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Tuesday, February 5,2013

Fastest Game On Foot Returns

By Mark Tudino  

A question: Which team won the championship in NHL hockey last year? Can’t remember? Don’t care? Well, for those who do, the answer is at the end of the column (and no peeking). But for a rink full of devoted fans, especially if your zip code is 10038, 48009, 02201 or any number of Canadian provincial codes (which I can never get straight), February marks the first full month of the world’s signature winter sport. I know I’ve extolled the virtues of basketball as the true global game, supplanting even soccer, but when it comes to capturing the true essence of winter, nothing beats Six-on-Six on a frozen pond, with all the hitting of football, the speed of

Nascar and the skill of golf.

Now, down here the hockey season may be seen as nothing more than a respite to bridge the end of the football season, and the first pitch of baseball, but I promise that is NOT the case in the aforementioned zip codes (respectively, New York, Detroit and Boston – plus all of Canada). It’s ironic - in the video age, the one sport which translates so poorly over television (even Hi-Def) is hockey. Watch a game on TV and it’s mildly interesting; go to a hockey rink and watch out! The atmosphere is cool (literally), the hitting against the boards intense, the acrobatics of the goalies is something to marvel, and the speed of the game is breathtaking. Remember, these guys travel the 200 foot length of a rink in less than 5 to 7 seconds; that kind of athleticism is hard to fathom – unless you see it in person. Then there’s the fighting. OK, I admit, I´m not a big fan of the “gooning up” of the game, but then I remember these guys are punching, moving and grabbing. All while standing on blades less than quarter inch wide. Say what you will, but that takes some type of skill.

In Florida, we’re lucky as both pro franchises have tasted success. For Tampa Bay’s Lightning, they literally drank from the Stanley Cup as champions of the 2003-04 season; they feature one of the games bright young stars in Steven Stamkos. For the Panthers of Sunrise, they enter the season a defending champions of their division and hope to build on the momentum of last year.

So, while the price of admission is not cheap (some seating can reach up to $300 for a family of four), the thrills provided by the fastest game on foot are terrific. So, do yourself a favor and get down to Sunrise (or to Tampa) and see what all the fuss is about. You may even see? witness? the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, if they’re in town.

Game on!!


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