Welcome back to hockey

NHL: Stanley Cup Finals-New Jersey Devils at Los Angeles KingsJust one short month ago in this space we discussed how to curb the effects of the lockout blues. As the calendar turned to 2013 there was still not an end to the most recent NHL labor dispute and hockey starved fans needed an outlet to see this great game.

Lucky enough, the NHL and NHLPA managed to come to an agreement and the game returned to a packed slate on January 19. Now the NHL is fully into a whirlwind 48-game schedule that will cram a ton of hockey into a very short period of time.

It was truly a shame that the 2012-13 season didn’t start on time and that the season has deteriorated into the 2013 season with no games played in the fall of 2012. Fans were robbed of the game they love and many team employees were put in a position in which critical work hours were lost or diminished due to the lack of games.

With the game back in full swing, the fans are able to consume their favorite product once again and, more importantly, those who work for the teams and in the arenas are back to work and enjoying the chance to get back to making hard earned money. Keep these people in mind when you get to an arena for the first time this season. The box office employees who may have lost hours due to no ticket sales, the ushers and security guards who joined concession workers as those locked out of arenas due to the lack of games. Maybe give them an extra tip of the hat as you also stroll back in to enjoy the game.

For the fans, take advantage of all that this shortened season will bring to you. Between the nearly every-other-night schedule your favorite team will play, there is going to be hockey played on nearly every day from January 19 until the Stanley Cup is awarded sometime in late June.

It is understandable that some hockey fans have drawn their allegiance to one team and one team alone. However, this unique schedule will not only prevent your hometown team from playing teams in the opposite conference, but it will also flood your television with hockey games. Try and take the time to catch a few games from a team you usually wouldn’t watch. Whether that is a team for way out west (or east) or maybe just a team in another division in your team’s conference.

For example, fans in the East will not get a chance to see their team play the new-look Minnesota Wild, defending Cup champion LA Kings or see how Roberto Luongo contends in Vancouver as trade rumors continue to swirl. The same goes for NHL fans on the west coast who won’t get to see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin roll through town with the Penguins nor Claude Giroux and the Flyers. Be sure to use this season to expose yourself to a few more teams in the NHL. Not only will you be more educated about the rest of the league, but you will help to make up for missing so much hockey from earlier in the year.

Another interesting development that will occur this season might just be increased trade and waiver movements. Between the inevitable injuries players will suffer with a shortened year and the condensed schedule, it will be vital for teams to shore up their holes quickly rather than holding out for their players to return. Keep an eye on players who have been popular trade rumor targets (see Luongo, Roberto) as they could certainly be on the move well before the trade deadline even comes around.

At the end of the day, however, make sure you find your way back to this wonderful game. No matter how lethargic, angry or bored you became as a result of the lockout be sure to take in a live game if possible. If you can’t get to an arena start watching on TV again. As a fan of the game, you had a massive piece of the season taken away, be sure to take back what you can now that the NHL has returned.