Here we are, coming to the end of a truncated NHL season. I should’ve written far more by now—a season preview, some quips of how the Red Wings are doing when they play the same night Glee airs, various write-ups on the highs and lows of the season. I should have three or four articles to my credit at this point, even with the short season.
The thing is, I haven’t been engaged. The return of the NHL in middle January was anti-climatic for me. I was ready for the season to start in the fall—I think we all were. But as the lockout kept going, the Winter Classic evaporated and the All-Star game fell, my enthusiasm went with it.
Even going to a Dallas Stars/Chicago Blackhawks game and seeing long-time hockey crush Jaromir Jagr play in person couldn’t quite spur me to get into the NHL. That game should’ve done it too since the game was within the first couple weeks of the season start.
As un-interested as I’ve been, I have paid attention to a few things this season:
The Red Wings: Of course I have to at least keep an eye on my all-time favorite team. However, to say they have not done well this season might be an understatement. As I write this they are fighting for their playoff position–a fight that got harder as they lost to the Flames last Wednesday and Canucks on Saturday (although that got them one point since it was a shootout loss). It’s sad to see this once dominant team struggling to get the eighth spot. Will the Wings get their 22nd consecutive trip to the post-season? I wish I could say “yes” with any kind of confidence, but their performance this season leaves me drowning doubt, especially since there’s no room for error in the final four games of the season over the coming week.
Perhaps the season connects back to Glee after all. The show’s fourth season has been extremely disappointing with very few bright spots… much like the Wings’ season performance.
Pittsburgh Penguins: On the flip side, my other favorite team had a great season. There was a healthy winning streak mid-season. They didn’t collapse when Sid came out of the lineup with the broken jaw. They added Jarome Iginla, another crush of mine, to the roster. These guys had a season that I regret not paying more attention to. If anything is going to get me excited during the post-season it’s the hope that the Penguins will crush the competition.
The Winter Classic: The loss of the Classic this past January was something I thought couldn’t happen. I was sure NBC would send a clear message to the NHL and NHLPA to get it together and make the game happen. All I got was more disappointment. Now it is set up again for the Red Wings and Maple Leafs to go at it in the Big House. I’d planned to go in 2013. I’m still deciding if I’m going to try to put the trip together for ’14.
Realignment: Some of the best news of the season, and I know not everyone likes it, is the realignment for 2013-14. I’m thrilled that Detroit is in the East. It’ll be easier to see games on TV. I’ll potentially see them live far more since they’ll visit New York teams multiple times a season instead of once every two seasons. It’s going to be more difficult to maintain equal standing for me between Detroit and Pittsburgh since they’ll be in the same conference, but that’s a small problem compared to the many advantages of the change.
While I haven’t been enthused by the NHL, there’s been hockey that has made me quite happy over the fall and winter.
University of Alabama’s Frozen Tide: The Tide finished the season second in the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference, losing in the finals to Arkansas. The Frozen Tide also made a return trip to the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division 3 National Championship tournament. While they didn’t make it out of the pool play, the Tide did win a game in pool play and that’s better than they did in the 2012 tourney. The season was another huge step in the Tide’s growth to become a dominant hockey force. I’m already looking forward to fall to see what this team does for 2013-14.
Road trip: I made my first trip to an AHL game when I went to You Can Play night at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The game was a lot of fun. It was also, of course, inspiring to watch YCP in action during the pre-game talk back and with videos showing on the rink’s big screen before and during the game. Plus, getting to play in the scrimmage that followed was a blast. It was an honor to share the ice with Patrick Burke.
YCP: Speaking of You Can Play, watching them go from their first night at a pro game with the Sound Tigers to the organization receiving the full support of the NHL and NHLPA was incredible. YCP, along with the hockey community, are such a powerful force for equality. It makes me proud to be a hockey fan and hockey player.
Now I’ll spend the next week hoping the Red Wings get it together and psych myself up for some playoff hockey. Maybe the race for the Cup can fully get me back into the NHL fold.