Making Practice Public

This is NOT a sports blog, though sports is one area that I'm willing to delve into from time to time. If this does appear to be a sports blog this week and you aren't a sports fan, bare with me because they'll be other material, too.

Yesterday at the urging of a friend, I attended the Blackhawks practice, nothing out of the ordinary (like the rumored pushing and shoving between Havlat and Keith the other day) and actually kind of boring. I don't know how much I'd attend practices in the future unless I was paid for it (hint, hint?).

Anyways, it was a bit surprising that a professional sports team would open up their practices to the public. I knew the Caps hold open practices (and if I ever make it to DC, I'll go and make sure my Ovie jersey gets autographed) and so I sort of thought it was common amongst NHL teams, so I sent our research assistant to dig up some findings on the matter.

The teams that were found to host open practices are the (already mentioned) Hawks and Caps, as well as Atlanta, LA, Carolina, St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, Philly, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver. It's a mixture of non-traditional hockey markets and crappy teams. It was a very quick, unscientific review of the websites, I'm not saying the other teams don't hold open practices (the only team that said absolutely that practices were closed was Minnesota). Colorado, Dallas, and Vancouver didn't offer great information, but from digging, it could be found. Tampa Bay has some open practices, though they require a McDonald's receipt if you want to get in. Carolina was the best about practices, including opening up their pregame skates and practices in their actual arena to the public (instead of off day practices at a different facility).

It's not like these practices are stimulating entertainment, but its great for the kids and others who are interested in the team or want to see how the pros do things. Why is it that the NHL is the only professional league in the US with open practices? I guess baseball is kind of open with batting practice (and who would want to watch a baseball "practice"), but football (other than training camp) and basketball are closed. So what makes hockey unique? Is it only another attempt at building a fan base or is there more to it?

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