Tire Center a deep breath for a change. When the light burned red, a massive discharge of pent-up tension shook the building.

5/23/2017 vs. Pittsburgh
May 24th, 2017|Categories: Goal Box|0 Comments

CAM FOWLER, DUCKS — BEST IN CLASS (SCREEN)

CAM FOWLER, Ducks
BEST IN CLASS — SCREEN

The Ducks went down, but they went down valiantly.

If ever a team played a perfect game while still losing, it was Anaheim last night at Bridgestone Arena. With the Predators home crowd in full Rocky Horror midnight-showing mode, Anaheim thoroughly dominated Nashville in each zone and on the shot clock, but not, of course, on the scoreboard.

The 6-3 final score was inflated once again by the spate of empty-net goals which continue to throw scoring columns out of whack. Not counting the two empty-netters, the Ducks outshot the Predators, 41-16. They killed a five-minute penalty off in the first period without allowing a shot on goal with a gun to their head, having already fallen behind, 2-0. And they overcame a 3-1 third period deficit in this most hostile environment before allowing the game-winner to Colton Sissons following a power play of their own.

In fact it was this power play which seemed to throw Anaheim out of its rhythm. Even after Cam Fowler tied the game with 11 minutes left on the third period clock, the Ducks continued to roll through the neutral zone time after time, like waves cresting at the blue line before pounding their way to the front of the Nashville net. But once the Ducks tied the score it was almost as if they took a moment to reflect on their achievement rather than pressing with the same urgency that put the Predators on their heels the entire game.

The letdown led to a blown coverage in their own end, allowing Sissons […]

May 24th, 2017|Categories: Goal Box|0 Comments

MAYHEM MONDAY: Lightning vs. Flyers, April 8, 1998

Somewhere in the archives of 1970s sports magazines is a cover of a hockey player with blood streaming down his face. Couldn’t locate it, but have every reason to believe that the Flyers were complicit.

Whether he deserved it or not Philadelphia’s Daniel LaCroix evoked that image after an explosive brawl between the Flyers and Lightning in Tampa Bay.

His ravaged mug came courtesy of the man commonly regarded as the NHL’s first Russian enforcer, Andrei Nazarov.

It was a garden-variety, gloves-on, jersey-tugging affair in the middle of the ice until Nazarov bopped Lacroix but good without any apparent provocation. Lacroix recoiled in surprise more than anything, which left him quite defenseless when Nazarov did rid himself of his gloves and began to pound away with both hands.

Lacroix went down in a heap, partially motivated by befuddlement, and Nazarov backed away. Moments later when he got back to his skates, his cut had opened up and he was, it’s fair to say, a hot mess.

And so too had become the scene on the ice. With temperatures rising to the boiling point all around, Lacroix made sure that everyone stopped watching the pot when he took off in a sprint for the first Tampa jersey he could locate. The innocent bystander — and when was that ever said about him ? — turned out to be Darcy Tucker.

Tucker — completely unprepared for Lacroix’ assault — beat a hasty retreat, in a rare moment of flight over fight.

Here Nazarov re-enters the picture, flying after the temporarily insane Lacroix and tackling him from behind. The two quickly fell to the ice, limbs disappearing into each other’s sweaters. […]

May 22nd, 2017|Categories: Mayhem Monday|0 Comments
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HOCKEY ON SPORTS TALK RADIO: Bring Something to the Table, Please!

I think this particular pet peeve started sometime around 1979. There was no such thing as sports radio — and I think that might have been the year of ESPN’s inception. There were, in fact, no national radio shows. Maybe Larry King was on in the wee hours. But otherwise, it was all local, with feeds at the top of the hour from CBS.

But CBS also furnished 2-3 minute sports briefs for the bottom of the hour to their stations. And these were hosted by Brent Musburger, who, on a daily basis, I came to see as more and more evil.

