The other night, I experienced something that’s been missing for awhile.
The NHL season began on Tuesday with a busy opening day. Not only was there the usual banner-raising ceremony (followed by the championship Tampa Bay Lightning getting stomped by the Pittsburgh Penguins, naturally), but a double header saw the Seattle Kraken make their debut against the Vegas Golden Knights. All of that was topped off by the league returning to ESPN for the first time since 2004.
Watching both games on ESPN+ while following along on a rarely united Hockey Twitter, I realized I haven’t felt this good about a hockey season in too long.
I can’t pretend the pandemic isn’t still ongoing. But for the first time since that season pause on March 12, 2020 it doesn’t feel like hosting an NHL season is a flagrantly selfish move that puts dollars over the lives of real people. The crowd noise isn’t being pumped in to distract from the empty stands — vaccinated fans have returned to participate in the ritual of sport, as old as humankind.
The apocalyptic vibes of hockey remaining to entertain us while locked in our homes are gone and I’m still realizing how much it ultimately affected my relationship with the sport.
On Tuesday night, it felt like hockey was well and truly back for the first time in the last year and a half. The league’s ESPN deal was a cherry on top, with the league returning to a platform trusted by sports fans. I have no doubt that this deal is going to create growth for the league, especially with the Disney+ bundle (a single subscription across Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+) putting the NHL in front of new consumers who were never going to pay the exorbitant price of NHLtv.
Add to that a brand spanking new team and the NHL is poised to establish themselves as a fast-growing sport over the next few years.
It’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan.
It’s been too long since I could say that.
News & Notes
- San Jose Sharks outlook: Five predictions for the upcoming season [The Mercury News]
- Evander Kane’s future with Sharks still unknown as NHL investigation winds down [The Mercury News]
- Sharks’ Nikolai Knyzhov out indefinitely with lower-body injury [The Athletic]
- ‘It was just amazing, the growth’: How Sharks prospect Daniil Gushchin evolved as a prospect and a person [The Athletic]
Blood in the Water
- AHL play-by-play man comes out [TSN]
- Former LA Kings Forward Jordan Nolan Returns To The Organization [NHL.com]
- Dylan Larkin to have hearing for supplemental discipline [Winging It In Motown]
- John Klingberg Injured In First Game Of Stars Season [Defending Big D]
- Gabriel Landeskog suspended two games [Mile High Hockey]
- I can’t decide if I think this Bruins team is going to be good or not [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
- The Ultimate Stanley Cup [ESPN]
- 3 tweaks ESPN should make to perfect its NHL broadcasts [USA Today]
- Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins tries to move on after death of Matiss Kivlenieks [ESPN]
- Finally, if you want a good cry this morning, here’s Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins after their win last night, honoring his friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks:
Scores & Recaps
- Montreal Canadiens 1, Buffalo Sabres 5
- Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Ottawa Senators 3
- Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Florida Panthers 5
- Dallas Stars 3, New York Rangers 2
- New York Islanders 3, Carolina Hurricanes 6
- Arizona Coyotes 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 8
- Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Detroit Red Wings 6
- Seattle Kraken 4, Nashville Predators 3
- Vegas Golden Knights 2, Los Angeles Kings 6
Click on a team name to find a recap on their SB Nation site!