Fear The Fin's Lockout Survival Guide

With the 2012-13 NHL season almost certainly not starting on time and possibly losing its first three months or more thanks to ongoing labor negotiations, Sharks fans will need their hockey fix soon enough. While there's nothing like lacing up the skates and joining a rec league, if that isn't an option, or if you're just jonesin' for the atmosphere and experience of watching a game, there are a few interesting options in the Bay Area. Join us after the jump for a rundown.

San Francisco Bulls

The newest and perhaps most intriguing source of live Bay Area hockey is the Sharks' ECHL affiliate the SF Bulls, slated to begin their inaugural season on October 12th. They're the first professional hockey team to represent San Francisco since the mid-90s, even their most expensive tickets are cheaper than the Sharks' more affordable options and, best of all, they're 100% lockout-proof.

The Bulls will open their first season against the Bakersfield Condors on October 12th at the Sharks' old haunt, the Cow Palace. You can access a full season schedule, a television schedule and buy tickets at their official website.

Stockton Thunder

San Francisco's first preseason game will be against the other ECHL team in the general vicinity of the Bay Area: the Stockton Thunder. While Stockton's a bit of a drive for most of you, and there's a reasonable chance of being shot at during said drive, there's a good chance you get to see a pretty high quality of hockey by ECHL standards. The Edmonton Oilers are now Stockton's sole NHL affiliate and with the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi slated to play for the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons should the lockout drag on, some solid players on OKC may wind up in the ECHL in an effort to get them more playing time. It's even possible guys with NHL experience like Chris VandeVelde or Anton Lander play for Stockton.

The Thunder begin their season on October 12th against Ontario. If anyone lives in the area and is interested in going, you can find out more at their website.

San Jose State Spartans

First and foremost, when it comes to the Spartans, you have to remember that this is a club team. Each player has to find a way to pay over $4000 in dues per season, so you know you're getting players who are very dedicated to the sport. They play in Division 2 of the ACHA, made up of roughly 200 teams across the country. And they're pretty darn good - reaching the 16-team National Tournament 10 times in the last 15 years.

The team is led by the duo of top-line forwards Kyle Dutra and Sam Cimino. They hover around a two-points-per-game pace and finished 20th and 23rd, respectively, in scoring last year among D2 players. SJSU's Mason Console, Sal Barranco, and Nicholas Matejovsky round out the rest of the point-per-game players returning to the roster. One player to watch out for is forward John Germaine. Germaine should be 100% after missing most of last year with an upper-body injury. He still put up 10 points in 13 games, and looks to build on that in 2012-2013. The team will need players like Germaine to step up to offset the loss of 10 seniors that have moved on from last year's team.

Despite losing such a large class of seniors, the Spartans are still in good position to be playoff contenders once again. The team will have a couple tough road trips this year to Utah and Colorado, as well as two trips down to southern California. In fact, they'll be facing quite a few California rivals that they didn't get a chance to face last year. This includes Stanford, Santa Clara, UCLA, and USC, who they'll face in the home opener on October 5th.

The Spartans play their home games at Sharks Ice at San Jose, usually on the north rink. You can purchase tickets at the door on the night of the game. They are $8 for the general public, $4 for SJSU students, and kids in youth hockey jerseys get in free. If you're not able to make it down to the rink, you still have a couple options to support the team. You can stream video through Black Dog Enterprises, or you can turn on your radios and catch select games on 90.5 KSJS San Jose.

Worcester Sharks

San Jose Sharks fans can still get Sharks hockey this season by checking out the Worcester Sharks on AHL Live. For those unfamiliar with AHL Live, you sign up for an account and can either pay per game {which will cost you about $7 per game} or you can sign up for the Team Early Bird Special and get all of Worcester's games for $150. I know that sounds a bit steep but when you divide the price by the amount of games played in the season, each game comes out to $2 and change. Plus, archives are included in the Early Bird Special so if you missed the game when it aired live, you can catch it later at your convenience.

As for the team in 2012-13, both San Jose and Worcester fans have plenty to be excited about. Worcester has young gun rookie forwards in Yannie Gourde, Freddie Hamilton, Travis Oleksuk, Sebastian Stalberg and Daniil Tarasov; depth up front with Jimmy Bonneau, Curt Gogol, James Livingston, Brandon Mashinter, John McCarthy, Frazer McClaren, Brodie Reid, Marek Viedensky, and new arrivals Bracken Kearns and Jon Matsumoto; six solid defensemen anchoring the blue line in Sena Acolatse, Matt Irwin, Matt Pelech, the returning Danny Groulx, Bay Area Native Matt Tennyson and Taylor Doherty; between the pipes, Alex Stalock is BACK full time with Harri Sateri as the back-up while Thomas Heemskerk will probably be assigned to San Francisco of the ECHL.

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