Wednesday, January 23, 2013

So can we talk about how much I missed hockey?

Yes, yes, yes, I know none of you are really going to be as excited about this as I am when all the attention focused on the American sports world right now has to do with the first annual Har-bowl spectacular, but really, how many stories about the strong bond between these two brothers can you read over the next two weeks? Answer: not very many. It's going to get boring after a while. It might get nearly as redundant as the stories about Ray Lewis chasing a title in his "last ride," a story that is only important because there are obviously no players on the 49ers with long productive careers that have never won a championship or anything. So don't worry, we probably won't be hearing about any of them, just like we haven't heard about any of them so far.

The Harbaugh brothers and Ray Lewis are basically going to be the only people in the Superdome next weekend.

Until then, however, we need something to fill our time and I have just the thing for you. There was quite a bit of skepticism from media pundits about how hockey might be negatively impacted by its third major work stoppage in 20 years, but attendance, TV ratings and ticket sales all seem to argue otherwise. Now, anyone who was following the action leading up to the season openers probably could have read the tea leaves and known fan response would be strong, but for me, personally, as I sat down on my couch last night and watched the Devils thump the Flyers on national TV while I watched the Blackhawks pick up a big division win against St. Louis on my iPad, all I could think was one thing.

"Holy crap, I missed this."

Now, I probably watch more hockey than most of you so perhaps I was simply going through withdrawal since my addiction wasn't being fed, but watching a game you love when you've gone longer than expected without seeing it is a hell of a lot of fun. And so far, it's been a hell of a lot of fun. Granted, I may simply be feeling that way because the Devils are 2-0-0 while the Rangers and Flyers are both winless with five games played between them, but how could I not be enthused when Ilya Kovalchuk is potting penalty shots or making beautiful saucer passes like this one?


So yeah, I'm pretty excited, but it's not simply the Devils that have me jazzed about the start of the season. There have been amazing performances by older veterans and rookies alike, sweet shootout moves, goaltending controversies and scoring by the bundle. Not only is hockey back, but it seems to be coming back in the most exciting way possible, and it's making me wonder how I managed to get through the last four months without it.

Or the summer for that matter.

Perhaps the best part about all this is that with the lockout-induced truncated 48-game season, teams will be playing their entire schedules in a span of 99 days, which makes the current NHL season less a marathon of survival than an all-out sprint to the postseason. That means teams will be playing virtually every other night and the frenetic scramble that ensues will make it all the more fun to watch. It may also bleed me of most of my disposable income as I foolishly make my way to as many Devils games as possible. I suppose it's more likely that I'll just be watching as many of them as I can on my couch though, so if anyone is looking for me over the next three months (I doubt any of you will), I'll be the one in Long Island City, Queens without a social life. With the way the NHL's first four days have gone, I'm doubting that I could be the only one.



It's so much fun the Harbaugh brothers might even decide to watch. I wonder how many stories CBS and ESPN will churn out on that.

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