The new hockey season is almost upon us. Each and every fan is looking forward to seeing their favorite players take the ice to play their favorite sport. The countdown is officially on with a mere two weeks left until NHL training camps open.
Many hockey fans have been saying since their team fell out of the playoffs - or since the Stanley Cup was awarded in June - "Is it October yet?" But the preseason is hockey, too. It may not be meaningful games, but it's certainly a precursor to them. The 2011-2012 season will be another wonderful ride through the ups and downs, the injuries, and the frustrations along with the exhilarating goals, saves, and wins.
Which is why I've been saying all along, "Is it September yet?"
The one thing that I've missed the most this offseason is the smell of an ice rink. That dry, dusty cold overlaid by the smell of the rubber mats on the floor and that vague unwashed hockey gear perfume. It's better than the scent of a bouquet of roses to me.
Mostly, I look forward to the entire package - the rinks, the jerseys, the kids getting autographs, the game. Hockey is where it's at. And I love every minute of it, even when I'm burned out by the end of January.
So the question of the week is: What do you look forward to most in the preseason?
Chad Scharr - Bolt Prospects
I look forward to seeing which young prospect or graduated prospect has taken the biggest leap from last season. The mark to shoot for is Dmitry Afanasenkov a few years ago, who was iffy just to make the team, but made it, played well, and not soon after was on the ice in a defensive role in the final minutes of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. James Wright a few years ago really opened eyes and made the team for half a season. This season, I wouldn't be surprised if Brett Connolly's weight and strength gain make management take notice. I also expect a big jump from Dana Tyrell, who's now a full two seasons removed from a very bad knee injury and was likely able to work out without any precautions this offseason.
Alexis Boucher - Sons of Andreychuk
It might seem cheesy, but the some of things I look forward to the most about preseason are the sensory aspects of hockey. The sounds of skates on ice, the metallic ping of a puck as it defects off the net, the sound of a shot slamming into the boards. After a long, hot Florida summer there is nothing better than the chill of the ice. Except maybe cold beer at 11 am during training camp.
Preseason is also exciting because it offers the first glimpse of the roster. For returning players, you get to see the fruits of their off season work outs in person. For the new guys, you can familiarize yourself with their style a bit more. You also get a chance to see the progression of the prospects.
When it comes down to it, preseason means that hockey that matters is close by. It's been a much shorter off season, but it's been tough being patient when the team has so much promise.
Clark Brooks - Staff Writer
The Orlando game. Not because of any kind of effort to "grow the market" or whatever. But just because I'm a geek when it comes to sports facilities and I've yet to see Orlando's from the inside. If I get to go, and I'm making every effort to do so I will get there nice and early so I can explore the place. Concession stands, restrooms (don't be creeped out; it's a fact-finding mission), merchandise kiosk. Like I said, I'm an arena geek.
Nolan Whyte - Staff writer / Frozen Sheets of Hockey
Because the playoff run went so late and was so very HIGH TENSION, I couldn't really give a crap about preseason. I'm glad the media beast will re-awaken and there will be hockey news to read on my lunch break at work every day. But I'm not too jazzed up about "reporting for camp" and "rookie weigh ins." Yawn. Wake me up on opening night.
Hell, it might have made a difference if the Lightning had picked up any notable players during the offseason (with all due respect to the back-up goalie, third-liners and seventh defencemen that have been added). I mean, I'll bet Flyers fans are stoked for training camp, because they have no idea what their team is going to look like. But Tampa? We know. We're getting last year, hopefully with everyone healthy for the whole year, and with Brewer and Roloson from Day One.
Forget the preseason. I'm waiting for Day One.
Dani Toth - Staff Writer / Lightning Hockey Blog
I will agree with Nolan on my answer this week. I don't care about the pre-season at all except that it means it is that much closer to the start of the regular season.
Matt Amos - Staff Writer / Don't Trade Vinny
Typically, the preseason doesn't mean all that much to me. AHL-ers log almost all of the minutes, and generally the Lightning have one of, if not the worst preseason schedule in the entire league.
However! This year, they come to my home town of St. Louis, and there's a chance I may get to be in the box and commiserate amongst the players. So yeah, that would definitely be at the top of my list for this preseason.
John Fontana - Managing Editor
Spring Training in Major League Baseball can be looked at with it's promise of the entire year ahead and the beginning of the glorious spring and immaculate summer for regions that have been locked in frigid winter prisons. Conversely, I look forward to Hockey preseason as a sign that the oppressive summer will be abating, and the beginning of the end of the year is forthcoming.
The boys hitting the rink may be a direct sign that hockey season lies ahead, but it’s an indirect sign of all the pleasantries of the calendar season.
The hockey preseason, camp and the exhibition games, details the promise of the months ahead. Unlike Major League Baseball, however, more than a select group of teams will be competitive in the forthcoming NHL season. The fate of also-ran and cellar-dweller status has not been assigned to clubs before training camp even gets underway. The ultimate aspiration – a Stanley Cup championship – is not out of the question for all but a handful of teams.
That's one thing that preseason hockey holds for me, and something I enjoy immensely: The hope for the season ahead and the long-term prospects of a franchise.
Sure, there is the minutiae of roster battles, the logistics of where games will be played (and how often), along with questions that need answers before the season begins. That doesn't erase the promise, the hope for the future.
The preseason amounts to a clean sheet of ice, just waiting to be skated upon by the eager fans throughout the sport. Who can resist a clean sheet of ice? Lets go skating!
The Lightning have much to be excited about. I'm curious to see how the new additions do in replacing the biggest departures, namely Ryan Shannon and Mathieu Garon. Shannon will likely be the pesky winger that needs to replace Sean Bergenheim, while Garon needs to prove that he can play at a high level since his goaltending partner, Dwayne Roloson, is a sprightly 41 years old. Those are the two biggest holes.
Tina Robinson - Staff writer
The thing I'm looking forward to this preseason? Hockey. That's all. Just the return of hockey and knowing that with the exhibition season underway, meaningful hockey is just around the corner. Even though the Lightning played later into the calendar year than they have the past few years, this summer after the Lightning were eliminated seemed to be extremely long, so just the return of hockey will be enough for me.
That being said, I am also looking forward to some of the competition in camp between the youngsters to see if any of them make the cut to the big boy team. It will also be interesting to see if the team is more well conditioned coming into camp now that they have a year of Guy Boucher hockey under their belts. The preseason this year should be less about learning a new system than last year, so the guys should be able to jump into the swing of things faster.
Check out last week's Question of the Week - Oren Koules WTF?!?!