Now that the NHL lockout is a thing of the past, it is time to look forward to a season that will, in all likelihood, start on January 19th. Here are five things that will hopefully make you forget about Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr in the near future.
1- The shortened season
Some people are saying that a shortened season is not a real season, and that the winners of the Stanley Cup won’t fully deserve their names on hockey’s holy grail.
I completely disagree.
During every 82 game season, all teams let up and don’t play to their highest potential in at least ten to fifteen games. In this year’s shortened season -either 48 or 50 games- no teams will be willing to give up on games as easily as they usually do. In essence, every game takes on added importance, which calls for a great season from beginning to end.
Of course the first few games will be erratic and out of sync for most of the players who didn’t play competitive hockey in over 10 months, but this could actually mean more goals and more wide-open hockey for us fans.
2-The players owe it to the fans
Any player who has pride and love for the game (and they all do), will give its absolute best day-in, day-out in this shortened season. They haven’t played in the NHL in a while, and they all miss it.
The players know they need to retain their fans in order to keep earning their big salaries in the future, and I believe they will do everything within their power to put on a great show. They are all super excited to come back and the intensity level jumped in rinks throughout North America the day after the players found out the lockout had finally ended.
3- The active players vs the inactive players
Over 200 NHL players went overseas to play in professional leagues in Europe during the lockout. The young NHLers were also allowed to play in the AHL. In total, close to 300 of the 750 NHL players have played competitively since October.
Of course, the intensity of these games played abroad will never compare to an NHL game, but at least those players had a chance to lace up their skates and play for a reason.
Fans are addicted to fantasy hockey and hockey pools, and it will be interesting to see if the players who have played competitively will dominate the games and fill the score sheets, at least in the early going.
4- Will Sidney Crosby stay healthy?
One of the biggest stories during the previous season was the whole saga regarding Sidney Crosby’s return to the NHL after a prolonged convalescence caused by several concussions.
On the day of his return against the New York Islanders, Sid the Kid put on an absolute show. He scored a magnificent first period goal, to let every one across the league know he was back and he meant business. He finished that game with a total of four points, but eventually succumbed to another injured later in the season, followed by another comeback attempt.
If healthy, there is no doubt Crosby is the best and most exciting hockey player in the world, but he is very fragile. Luckily for him, the time off could have potentially been the best thing to happen to his young career, which was in jeopardy of ending way earlier than expected.
Crosby made his NHL debut after the last lockout, and should finally return full-time to the ice after this most recent work stoppage. At 25, the Penguins’ captain is entering the prime of his career, and it would be a shame for him, the league and the fans to lose an amazing talent to repeated concussions. We can only hope Crosby will stay healthy for the remainder of his career. And life for that matter.
I will be very brief in the final thing to look for in this year’s NHL season because injuries are something that we, as fans, don’t ever want to see. We want the best product on the ice, and we don’t even want our rivals’ best players to be hurt, because we want to beat their team’s at their strongest.
But unfortunately, we all know that guys who have been out of the game for a long period of time are prone to groin injuries. Also, in order to give the best possible spectacle, the grinders of the game will throw some glass-breaking hit out there at some point, potentially resulting in more head injuries.
Hockey is the fastest and most physical game out there, unfortunately meaning there is no escaping the fact that injuries will occur throughout the season, no matter how short or long it is.
- By Manny Frag
- January 8, 2013