Saturday, January 19, 2013

My First Hockey Post

Hi, my name is _______, and I am a hockey fan.

It almost seems that you need to do that in order for people to understand you. "You're a hockey fan? Even with all the crap the NHL has put you through? Your seasons never start on time! Hockey shouldn't be played in the summer! Blah blahblahblahblahblah?"

Yes, even with all the crap the NHL has put me through, I am still a fan of hockey. Exhibit A: as I was preparing to go out and run my errands, I turned on the Blackhawks-Kings game and was immediately drawn in. In the first five minutes of the game, there was a 5-on-3 and Chicago scored a goal. How does anyone not get drawn in?

As my father says, hockey is the best sport to watch on an HD TV, too. The whiteness of the ice really makes the players pop out of the picture - not to mention it's a lot easier to follow the puck, too. No bright flashes of red or blue necessary, FOX.

Some hockey fans vow to never watch or attend the sport ever again because of what the NHL did to them. Really? I feel like those fans were never fans of hockey in the first place - they simply watched it because their home team played great and won the Stanley Cup or something like that. With the first sign of bad things happening, they were going to drop hockey regardless. But true hockey lovers were just waiting - like NBA and NFL fans back in 2011. They were ticked off, but they weren't going to stay away.

And the teams, to be fair, are really trying to get their average fans back in any ways they can. The Detroit Red Wings offered their fans a scrimmage in Plymouth, and the traffic brought M-14 to a crawling pace. The Pittsburgh Penguins are giving out free concession items at their first four home games of the season. The Colorado Avalanche are selling Opening Night tickets at a 2-for-1 price.

I was excited to see the NHL season begin, simply because now I live in Avalanche country. I am hoping that both Colorado and Detroit are contenders this season (which shouldn't be too hard; the season is only 48 games long), because to see that rivalry renewed while living in enemy territory would be terribly exciting! If I made it to a Red Wings-Avalanche game at the Pepsi Center, I'm sure I wouldn't be the only Detroit fan in attendance, either. It wouldn't feel like a home game like in, perhaps, Phoenix, but we Red Wings fans travel well.

As for the Red Wings themselves, it shouldn't be too much of a transition to have Henrik Zetterberg be the captain instead of Nicklas Lidstrom. But it will be difficult to fill in the big gap that Lidstrom (and Brad Stuart, who left for San Jose) left in the defense. Goalie Jimmy Howard had a good campaign in 2011-2012, and that consistency will help the incredibly young defense he's got in front of him. What I'm more concerned about is the loss of Tomas Holmstrom, who retired a couple of weeks ago. Holmstrom was a mainstay in front of the opposing net, and drove many goalies crazy while providing Detroit players with plenty of scoring opportunities. Who is going to be nuts enough on this team to replace that?

Breakneck seasons like this one allow for a lot of anxiety, stress, and hyperactivity - which is exactly what you'd want to see on an NHL rink. A game in January used to be meaningless; now it's proof that the team is getting off on the right foot. The only teams that wouldn't be in the playoff race in April are the ones that fell flat on their faces when the puck dropped for the first time.

Next weekend, there is not one football game. What are you going to do with your Saturday and Sunday afternoons? You can't possibly fill the entire weekend with college basketball. Add some spice to your weekend: watch some hockey! And then you'll realize that maybe, just maybe, you've missed it - just like I have.