For the first time the National Hockey League will play a 48-game season instead of an 82-game season. For the first time in NHL history the Eastern Conference teams will not play the Western Conference teams. So that means this year there will be no continuation of the great rivalries between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, or Boston Bruins versus the Chicago Blackhawks. It makes you wonder if the NHL is really just giving fans half a league this year.
My family has had season tickets for the New York Rangers since I was born (11 years ago). Hockey is my favorite sport. I play hockey. I watch hockey. I go to professional hockey games at least once a week. Since 1942 the Rangers, Red Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks, Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs (the “Original Six”) have always played one another several times. This year they will not. It will be interesting to see if the NHL will lose viewers and ticket buyers as a result of breaking this tradition.
The lockout began at 11:59 pm on September 15. It was called a lockout because the owners refused to let the players play until a deal was struck. This lockout was a labor dispute. The owners wanted the players to have lesser contracts because the owners claimed they were losing money in less profitable franchises. The players thought the league was profitable and they did not want to give up any more concessions.
As a fan I am excited to see my team back on the ice. I’m not sure every fan will feel the same way I do. Each game will be more important than the next. The players will be rusty. Some have played in the KHL. Some have played in the Swiss League. Some have not played since last year. Teamwork, commitment and tactical thinking will be key to winning.
As my coach taught me, the horse, the saddle, the man as in the skates, the equipment, the player. This year the team, the player, the fan will be crucial in order for the NHL and my New York Rangers to succeed.