When I was in 5th grade, a big change occurred in my hometown. It was the opening of a brand new arena that planned to bring new forms of entertainment to the area. One of those forms of entertainment was the addition of a minor league hockey team. I attended the first ever game for this team at the new arena. It was a big deal for the community at the time and little did I know, it was also a big deal for me. The new team started my interest in hockey and along the way made me into a hockey fan.
My family has had season tickets for this team for the last 14 years (it’s the team’s 16th season), but I really didn’t start getting too into it until about the 4th year or so that we had the tickets. Still, it’s been a long time. Long enough that I feel like I need a change when it comes to hockey, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway, the point is that this week is the start of both the NHL and AHL (the minor league that our local team is in) seasons. Tonight in particular is the start for the NHL. I most likely won’t be making blog posts every year for the start of hockey. Since I just started posting though, I figured there’s no better way to introduce my love as a fan for the sport.
So am I here to analyze all the NHL teams and give you a break down of how I think they’ll do? No. Not at all. If this was solely a hockey blog, I might do that. Instead I’ll let you know what I know about my favorite team and maybe throw in some things I’ve heard. My favorite NHL club is the Pittsburgh Penguins (our minor league team is affiliated with them so they became my favorite by default). Basically the story for Pittsburgh this season goes like this, new management, new coach, new staff, same core superstars, and a few new off-season additions. As a fan I’m hoping all this newness translates onto the ice. Hopefully it will be in the form of some changes in the style of play because in recent years it’s been effective during the season but not in the playoffs. In the past few years the Pens played a dump-and-chase style of hockey, meaning they would toss the puck into their offensive zone and try to win possession of the puck by engaging in puck battles. I’ve heard the style is effective if executed well, and it has been, but only at times. In the playoffs it seemed that the Pens played a much slower game than opponents using this style of play. As a result they haven’t made a Stanley Cup Final since 2009 when they actually won the holy grail of hockey (the dump-and-chase was effective then). I hope the new organizational changes translate to the minor league team as well. We’ll see what happens. So far I haven’t noticed many style changes at least from the minor league team perspective (I saw a pre-season game), but that could change.
As I got into hockey I started to notice some other teams/players that I took a liking to. One of those was the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t end up being a bad choice to like them either as the year I started paying attention to them they won a Stanley Cup (2010). It was their first since 1961. They also won another cup in 2013 and have been making the playoffs since the 08-09 season. In general though, the teams that I like other than the Pens tend to be more Western Conference teams (the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings are pretty fun to watch). That might be because as a Pens fan I dislike a lot of rivals from the East (the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals). Either that or I’m just a big fan of the west (if you know me you’ll say this is the reason)?
Okay so 2014-2015 season here’s a little of what I’ve heard.
1. The Washington Capitals seem to be going through some organizational revitalization after many promising seasons with no championship results.
2. Look to the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers to do better than they have the past few years.
3. The Toronto Maple Leafs will still suck.
4. (Opinion) I expect something big out of the Minnesota Wild after the playoff run they put together last season.
5. (Opinion) I also expect the Flyers to be better than in the years since their Finals run in 2010. They might not make playoffs, but I expect them to at least push for a spot.
6. The NY Rangers will suck (okay I didn’t hear this, nor do I think it but I’m sure if I asked my friend Mike who is a Rangers fan this is what he’d tell me).
7. Expect good years from Chicago, LA, and Anaheim.
For now, that’s all I’ve got. If you know something I don’t about these teams or any other teams please let me know (comments please!). I like hockey and I definitely love to hear some hockey talk.
Finally I think I should at least do a Stanley Cup Finals/Champion pick just for the hell of it. Overall, I expect the Western Conference to reign superior once again. Their style of play seems way more fast paced and goal-scoring oriented than the Eastern Conference teams, but who knows maybe the Pens will put some sort of crazy run together so I can purchase another championship tee shirt.
Cup Final: Anaheim Ducks vs. Washington Capitals (Dream Final: Any team (okay maybe except the Hawks as I would feel conflicted) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins)
Champion: Anaheim Ducks (Dream Champion: Pittsburgh Penguins)
So good luck to all the pro hockey teams out there starting their seasons this week/tonight. According to “Badger” Bob Johnson, “It’s is a great day for hockey!” I agree. And so is tomorrow. Let’s go Pens!