It’s a mix of old and new as we skate through the NHL’s pre- season. For the fan, It’s in an audio visual blur of highlights, new names on sweaters, hockey media personalities rehashing the same old topics about the schedule, attendance, market this, and market that. The blur is peppered with new logos and different stripes, piping in places it didn’t used to be, and the word “Brand” freely spoken more than every before.
Navigating the blur takes us to new places, diverse hockey places, or just places to have hockey. There’s the hockey rendezvous that happens in Vegas, but doesn’t stay in Vegas, as the Kings and the Avalanche meet for the tenth pre- season in a row. The Kings won the first game ten years ago…and took this year’s game in the shootout. It’s a cycle!
There’s new talk about Mozart and hockey as the globe trotting Kings jet to Salzburg, Austria for a “Salute” Tournament hosted by the EC Red Bull, featuring Davos from the Swiss National “liga”,
Färjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League. Some of us have never seen the word “liga” before, and we are grateful that the NHL is expanding out hockey vocabulary this pre season.
Another hockey word is a play on the word, Hockeytown, as the much forgotten winners of the Kraft Hockeyville Contest finally had their NHL moment when the Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders played a game in North Bay, Ontario, aka Hockeyville. The score: 4-3 for the Thrashers in overtime. Hockeytown and Hockeyville are such important hockey words. They incite squiggly red underlines when typed in MS Word.
And one can’t help but think of cutlery for this one: Buffalo Sabres vs. Minnesota Wild in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It’s like knives and forks with something Wild for Dinner. Okay, it is the pre- season – we hockey writers are allowed to practice word plays and combinations, and see if they are funny or not. It’s how we have fun and practice coming up with names and phrases to describe the next hot scoring line that magically appears.
All of a sudden the hockey scene in London, England becomes interesting because the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks will hit the ice at the spanky new O2 Arena on September 28 and 29 to open the regular season. In turn, the NHL sparks a curiosity in England that sends a BBC reporter over to politely grill Ducks GM, Brian Burke about NHL attendance and popularity in general. Brian emphasizes it’s a “slow build”. Hockey is “building on” in places, and “it’s the fastest game played without an engine.” Ooh…great line, Brian!
Oh, it is time to repeat the word “London” again. Things wouldn’t be right if the “other” London (Ontario) didn’t roll out a little pomp and circumstance of it’s own by hosting the Senators and the Flyers for a pre- season game…the score: Sens 4, Flyers 0, London wins!
The “slow build”, NHL pre-season whirlwind blows up with a special announcement and ticket sale for an outdoor Heritage Classic Game on January 1st, with the Buffalo Sabres hosting, and the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting. Hot on the heels of that is a follow up announcement heard around the hockey world: 42,000 tickets sold in a half hour! And half of hockey’s people wondering just how did the Leafs and Blue Jays season ticket holders get in on the pre sale?
I love how NHL hockey is on the move this pre season. The NHL is reaching out to its fans and attracting some new ones along the way. It’s ruffling the feathers of purists, its sparking controversy and argument with the die- hards. And what about us fun loving fans? Well, we are smiling and enjoying the blur of activity, knowing there will be plenty of time to focus during the regular season.
Happy Pre- Season, everybody!