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Let’s be Specific: NHL Hockey is Back

January 23, 2013

TorontoMAPLELEAFSlogoNHL hockey is back and so am I. Over half a month into the new year and 3 games into the NHL season and I finally find some time and some energy (minimal as it is) to make a blog entry.  Its been an exhaustive process for the NHL/NHLPA, no less for this hockey fan.

While I dispute the use of the hashtag #HockeyisBack (hockey has always been here – in its many forms), I have heartily welcomed the return of my beloved Maple Leafs.  Despite the strength of my local London Knights and the ability to stream almost every league (I watched Canada win the Spengler Cup live), I missed my Leafs. With the free preview of NHL Centre Ice on Rogers and the return of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) – I’ve been watching multiple NHL games almost every night since the league returned to the ice on January 19th.

Does that make me an unprincipled fan? Maybe. The NHL knows its core audience will come back. Even those of us who were so angry with them for losing so much of a season that it made my heart hurt. We are being given free tickets (if you are in the GTA, for the most part), free food/beer and various other give-aways. But do the NHL/NHLPA really care? Not really. Again, they know the core fans will return. Because we love the hockey. Its a curse.

This condition is not confined to Canadians. I have found rabid hockey fans south of the border, all over that ‘other’ hockey country in North America.  Thanks to Twitter, I have made contact with fellow hockey fans all around the world. Thanks to WordPress stats, I have discovered my wee hockey posts have been read by folk in places as far off as Russia and Venezuela.  All the fans that were, to some extent, affected by the lockout.

Now that I can watch the NHL again, my heart leaps as the Leafs race down the ice, goalies make saves and d-men give up the puck. I am back in my hockey pool, hoping that ‘my’ guys get score goals, get assists and win games. I watch until the wee hours of the night, causing bleary-eyed responses at work the next morning. I chirp my friends who are fans of the current opposing team (I’m looking at you Habs n Pens fans!). In short, I am again captivated by the league that treated me like a piece of dirt.

At one point, I really did think that I could stay away. Looking at my social media feeds while the lockout was on, you could see a difference in the topics I followed. But hockey was never far away. While the majority of the week was about work, social issues, food, books, photography and the great outdoors, there was always the undercurrent of hockey.

Hockey is back?  It never left. It never will, because it is in my blood. Go Leafs Go!

PS. MLSE? How about some love for the Leaf fans that don’t live in the GTA? Just sayin’.

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