Ok, it's back to work. I chose to sit out the pre-season, mainly because I find it to be a tedious exercise of tracking developments that have no real meaning to the big picture. So sue me, a one month vacation to recharge my batteries before the quest for the Holy Grail begins anew.
I also found it strangely hard to be over excited about hockey just yet, I'm still a tad annoyed at the two sides who left us jilted last year. I am slowly recapturing my interest, but you know part of me still wants to say, so show me you really want me back folks!
However, it would seem I am very much in the minority there. Most Canadian cities have welcomed back their gladiators with open arms, in fact it's more like we the fan did something wrong and we're just glad that they boys are letting us back into the club. Strange, but that seems to the be the tone of the call in shows and the general atmosphere of the Hockeynation, I'm not quite in that crew, but I can understand those that have jumped for joy with the return of the game. Hell, the power of hockey even managed to end a labour dispute at the CBC, go figure. one just assumes that the NHL must underwrite the entire CBC budget, since it wasn't until the debut game of Hockey Night in Canada was threatened that the two sides came to an agreement. Strange power this little black puck must have.
So it's game on, new rules, new salaries, new faces but the same old fans, living and dying with their home side.
Everybody was in the pool on Wednesday night, fifteen games in fiteen cities. TSN putting hockey head to head with the Baseball playoffs, betcha hockey won the ratings! A renewal of the blood feud of Ontario with Ottawa and Toronto taking it to a shoot out before the Sens won the first game of the season3-2, the Heatley acquisition already paying off its dividend. One noticeable snapshot of that tilt, if Eric Lindros plays every game like he played game one, he's going to be on the Injured List before the season is ten games on. He played a tough and fast game, but how many of us wondered if he was going to be going down for the night with each crashing blow into the boards. It's the way he used to play the game and apparently the way the Leafs want him to play now, but it's kind of like watching a moth head for the flame, pretty soon he's going to be burned.
Out west it was the debut of The Great One as the Professor, Wayne Gretzky took his place behind the bench of the Desert Dogs of Phoenix and quickly learned that it may be a very long season. His Coyotes abandoned the Big Dog in the nets, as Cujo faced more than a half dozen breakaways as backchecking and picking up your man were terms quickly forgotten by the young Gretzky charges. The game featured the return of Todd Bertuzzi, who took his place on the GM Place ice to the expected loud and boisterous reception of the Canuck faithful, a bit of rust was shown and some tentative play from time to time, but he found a bit of a groove as the game progressed. Dan Cloutier kept his team out of trouble with some timely saves and found the fickle Vancouver crowd on his side in this debut of the 2005-06 season, as the long ride begins one wonders if the fans will still be in the Cloutier sidecar when the playoffs come around. But for the Canucks and their fans it was a Marcus Naslund kind of night, the Canuck captain who had toyed with the idea of returning home to Sweden picked up two goals in quick succession as he lead the Canucks on to a 3-2 victory. The win sent the faithful home happy and took the pressure off a team that many expect big things from this season.
There were a few other stories to follow on this reunion night, the rising star of Pittsburgh didn't burn as bright as many had hoped, Sidney Crosby assisted on the Penguins first goal of the new season, alas it was their only goal as the Devils blew past them 5-1. The Oilers won, the Flames lost. The Habs topped their long time rivals the Bruins as mini Stanley Cups littered the ice from the unhappy Boston patriots. And wonder of all wonders, the New York Rangers won a hockey game.
The action for the most part in most highlights appears to have been fast paced, a number of mental errors seemed to be the determining factor in many contests. But after oh so many months, 18 of them, the mistakes have been forgiven as have the players, managers and owners who took the game away for so long. Hockey's back, for the fans it seems all is well once again in the universe.