Even before there was someone named LeBron, the man would fill his time with the same old predictable NBA filler every day, completely ignoring hockey as though it were a willful exercise. I’m trying to remember if he even acknowledged the 1980 Olympic team. I do recall him treating the Stanley Cup Playoffs with as much regard as the national Badminton championships. Yes it was that maddening.

All these years later, the situation has not improved. Or at least in any substantive way. CBS still has a sizable footprint in the sports radio arena and its hosts still routinely jump through hoops — pun intended — to ignore the NHL.

On those rare occasions that your ears perk up when scanning the dial because you heard a word that makes you think that maybe — nah — whoa, maybe hockey is a topic of discussion, when you get a little excited that maybe the fix isn’t in anymore, inevitably the discussion tracks down the same dispiriting course: Hockey’s not very popular, hockey isn’t good for ratings on a national show, blah, blah, blah, gag, gag, gag.

The truth is probably somewhere in between that and the fact that the hosts are too lazy to educate themselves on one of the sports which sells out its buildings every bit as frequently as the NBA does. And after all — they’re paid to move their mouths in such a way that “LeBron” comes out as many times as it can between commercials.

So, little-by-little, through the years, I’ve tried to piece together why this abomination never changes.

My conclusions, while not exonerating the indolent radio personalities, also, I’m afraid, must lay a fair amount of blame at the feet of hockey fans.

Not only, it turns out, are all politics local. It’s inescapable that all hockey is too.

Now this might be a chicken or egg scenario. If the media covered the sport more actively, then the passive elements of the public would become more educated about it and gradually fold it into their sports-viewing habits.

It’s here, however, that I’m going to lay out numerous reasons why the NHL will never enjoy strong ratings. And they all have to do with how great the game is.

Unlike every other televised sport, you are not at liberty when watching a hockey game to divide your attention. In the other three majors, you can pretty much time your focus to match the action as it ramps up. Baseball — late innings, runners on. Football — the progression of a drive. Basketball — two minutes left in the game or less.

But hockey gives you decidedly less freedom to be casual with your viewing. Hell, sometimes you can’t even risk talking during the action or you’ll miss a phenomenal save or an odd-man rush. Both of which could have everything to do with the outcome of the game

This is not a kick back and veg out viewing experience. You need to time your bathroom breaks. If you’re going to cook dinner, you’d better make sure you get your food prep done between periods 1 and 2 and the oven is preheated by the time second intermission rolls around.

Already, by sheer virtue of this necessity to pay rapt attention, hockey has probably already lost 75% of its prospective audience. Hockey is intense to watch. It is most certainly not relaxing. At the end of a workday, only rabid sports fans are looking to ramp up the intensity in their lives.

Or the gamblers. And for bettor or worse, hockey is a game you don’t want to touch, given the fact that spreads are often decided by empty net goals. Very few feel confident about beating hockey lines, no matter how expert they might be as sports bettors.

So now the casual viewer and the betting public are eliminated from the field of potential viewers. In the world of sports audeinces this takes a big bite out of the whole pie.

But this leads us to the final piece of the puzzle, and it’s one that pains me greatly.

Going back to my earlier premise, hockey fans seem to abandon their sport in droves once their favorite team is eliminated. Does the interest in the sport for most of them derive solely from tribal impulses? Is the hate of all things not the home team so compulsive that engagement in the remaining playoff matches fails to excite?

It’s all mystifying to me. When the Islanders got eliminated on the last day of the season, I couldn’t wait for the playoffs to start, even without them. And here we are, just halfway through to the Cup and I feel — as I do every year — that I’ve witnessed the finest drama that sports can offer, and it happens unrelentingly, night after night. How is it that so few others get it?

There is likely a transition going on in the hockey world from one iteration of fans to the next. With the decision having been made that the embarrassing spectacle of brawls on the ice is not good for the long-term outlook of the sport, I sense many fans have lost their reason to watch games that don’t involve their own team. Their loss, obviously.

