-- As an attorney in the early 1990s, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was able to see the inner workings of a number of professional sports leagues.
None, he said, compared to hockey.
Daly and Philadelphia Flyers President Paul Holmgren were honored Thursday with the 2014 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
Daly might be biased. As one of the leaders of a multibillion-dollar organization, Daly sees how the NHL works and has played a direct role in the League’s growth and popularity in recent years. Before that, he was an ardent fan of the game for many years that as a kid growing up in New York.
But on its most simple level, Daly believes in hockey because of the passion of the people involved in the game.
“That’s one of things that continue to amaze me,” Daly said. “I can honestly say, you don’t see the same passion and you don’t see the same connection [in other sports] that you see in hockey. I think it has to do with that hockey culture that makes it special.”
Daly believes that passion is fueled at the lowest levels of the sport and a bond that begins when a young player plays for the first time. He believes in the family aspect of the sport itself.
“It’s a hockey family,” Daly said. “It’s a broader hockey family, not just limited to the National Hockey League. It's hockey at all levels; the parents, the families that are involved.”
Daly relayed a story from Thursday when he and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman participated in a question-and-answer session with Minnesota Wild season-ticket holders as to why he feels so passionately about the sport.
“The question of player conduct came up and why, knock on wood, of all the major sports leagues, we seem to have the least amount of those types of [domestic violence] problems. Gary hit something bang-on which I had never really given a lot of thought to.
“He thinks that a part of that can be attributed to the fact that hockey is such a family game. As a youngster, if you want to play this sport, you need parents, or adults willing to take you to the rink and tie your skates and get you equipment, and drive you hundreds of miles to get to your traveling games. It’s that time spent with family that’s part of the education process and instills good family values.”