Friday, July 29, 2005

He shoots, he scores, wicked little critta

Yay! Hockey's back!

The NHL lockout has finally ended, and we'll have professional hockey back in October. As much as I want to be angry at both the NHL owners and players over losing an entire season over money issues (and no small amount of stubborness on both sides), I'm so happy to have the sport back that I'm willing to kiss and make up.

Of course, things are a bit different now, both in the NHL and in my capacity to enjoy it. I figured I'd write a little something about it from my point of view...

On the new Collective Bargaining Agreement...
The good:
The salary cap will make small-market teams more competitive, at least on paper. In practice, it hasn't mattered much (just look at the Lightning and the Mighty Ducks in the last two seasons, and then look where the Rangers finished).

The bad:
The salary cap pretty much eliminates the chance of another hockey dynasty, since if a team is lucky/smart enough to draft/trade for several AAA-caliber players at once, it won't be able to afford them under the cap for very long. It's nice to have each new season be completely up for grabs, but it was kind of cool to watch Gretzky's or Yzerman's crew completely demolish the rest of the league for a few seasons.

On the new rules changes...
The good:
Getting rid of the redline and enforcing obstruction and interference penalties will lead to a faster game, as well as making the boring-as-hell trap defense less effective. The no-touch icing is fine, too. I can even handle tiebreaking shootouts (take that, soccer!), as long as they keep it out of the playoffs.

The bad:
Limiting the goalie's ability to play the puck away from the crease just sucks. It's exciting to see a goalie make a great play on a questionable puck. Before the lockout, I remember seeing Aebischer charging almost to the blueline to prevent an imminent breakaway on a loose puck, and it was about the greatest goalie play ever. And when a goaltender's cunning attempt to play away from the crease backfires, it makes for great comedy.

On my ability to watch...
The good:
- We have DirecTV now (living in Bumfuck, Idaho means no cable TV for us!), so I can pick up the NHL Center Ice package. That's like, eleventy thousand games a week or something. Just no Blackhawks games -- not that I care.

The bad:
- Of course, hockey had to return right [i]after[/i] I moved to the middle of Bumfuck, Idaho. The nearest NHL franchises are Calgary and Vancouver, both 5-7 hours away and across an international border. The chances of seeing a game in person this year are virtually nonexistent, unless I start feeling sassy and make a trip up to Nashville next time I fly home to visit my mom. Also, despite being an hour from the Canadian border, nobody in Idaho gives a shit about hockey.

So that's how I see it. Even with the shortcomings, I'm super-excited about the upcoming season (the entry draft is tomorrow!), and I can't wait to run out and buy the new Sega NHL2k* game. Game on!


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