The shame of it is that precisely because of the great reduction in fighting, the games themselves have become far more highly-skilled athletic contests. Rosters are no longer populated by 15 guys who can fight if called upon and three who would rather not. And yet, precisely because of this emphasis on speed and conditioning, the violent aspects of the game itself have only intensified.

With the red line eliminated on off-sides plays, players are both flying around the ice with more abandon and getting knocked to it from more forceful collisions. So what’s been lost in flagrant brutality has largely been replaced by collisions occurring at far higher speeds than in football, with demolition-derby-like outcomes.

But the old-guard fan might never forgive the league for purging the gratuitous violence. And a sizable portion of the sports audience who always reviled the fighting might not even be aware that it’s been significantly reduced. Or for them, perhaps, one fight that isn’t immediately broken up is one too many. That’s the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t tightrope the league must walk.

One thing for certain, however, is the games are now captivating enough to sell the sport on its merits. Spending caps have led to parity and parity has led to close games. It was those 8-3 blowouts that were hard to watch once the outcome was not in doubt. And those fans needed fights to look forward to.

I’d like to conclude that the NHL is occupying some in-between phase, where those who were most attracted to the sport for the fighting are succumbing to attrition and fans of often whistle-free, breakneck competition are taking their place. But as with everything else about this amazingly complex, chaotic sport, it’s never that simple.

Pro sports are now personality driven like never before. Columnists actually bemoan the fact that more players aren’t like Bryce Harper. Virtue is out, controversy is in. Problem is, hockey players are a humble, team-oriented lot, where egotistic behavior is thoroughly discouraged in the locker room.

Watch a hockey bench after a big goal. These guys, aside from the emotion they all convey, always look for the nearest teammate to embrace. Does this happen in dugouts after big home runs? On courtside benches following a clutch shot? See the contrast?

So all the teeth-gnashing about hockey players having no personality is not right. They just don’t have loathsome personalities.

But there’s also an indigenous aspect of the game that prevents players from becoming easily recognizable. Not only are they on the ice for a minute or so at the most until they’re off the ice again, but their contributions are frequently undetectable.

Sidney Crosby can have a goal and two assists in the game and if the goal came on a redirect from the slot and the assists were on putbacks into the corner, you’ll have no recollection of seeing Sidney Crosby dominate the game, though he might well have.

Forget about how hard it is to follow the puck on TV for a moment. I think that’s a simplistic take on why hockey fails to get a big viewing audience. The real reason is that the superstars do not regularly make your eyes bulge out of your head, or at the very least don’t do things which are easily absorbed by simply following the puck around.

The game is too much of a Rube Goldberg contraption to instantly make sense to anyone but the most intent of viewers. Since the casual fan is never going to be able to recite back to you the last 20 seconds of action if you put him on the spot, the casual fan is never going to feel comfortable watching hockey. In the end, it really is that simple.

But for the rest of us, this is a golden age. Not just for the quality of the games and the intensity of seven weeks of playoff competition. But also for the outstanding, straightforward, often-witty and literate presentation of the telecasts. From the studio personalities to the exceptionally deep roster of play-by-play announcers and analysts, you never feel you’re being played. That a player is being overmarketed or is made out to be better than they really are. There is no effort to discover the next Derek Sanderson and foist him on you as the face of the league.

Oddly, though, there is an iconography that is unmatched by other sports. The Stanley Cup is only the most visible symbol of hockey’s distinctiveness from other sports. No less intrinsic is the handshake line, where — again — we’re reminded of the camaraderie underlying all the fury. And, of course, fans from Sunrise, Fl. to Vancouver, B.C. are equally ready to doff their caps and part with them in honor of anyone on the home team who scores three goals in a game.

It’s a beautiful pristine sport in that way. The fans bond with the players. And at the completion of the season, the players salute them right back.

And maybe — just maybe — some people just don’t like to get that close.