They say that hockey is a sport that sells itself. Supposedly, every person that sees the game live will find love at first sight. But we all know that's not true. We all have that skeptical friend who 'wished they'd scored more goals,' and we accept his poorly constructed critique because, frankly, there are sports that we dislike for equally flimsy rationales.
And we often forget how hard it is (and should be) to sell a game to an audience that did not grow up playing it. I mean, I didn't expect to pick up the intricacies of cricket after watching a single match.
You get so much from playing a sport. Just playing it. Forget the rules, the systems and the proper form. The best way to sell a sport is to give someone the tactile experience of just playing the game. That's where the enthusiasm for any sport takes root: the first time you bury a jumpshot, catch a football going deep, go top shelf with the puck or scream 'Howzat?' (that's cricket).
You translate that enthusiasm to the viewing experience.
How many of us dig out an old baseball glove because our tickets are in foul territory that night? You see that streak of lightning come your way, hear the thunder clap of leather striking leather, and suddenly, you're a child again. You toss the ball back and forth with your friends all the way to the car, reliving your own personal web gem.
And you can always find takers for the halftime football game on Thanksgiving. Afterwards, your sister plops down next to you on the couch, still gripping the football and fresh from her three-touchdown performance. She didn't care through two quarters, but suddenly, she's interrogating you for everything you know about the Cover 2 defense.
The small but impossibly satisfying joys of the game will always elude its pure spectators.
Hockey isn't any different. If you want to sell the sport, then sell someone the game. Deepen their appreciation of the interminable moments between goals, where every person is just fighting for possession. Don't worry about skates. Ideally, you should always skate, but it's the one piece of equipment whose ownership and mastery usually cuts your willing participants in half.
Just get some sticks and a puck (or even a tennis ball), and take your skeptical friends to a basketball court, or a parking lot, or even into the street (as long as you observe proper Car!/Game-on! signaling). Introduce them to the faceoff, and make them work for it. Watch them awkwardly handle the puck, then lift their stick blade and take it the other way. Then, after the game, tell them you had fun with them, but you wished they'd scored more goals.