Hockey fans are always excited once September rolls around. After a summer of sun and fun, it’s back to school time, vacation time comes to an end. It’s a restart of the senses as far as being a hockey fan too.
NHL teams get back to work. The players return from their summer vacation as well. In today’s NHL, players don’t slack off like they used to in the old days though. But that’s what training camp used to be for; getting back into shape.
But times have changed. Competition for jobs has never been greater. The wily old veterans who play the 3rd and 4th lines know they’re in tough with a group of younger guys waiting to push them out of a job. There is no such thing as taking the summer off anymore.
Players now spend their summers working with coaches and trainers to work on their strength and conditioning, their cardio, weight training, skating and even their diet. Watching hours of film on themselves and their opponents. Always looking for that competitive edge to be better for the next season.
It’s a way of life for professional hockey players. Gone are the old days when coming into camp with a bit of a beer gut wasn’t out of place. Nowadays, if you don’t show up in top physical condition, you’re already way behind the rest of the team and considered a disappointment by the coaching staff.
Meanwhile the coaching staff have been doing their part over the summer as well. Thinking up new and creative ways to run the power play and penalty kill. Different line combinations. Maybe even dreaming of who they’d like to see step up and take over someone else’s role on the team. They know when camp starts it’s time for them to go back to work and start teaching again.
Training camps open and Ice Plexes around the league fill up with eager fans, wanting to catch a glimpse of how their teams look. Get a look at the rookies. Maybe even get an autograph and a selfie with their favorite players. The hype machine ramps up once again.
Maybe that’s where something gets lost in all this for the fans. Once the preseason games begin, the competitive juices in the fans ramps up again too. Every game, preseason or not matters to them.
And there’s the fantasy pool players that what closely as well. Which players are having a great camp? Who looks like they’re ready for a breakout year? Any competitive edge they can find.
We see it all over social media. Fans either losing their minds over their teams preseason play. Or getting overly excited when their team wins. Hey, it’s great for the league and for the teams that their fanbases are so engaged so early, so don’t get me wrong there. It’s just fans maybe take preseason a little too seriously sometimes.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but the Stanley Cup isn’t won in September. Or October for that matter. Nor are playoff spots determined during this time either. If your team loses a preseason game, it’s okay. Really it is.
This is the time when veterans work off any rust. They learn and adjust to new plays the coaches have draw up. They start to rebuild chemistry with old line mates, or begin to get used to working with new ones. Rookies battle for open spots. And coaches asses all of it. That’s what preseason is all rolled up: assessment.
Preseason games for the most part are nothing but glorified practices. I know that’s not easy for some fans to accept, but that’s really all they are. The coaches are watching a different game than the fans are. Fans are watching players trying to make plays. Coaches are evaluating that players execution of what they’ve drawn up for that player. They need to know if that player is listening to what they are teaching.
Players on the bubble attempt to play their way onto teams. Show they are coachable. Demonstrate they belong at the NHL level. And it’s not always goals that prove that to the coaching staff.
But it’s all good. Soon the NHL starts up season #101. New hope will reign supreme. A new franchise in Vegas will also take the ice. New names on every team will battle to make a career for themselves. Seasoned vets will look to lead their teams to new heights. The race for the Stanley Cup begins yet again.
And that’s what’s worth getting excited about again.

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