Hockey wants you back. Don’t take too long.
Fifty percent off team merchandise, $1 hot dogs, $7 game tickets, free entry for children, signed jersey giveaways, meet-and-greets with players – the message couldn’t be any clearer: the NHL wants you back.
Free shit? I’ll take it. But here’s a secret: it’s not necessary.
Why? The quality of hockey alone this season will win back the fans.
First, it’ll be intense, it’ll take your breath away, and it will leave you wanting more.
With each team’s schedule being so drastically shortened, every regular season game will be worth twice as much as it normally would.
Gone are October and November where teams start the season hot or cold while fans wait for time to level things out. Gone are the dragging dog days of January and February.
Instead, this year it’ll be a three-month sprint to the playoffs, and sprints are always more exciting than long distances. So if the Canucks win the President’s Trophy again this year, they’ll be more Usain Bolt, and less David Rudisha (Who? Exactly).
Teams who have a hot goalie or a hot scorer for a 10 game stretch (a.k.a. luck) will be at the top of the standings, and there’ll be no time to reel them in.
Second, hockey doesn’t have to compete with other sports like it usually does. Baseball playoffs are long done and football is nearly finished. By the time the Superbowl is played, North American sports fans will need to fill the void. The concentrated hockey schedule will be the ultimate rebound.
Third, despite the three month hockey void, the NHL will continue building on last season’s success.
Kicking off the season: the Penguins and Flyers – 3 p.m. ET Saturday. For even a marginal hockey fan, it’s must see TV, as the teams will play each other for the first time since one of the most exciting first round series we’ve ever witnessed.
Elsewhere, Boston vs. New York – two of the NHL’s biggest markets and strongest teams from the last two years going head to head. I’m in.
And in Canada, we have Montreal vs. Toronto. It doesn’t matter how crappy the two teams are, if you’re Canadian, you have to watch.
That’s only three of the 13 Saturday games, and can you honestly tell me you’re not already hooked?
Still apathetic? Still want to boycott the league?
Time for a reality check: if you cared about hockey enough to be apathetic or threaten to boycott, you care about hockey too much to leave it.
You might as well end the threats before day one. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out.