NHL hockey is back. That means we’re all over the lockout now and ready to move on, right? Feel however you will about the damage that’s been done at the hands of ‘he who must not be named’ the truth is that there are plenty of NHL markets frothing at the mouth ready to get back to seeing their favorite players hit the ice.
Vancouver is one of those markets.
Mike Gillis told the media in early January "As far as season ticket cancellations, yes we have had some … it’s not a significant amount based on where the team is positioned."
Vancouver is one of the lucky franchises where fan support is not an immediate worry, if even one at all. Time will tell but my guess is that they will open to a sold out crowd at Rogers Arena on Saturday night and every subsequent night they play at home. To show they care about fans, the Canucks are offering merchandise at 50% discount for the first three home games where various concession items will cost you no more than $1, along with some other perks. Is that going to make up for the 113 days that fans were left with nothing? Probably not but the majority will flock to gobble up the goodies regardless because hockey is a big part of Vancouver’s identity.
Without the Canucks, Vancouver is a rather boring city. Beautiful, yes but boring nonetheless (sorry it is). I’m already practicing my “Can’t make it, the game is on!” excuse to get out of upcoming family functions. Something to think about: the Florida Panthers are offering seasons tickets for $168. That’s for the ENTIRE season. They are also throwing a free jersey and even free parking. That would never happen anywhere in Canada. But who really is getting the better deal? (hint: it’s not Florida)
January 19th starts a 48-game season insanely packed into a tight schedule over 99 days. There is some talk that the Canucks window to winning a Stanley Cup has passed. Let’s try to forget that one of the best goalies in the NHL and one of the best this franchise has ever seen is presumably on his way out. The pressure will now be passed on to Cory Schneider and adds to the question of what kind of team will the Canucks be in 2013? We go back to asking if the Canucks have a chance at:
1. Making it into the playoffs
2. Making it past round one of the playoffs and to the Finals
3. Winning a Stanley Cup already!
The pressure to win is on as it always is when the season starts. Can they achieve this? Well John Garrett seems optimistic that they can. The Canucks blue-line, and their power-play, will be without Sami Salo though it did gain Jason Garrison, Jim Vandermeer and Cam Barker. The trepidation of this change balanced with a hopeful excitement of how it will play out is what makes NHL hockey titillating. And maybe I missed it but I do not think that EA has made a simulation of this shortened season. They owe us still! I think the Canucks should cash in on that. That is of course if the team can take off without the solid second line as Ryan Kesler is still injured and David Booth has killed again, this time his groin, and will be out for the first month.
The competition in the league will be fierce. Minnesota now has Zack Parise and Ryan Suter who have even more pressure and expectation placed on them and their 100 million dollar contracts. The Oilers have been building up their arsenal of incredibly talented young players. Sidney Crosby is now said to be in the best shape of his career, coupled with Evgeni Malkin who has been playing hockey in the KHL since September, will make the Pittsburgh Penguins yet another terrifying team.
The NHL is back and whether you like it or not, it’s not going anywhere. At least not for the next 10 years.