We all have our weird idiosyncrasies. You may not see yours as weird, but they exist and they probably make you a little bit off in the eyes of many. Growing up as a child with a brain completely engulfed in sports, mine was naturally sports related. Given that I’m now just a much taller child capable of growing facial hair, the connection has stayed strong and grown into a much nicer, more refined oddity.
There’s the old story that Wayne Gretzky used to sit in front of his TV with a pen and pad of paper in his hand to track where the puck went — it worked out for him. Mickey Mantle used to play baseball with his buddies in a farmyard and pretend he was the entire St. Louis Cardinals lineup — it’s one of the ways he learned to be a switch hitter. Everybody has their little thing which makes them love a game more. You do too, even if you don’t realize it. I guarantee it.
I love the hockey offseason. And by love it I mean I look forward to it every year, more than the season and more than the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sport and love seeing it play out on the ice. But, in my mind, the season has always been where you figure out if what you did during the offseason worked out. Promises on performance, new concepts, touted prospects all prove their worth over the course of the 82 games or more that a team plays, but the ideas are formed on the golf courses of summer.
Something about the way a roster is constructed has always been an intriguing concept for me. There are philosophical principles attached to each team, hallmarks that make you think of (BLANK) style hockey. Watching teams try to hash them out and develop a winner is quality entertainment.
I was always given hell for playing sports video games the way I did growing up and I refuse to apologize for it. It seemed odd to everyone that I spent so much time in the game menus – free agents, trade players, roster management, to be exact – trying to construct the perfect team. There are obviously plenty of ways to do it. I figure out if I wanted a highly skilled or defensive juggernaut. To I want speed off the wings or do I want an absolute goonshow. These are pressing issues and ones which generally brought about the question, “Why don’t you play the damn game?”
Simulate the season. Do it again.
There’s no simulating anything in real hockey, but there is nothing more exhilarating than seeing a team load up. Our collective jaws dropped last year when Philadelphia signed Ilya Bryzgalov, shipped out their two core players, drafted Sean Couturier, and brought Jaromir Jagr back to the NHL. There were plenty of other teams with noteworthy moves and we watched very closely.
The draft, of course, has its own intrigue. We see the future of the league don new jerseys and caps and we hear about how they’re all going to be so great. It’s a fun time to be a fan. It’s an exciting time to be a fan. You have no idea what’s going to happen.
I’m not going to be the guy to tell you the playoffs are no fun. That’s false. But I will say that the playoffs are a time of great excitement for me. Anticipation at its finest. I know a draft is on its way. I know teams are about to get a boatload of new players. I know exactly what to look for when we start all over again. Playoffs tell me that my favorite time of year is just around the corner.
This summer may never yield a team as fearsome as the NHL 99 Nashville Predators squad led by Ken Baumgartner and Eric Cairns that I put together as a child — they’d make the Charlestown Chiefs and Syracuse Bulldogs quake in their skates — but the possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.