Saturday, August 13, 2005

 

Are You Starting to Feel it?

I am..

After a month without the "L" word, (Lockout) and a month of long days and ridiculous amounts of time on the phone and in chat rooms, last night I bought some tickets off of a friend for a hockey game. October 14, the Wachovia Center: The Flyers vrs.The Pens. Forsberg, Mario, Crosby, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Recchi returning, Gonchar, Pallfy, Hatcher....WOW! Can you imagine? Not a bad game to come back to. The last time I saw a live NHL game was Game 6 of the Conference Finals. An unbelievable game won by Gagne in OT, but really won by Primeau, when he tied the game on a goal that defied logic with a little over a minute to go. It was the second best hockey game I ever attended. The first being a game that in Philly you just have to say "JJ Daigneault" to recall.....

So after an incredible few weeks of free agency, I started to think about that game on October 14th. I get 200 emails a day from the best fans in hockey. If you are familiar with what I do it is probably because you found me when I was one of the only games in town during the lockout. So the people who are my readers are the ones who looked for anything positive during a bleak hockey year. You are the die-hards. And you lived up to that by doing anything but dying. Hockey is more than alive and well, it is about to explode. Can you feel that?

Now, everything is positive again...And what is amazing, is that I get the sense that hockey fans have already forgiven the lockout in many ways. That says a ton for the difference between you and all other sports fans. I have a theory. When you ask someone to rank the big four sports they will either have hockey as #1 or they will put hockey #4 by a mile. Few people will say hockey is #2 or 3. This is a fan base that realized that their game needed fixing, and were willing to give up a year to get it fixed.

And now, in my chat room over the last two weeks, you can feel it and you quickly remember how much we LOVE THIS GAME. I got a real treat by being able to tell people of free agent signings in the chat room and on radio stations. It was like being hockey's version of Santa. Telling folks in Nashville they now have a bona-fide star like Paul Kariya was a thrill. The Nashville fans get ripped alot, but they have great hockey people like Pete Weber down there...they are a legit hockey city, with real hockey people..Another great moment was getting to call people who work for the Flyers and say "Forsberg is coming." And hearing their reaction that I had lost it. And then hearing their reaction when they realized it was true. Priceless indeed.

And now...as the dust is settling, and the teams are coming into focus, and the games are about to be played...can you feel it? We have new players on new teams with new rules that will make our old sport better. The skilled players will finally be able to show their stuff. We will see them at full speed with more room to do what they do. I talk to alot of players and they are like kids in a candy store waiting for camp to open...there is a year's worth of frustration that they are waiting to get out...the first few weeks of this season will be played at an unreal tempo. It will be phenomenal.

I grew up playing strat-o-matic hockey. We played through the night often. I really miss playing that game. It was the days before NHL2K. But it was the same sort of thing. My favorite day of the year was when the new cards came. Seeing Gretzky's card...remember when he had a straight Goal on #7 of his Inside Shot? Anyway, that was my geeky moment...

As this season approaches it is the same kind of feeling...because hockey is a religion in my world. It always has been. As a kid, I convinced my parents to get a satellite dish...not the direct TV little ones you know of now.....The classic, old, big 10 foot ones. The ones that you could get raw feeds off of. We had "Hockey Night in Canada" in South Jersey...without the commercials. Our house was the place to be I'll tell you. This was before the play-offs were on ESPN, long before ESPN2. The only place you could see some of those classic Calgary/Edmonton games was in my house. I never thought that I would end up meeting the people who produced "Hockey Night in Canada" twenty years later. That they would call me up and ask me, "So what have you heard?" I am a lucky guy.

I really want to thank the 300 people who were maxing out the chatroom during these two weeks. Seeing people type "Wow" whenever I broke a signing was a blast for me. After months of trying to make the most boring sports story in history, (the lockout) interesting, chasing down where Khabibulin and Niedermayer were going was great theater. And you folks made it that much better.

I will spend the weekend going through the 600 or so of you who would like to write a blog for your team on hockeybuzz...amazing how many great hockey people are out there! Together we will make hockeybuzz.com a place that will get you ready for 7:30 every night. I am bringing in the people who have that passion. The people who "get it."

Anyone who had any fear that the lockout would damage this sport, and I was one of them, well...we were dead wrong.

Can you feel it yet?

Just a few weeks to go...



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