It’s time for the most important best-of-seven series in hockey. Tonight starts the Stanley Cup Final between the New Jersey Devils and LA Kings. If you’re reading this it’s very likely that a) you follow me on Twitter (thanks for that, by the way), b) you’re a music fan who is confused by all this sports content on the blog (it happens, I’m sorry) or, c) you’re a hockey fan who has dropped by the blog before (and I appreciate it!).
If you fall into set A or C, I imagine that you’re likely to watch the Cup Final anyway. But if you’re like me, you’ve got more than a few friends who are sports fans but not hockey fans. They might be noticing that annual slight uptick in ESPN hockey coverage. This is your opportunity to help that friend take the next step and join the ranks of the hockey faithful: get them to watch the Stanley Cup Final.
But maybe this seems like a daunting task. Maybe you’re concerned about their reaction to a new game. Let’s work though this together and get them in the fold.
1. Invite them to watch it with food and beer. Food is a universal selling point and beer follows close behind. Make it easy and appealing for your friends. Do a cookout and watch the game (that’s what I plan to do: burgers, dogs, corn, and hockey). Order a pizza and grab a six pack. Go to your nearest Buffalo Wild Wings. Just make sure there’s food and an HD television around. It’s much easier to like something when you’ve got the power of positive food association on your side.
2. Sell them on the storylines. I’ve done quite a few numbers-based posts, and I’m not overly fond of following perceptions or narratives. But some easy (and accurate) stories might make the game more accessible and compelling to the outsider. Try a few of these. They should bite on at least one of them if you sell the stories:
a) Zach Parise is an American Hero. If the game is too Canadian for your friends, bring the red-white-and-blue into the mix. Remind them that Mr. Parise was responsible for one of the biggest goals of the last Winter Olympics. You know, this one that pulled the underdog Americans even in the gold medal game:
Just don’t mention how the rest of that game went. Bask in the glory of the brilliant Parise.
b) Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. You can try to spin a tale of betrayal and eventual success as the former Flyer leaders were jettisoned from their team only to find themselves on a more successful team than the one that traded the players. Their winning a Cup would be the ultimate “eff you” to Philly GM Paul Holmgren. (Tip: don’t use this reason on Philadelphia or Columbus fans. They necessarily be so sympathetic to these guys.)
c) Ilya Kovalchuk and Anze Kopitar are offensive dynamos. Don’t use the word “enigmatic” when describing Kovalchuk. Just label these guys as some of the most dominant players in the NHL and simply dazzling to watch work with the puck. Kovalchuk’s devastating wrist shot is a thing of wonder, and Kopitar’s a one-man army that will use his talent to humiliate the opposition.
d) The battle of the goalies. Jonathan Quick is a young goalie pushing to validate all the regular-season praise and he’s probably the best goalie on the planet at this moment. He may well win the playoff MVP even if his team loses. Marty Brodeur is the aging wonder who is pushing for one more Cup to cap off an illustrious career. And even though he’s not what he used to be, Brodeur is doing reasonably this postseason. Here’s one more chance to watch a surefire hall of famer at work.
3) Don’t force hockey onto them. If they’re reluctant, maybe hockey just isn’t their thing. Trying to force enjoyment or fabricate a fan might just alienate them from the sport. If things don’t work out, buy them a cheap ticket to a live game next year and try to sell them on the live experience before moving on to TV-viewing.
But the positive outcomes of a successful conversion are too hard to ignore. I know that I’m going to try. Just think, if you can get even one more friend hooked on hockey you’ll have another person to share you favorite sport with next year. So get those grills going (or dial your favorite pizza place), grab a beer, sit them in front of a TV and encourage them to fall for the game you already love.