The NHL is the Best Professional Sports League in all of Sports



The Logos of the 4 Major Professional Sports Leagues

Michael Czekaj, Staff Writer

The National Basketball Association was founded on June 6, 1946. The league, which features Hall of Famer Jerry West on the logo, is composed of 30 teams and has been widely considered as the premier basketball league in the world, and young basketball players dream of playing in it. This league was on top of the sports world in the 1980s and 1990s.

The NFL was a very fun professional football league for a long time since being founded in 1967. Unfortunately, excessively called penalties, countless commercials, life-threatening injuries, and players with bad reputations have killed the league’s fun.

The MLB has been known as “America’s Pastime” for a long, long time, but about ⅔ of the league has experienced massive attendance drops, probably because the game of baseball has experienced no change since it was created over a century ago. Thus, it is among the slowest moving sports, along with golf.

All told, the NHL is now the best league in professional sports. Here are some reasons why.

The NBA playoffs are similar to the format of the NHL playoffs. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. In the NHL, it’s more divisional, so you’ll often see the top two or three teams in each conference play in the first or second round. In the NBA, the #1 seed plays the #8 seed, the #2 plays the #7, and so on. Every year, the record of the eighth seed team in the East and West is either exactly at, slightly above or even below 500. The top teams usually have 60+ wins, so they are significantly better than their first-round opponents.  It isn’t until the conference finals when we see real competition. In the NFL, the Super Bowl champions have to win 3 playoff games and then the championship. In the MLB, there is nationwide hate on the Wild Card game, which is played between the bottom two playoff teams in the American League (AL) and National League (NL). The winners head to a best-of-five series with the highest-seeded division winner. Then there is a best-of-seven series in the AL and NL and then the World Series. I think that if MLB teams can survive a 162-game regular season, then they can play a longer postseason than what they currently do. In the NHL, you never know what will happen. There are four best-of-seven rounds in the NHL playoffs, and nothing comes easy in them. In 2017, the Nashville Predators (worst ranked team), made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville swept the Presidents Trophy winners, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the first round. No Presidents Trophy-winning team has won the Stanley Cup since the Blackhawks did in 2013. It’s nice to watch a long postseason where terms like “odds’ and “momentum” don’t seem to exist.

Another reason why the NHL is the best league is parity. Over the past decade, the same teams or players seem to be among the top in the NBA every year. LeBron James-led teams have made it to the NBA Finals every year since 2011. In 2017, the Penguins were the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings did in 1998. The Penguins were also the first team to repeat in the salary cap era. In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have been the NBA Finalists every year since 2015. In these past few years, NBA fans knew that no one was good enough to stop them from getting there. Now the Warriors’ starting lineup features 5 of the top 15 players in the league and they will be great for a while. The NHL has only had one Stanley Cup Final matchup that was also the matchup the previous year in nearly 40 years.

The NHL salary cap is not as high as in other professional sports leagues. There are always stars on the move. NBA players have shown that they are disloyal by taking pay cuts just so they can sign with the best teams to win championships. NFL superstars are rarely traded and rarely sign with other teams, unless if they are underachieving on a bad team, and are then sold for late-round draft picks. A star could also get really greedy and want more money than what their team has to offer. This kind of thing doesn’t happen a lot in the NHL.

One more reason the NHL is on top of the professional sports world doesn’t have to do with the league itself, but has more to do with endorsing the league and its reputation. NHL players rarely get into trouble off the ice. If they do, they either receive a lengthy suspension or a ban from the league entirely. NHL officials believe that off-the-ice issues are far more important than that player’s talent on the ice. The MLB and NBA actually do a good job of this as well. The punishments they give out are similar to the NHL’s. But when it comes to the NFL, it’s a whole different story. An NFL player seems to get in trouble off the field every few weeks. The punishments they receive are very brief (usually 4-6 games) and the officials leave it up to the team owners to make a decision about these players’ careers. The NHL (and NBA and MLB) know that there is a lot more to a great pro athlete than just their talent.

The last reason why the National Hockey League is the best professional sports league in the world is as simple as this: speed. There is no doubt that hockey is the fastest sport in the world. As I mentioned before, baseball moves at a pace of a grown-up snail. Not to mention the overly excessive amount of commercials during an MLB game. Football has 30-40 second stoppages between 5-10 second plays, plus the large number of commercials that air during NFL games. Timeouts and frequent player injuries don’t help its case either. Basketball can be fast for a solid amount of time, but in the NBA, aside from the fast breaks, the players perform a heck of a lot of walking and standing around. But in the NHL, it’s almost another world when it comes to the pace of the game. Players skate on frozen water that is less than 5 inches thick and run into each other at the same time. Have you ever heard of anyone complaining about a sport being too fast-paced? I haven’t.

The NHL is on the rise and every other league either has no direction or is on the decline. There seems to be no sign of stopping for the NHL, either.