OK. It's starting to look like NHL and NHLPA have their heads firmly wedged in each other's rectums; finding that they may have to destroy the game in order to save the game. I do not consider baseball an actual sport (it's America's "National Pastime" after all), NBA basketball is unwatchable, I'd have to pay extra money to get decent soccer on TV, leaving NFL football as the default spectator sport for the Fall. I kind of gave up on football a few years ago.
I thought I'd to a little "what-if" exercise and try to identify some NFL players that might have made decent hockey players. Starting (and ending) with the hometown Denver Broncos...
Attributes: Excellent speed (particularly in his youth) with very quick feet, good hand-eye coordination, good field vision and anticipation, willing and able to hit and take a hit to make a play, transitions to offense quickly on a turnover (and played wide receiver some in college).
Projected Position: Wing
I think Bailey would have made an awesome 2-way wing. He has a good combination of size and speed, and he's a guy the puck would just seem to find at the right moment. Dangerous with the puck and responsible in his own end, he's also a leader in the dressing room. He has the hockey players skill for understatement, not blowing his own horn, because the crest on the front of the sweater is more important than the name on the back.
Attributes: Cerebral aggression. Urlacher seems to know where the play is going, often before the other team breaks the huddle, and will do what is necessary to be in the right spot so the play comes to him. Urlacher was considered undersized when he entered the NFL, but that makes him just about right for hockey. He has good agility, able to drop in coverage as well as attack the line of scrimmage.
Projected Position: Defense
Brian Urlacher is kind of an old-school type player. You could see him in the 40s or 50s playing both linebacker and fullback and being feared equally on both sides of the ball. I think hockey would suit him. He wouldn't have to wear a face mask, he could actually beat people up if they go for his knees, and I bet he would have had a powerful, if unpredictable, slapshot. At the defensive end the corners and the crease would be places of fear and carnage.
Attributes: Great field vision and ability to distribute the ball. In his youth he had pretty good speed, and he still has the ability to change direction quickly and move around in the pocket. He's small for the NFL, but at 6', 209 lbs he's just about the right size to play as a top-6 forward.
Projected Position: Center
I've often wondered how the skillsets of the quarterback and the top line center overlap. Both have to know where the play is going. In football, it's mostly scripted, until everything breaks down, when it becomes more like hockey. Brees has shown the ability to improvise and find the open player. Most quarterbacks are willing to take the big hit if it means the big play, and Brees is no different. In a different universe (say, Canada), Brees might have been a great setup man.
Attributes: Quickness off the ball with great reflexes. Long arms and strong legs. Dumerville has the ability to find the ball through traffic because he's not as tall as most of the offensive linemen he faces. Great focus and intensity during the game; he doesn't take a play off. Gets up quickly when knocked down.
Projected Position: Goalie
Yes, it's a stretch. I think goaltender in hockey has such a unique skillset and mindset that projecting other athletes onto the position is tough. But, for completeness, I had to do something. Dumerville is short, but has unreasonably long arms, and he is very quick and athletic. You get the feeling that if he were in net, there wouldn't be too many teams that would run the goalie.
OK, I've made my picks. Put yours in the comments.
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