Game On!

Clayton Hunt
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The Boys of Winter are back

Hockey fans across Canada and the United States awoke to great news on Sunday, January 6 in hearing that the National Hockey League (NHL) lockout was finally over.

Seven out of every 10 hockey fans are saying they will be back watching hockey as unusual come January 19, the tentative date set for the start of the season. The other three fans are liars as they will be back too and will be as completely absorbed in the game as they were previously.

Look, it’s not complicated! Hockey is Canada’s favourite game. We are a winter country, the nights are long and cold, and there’s nothing like a good hockey game to while away a winter’s night and take our attention away from the not-so-pleasant weather.

Besides, hockey is fun and entertaining to its true fans. We love to keep track of our favourite teams and players, the top scorers and the best goalies. We love to watch the highlights of the night, the best and worst plays of the week and to listen to the commentary by the armchair experts during game play.

Some people say that today’s NHL game is not as exciting as the hockey of the 1950s and 60s. Other people say that today’s game is better in that the players are faster, stronger and are more highly skilled.

It probably doesn’t matter which side you’re on in this debate, as today’s hockey fans probably don’t care too much about the game of the past. They just want to watch it today and enjoy the competition between the various teams.

Although we are looking forward to the new season, there are some key questions to ponder before it begins.

Will the players play hockey and abandon the Neanderthal caveman attitude that it’s fine to literally remove a player’s head during the game?

Let’s hope that, while the style of play will be rough and tough, the headhunting and the seemingly wanting-to-injure tactics will be gone once and for all. Hopefully, the skilled players will be able to play hockey and provide more offense for the fans.

Will Roberto Luongo end up playing for the big bad Toronto Maple Leafs?

God knows that the Leafs need consistent goaltending to help them make the playoffs. Of course, they also need scoring, more than one line, a solid defensive corps, skill and consistency in their play. It could be another troublesome season for Leafs’ fans again and the top brass may have to apologize to the fans again once the season is over.

Will the young guns in Edmonton finally help their team dominate in the Western Northwest Division? With strong talent in players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Shultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov the Oilers should make the playoffs this time around.

How will the fabled, legendary Montreal Canadiens do this time out?

The once-mighty Habs failed to make the playoffs in 2012 and will be in tough again in 2013.

The Canadiens also need more scoring power as they finished in last place in their respective division and conference last year.

The team, once the best on the power play, was 28th in this category last time out. They only has three players with 60 or more points, only had two 30 goal scorers, only had four other players scoring in the double digits but not one of those four made it to the 20 goal mark.

Yep, the Canadiens desperately need a stronger scoring punch.

And of course, the main question – which team will win Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Holy Grail of the hockey world.

The Los Angeles Kings were champs in 2012 so they will be the team to beat. However, it’s very tough to repeat as champs in the new NHL and there are several teams who can toss the Kings from their lofty throne.

If Sidney Crosby can play the full 48 game season, light a fire under his teammate Evgeni Malkin and revive the strong play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins could raise another Cup come June.

The New York Rangers were one of the top teams in 2012. Will the addition of Rick Nash be the missing link that propels them to win the Stanley Cup?

Personally, I’m counting on Alex Ovechkin to lead the Washington Capitals to the Promised Land this June. The Capitals are a young team and their time may be here to become champs.

Anyway, whatever happens it’s going to be exciting to see the players in action again.

Let the games begin!

 

Organizations: National Hockey League, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs Los Angeles Kings Oilers Washington Capitals Penguins New York Rangers

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Edmonton Western Northwest Promised Land

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