Defence may win championships, but offence sells the sport. Don’t get me wrong, a quick glove hand save or a last second block are exciting moments to watch too, but they don’t inspire as much awe as a bar down snap shot or a put back two handed jam. This doesn’t only hold true for single moments of athletic feats, but for complete style of play either. Many people would prefer watching the high flying Edmonton Oilers of the 80s then watch the paint drying boredom of the New Jersey Devils neutral zone trap. Both teams were successful winning multiple Stanley Cups but if you had to describe what hockey was to someone who never saw the game before, which team would you choose? The Oilers, exactly.
So it is pretty cool that we have seen a resurgence recently of that high octane style of play. We had a team score 10 goals in an NHL game this year; we had Alex Ovechkin score a hat trick in the third period of one game, followed up by a hat trick in the first period of the following game. We also shouldn’t overlook the fact that those same stingy, boring Devils are now playing a fast, more free flowing game. Last night’s 1-0 overtime loss notwithstanding. Even our beloved Maple Leafs, despite some spells of sloppy play, have already been pressing the offensive pedal to maximum overdrive. It may not result in a number of record breaking goals this year, but the number of scoring chances have gone up and even some of those are jaw-dropping. It makes you keep watching as something magical can happen at any time.
The most interesting part of this return to a pro-offence style is that, it isn’t just a hockey phenomena. The Major League Baseball season may be over but the questions have not gone away. Are they juiced? Are the stitches tighter? Are the baseballs really any different than they were last year or are all these questions just posed by conspiracy theorists? Before you believe it may be hogwash, take a look at these stats from the World Series MVP George Springer. He is the only player to hit a homerun in four straight Series games. He has the record for extra base hits with 8; record for total number of bases with 29 and tied a couple of players for most home runs with 5.
We all know how well the Golden State Warriors can score that no opponent lead ever seems safe. But this isn’t the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns era where they were the only team to run the 7 second offence. They were the only team that did that because when it came down to crunch time, they could never win it all. The Warriors on the other hand, are champions and as such, champions breed copycats. So now we are in the era where the 3 point shot is key, where great defence still plays a part in a winning formula, but it comes just at important moments in the game and not for the full 48 minutes. The Toronto Raptors just finished beating the Houston Rockets and the New Orlean Pelicans back-to-back scoring over 120 points in each night! In the postgame interview Kyle Lowry stated, “We had a pretty good offensive game.” Talk about an understatement. I began to wonder with all these high scores, if all those arena contests will have to be increased. Can you imagine the Raptors having to score 120 points and win for fans to get their pizza slice?
It wasn’t too long ago, during some of those darker days in Raptor history, when coach Kevin O’Neil stressed a defensive style. Scoring a 100 points in a game was such an impossibility that they picked a “random” number each game for the pizza contest. 82 one night, maybe 74 another and if memory doesn’t fail me, I swore I saw a couple of games being in the high 60s. Well, against the Rockets the Raptors scored 103 points by the end of the third quarter. Oh my goodness how times have changed.
Whether it is rule changes, a juiced ball or just being a copycat, this new era of offence across sports is fantastic to see. I am sure at some point some defensive minded SOB will come in and spoil the party, but until then just enjoy it. I mean, even if it does wind up being at the cost of a slice of pizza every now and then, it still is well worth it.
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