As the season begins, predictions and expectations are being lain before us to behold, discuss, scrutinize, criticize, etc. It never fails, and it never will, on a season to season basis you hear predictions of who is going to accomplish, who is going to achieve. Which teams are expected to triumph, etc.
The world of sports is where I go to escape the fear and anxiety so prevalent in modern society. It's my happy place where the only thing anybody worries about is chasing a chunk of rubber around a sheet of ice. Still, there is one thing I dread as the season approaches. One thing that causes me to wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and screaming "Nooooo!". And that is the fear that the Lightning hire the guy from "Slapshot" to play their new pipe organ and "Lady of Spain" is permanently stuck in our heads by the all star break.
My greatest fear is that no one will have learned anything from this past summer. Not just the concussion issues - though, I think those are the most likely be dealt with, actually. But the pain killer issue that led Derek Boogaard to his accidental death, and the depression that led to Rick Rypien's suicide and to Wade Belak's death. And the factors that may have led to those tragic events - guys not seeking the help that they need because of the culture of toughness that surrounds hockey. In the case of Belak, that there's not any support to help players through that awkward transition between being a professional athlete to being a civilian, for lack of a better term. I get the feeling that those things will be swept under the rug in favor of dealing with something people feel they have some control over, and that being those high hits that often lead to concussions. Especially the pain killer abuse issue; I think that's going to be deliberately ignored for as long as possible, and that's potentially one of the biggest problems in the NHL outside of concussions.
I fear that there will be a lock-out after this season. That we might end up talking about the CBA and a possible lock-out from the All-Star game until the end of the current CBA.
I also fear the Anaheim Ducks.
I fear that we (the Tampa Bay Lightning) will have a season below expectations.
And not because of the toll it might take on the players/coaches/staff.
But because of the tendency of the Lightning fan base to knee-jerk react to everything. It's been that way since Vinny Lecavalier showed up. He has a down year? TRADE HIM. If we would happen to miss the playoffs this year after the joys of last year, and the hype already mustered for this season, who knows if the fan base will recover.
I fear that the stories of last season and the summer (concussions, depression, death, et al.) will continue to dominate our discussions of the game. I hope we can start talking about shots on goal and not head shots soon, but we'll see. There's a lot of time that sports networks need to fill.