January 21, 2013
Lost in the shuffle of the NFL’s Championship Sunday and college basketball, along with the garbage stories including Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’O, was the return of the National Hockey League(NHL). The NHL started a strike-shortened 48-game regular season on Saturday and to say the fans of hockey forgave and forgot would be an understatement. There were great crowds all over the NHL landscape and it’s good to see fans come back and support the sport(I still say commissioner Gary Bettman needs to be fired, but that’s another story for another day). With the season only lasting for 48 games, it is more of a sprint than it is the marathon that comes with a normal hockey season. I remember when the NBA had a strike-shortened 66-game season for 2011-’12, the quality of play and injuries were a huge factor, particularly at the beginning of the season. There were a lot of players who showed up to their respective teams out of shape and not ready for the speed of the game, and it led to guys getting injured, some of them for huge parts of the season. I expect to see the same in the NHL, seeing how teams will have some brutal parts of the schedule. People will also say the quality of the sport will suffer for a little bit, but I prefer to say what the games may lack in quality of play, the effort and enthusiasm will more than make up for it. Every game will have that much more meaning since everything is so compressed, so there won’t be any games wasted. To be honest, I’m just glad to see hockey back, for the fans and the people who work at the arenas selling novelties and providing security and public transportation. As for the players and owners, it’s about time they were able to get a long-term deal done. Labor negotiations should never get to the point where you start losing regular season games, which has happened in the NHL three times since Bettman has been the commissioner. With that said, it feels good to say that is now water under the bridge. It’s good to see hockey back in session, and for the fans of the NHL, it couldn’t have happened a moment too soon.