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What We Learned: A modest proposal (Go to hockey games anyway)

By Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

For a lot of hockey fans, it's going to be a rough couple of months.

The lockout is all but guaranteed, and will begin in less than two weeks. That means no training camp, no preseason, no regular season. For at least a few months. There will now be nothing to fill out October and November nights. No filtering through three east coast games on a Tuesday night, no scoring last-minute tickets to a game on Thursday, no staying in all Saturday and watching four games in a row.

Let's be honest: You're not going to fill the void with basketball. Football is only on a handful of nights a week. So how are you supposed to fill your time?

By throwing yourself into other hockey, that's how. Here in North America, or at least many parts of it, where hockey fans are already concentrated, you have a wealth of options available to you when it comes to consuming this sport. Nope, you're not going to have the NHL. But there's high school, junior, college, and minor league hockey just waiting for you to go enjoy it. And the best part is, it's dirt cheap.

While millionaires and billionaires stomp their feet and hold their breath over amounts of money we can barely imagine, there's bargain-basement hockey within a relatively short drive, available for relatively little. Everyone talks about how it costs a few hundred dollars to bring a family of four to an NHL rink, and that's if your seats aren't very good. If they are, between tickets, parking, food, beers and souvenirs, among other expenses, you might end up spending even more than that. It's legitimately crazy.

I was still in college during the last lockout and as you might imagine, wasn't exactly putting away big money. Yet, that year, I saw probably 60 college hockey games in person and caught a few dozen AHL games. I had never even been that big of an AHL fan despite having a team in my hometown for most of my teenage years, but I figured some hockey was better than none, and found myself very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the product.

The best part was that it all cost me very little, except probably the AHL playoff tickets. But that's not something you'll have to worry about this time around, since the NHL will have long since come back by then.

As I've said in the past, the AHL is going to be really good this year, because a ton of very good, young players will be allowed to play there as a means of continuing their development even while the NHL is locked out. In most AHL rinks across the continent, ticket prices top out in the mid-$30s at best. You can get into most rinks and find great seats for like $18.

And if that's a bit too rich for your blood, college and major junior teams in the U.S. and Canada can probably beat those prices handily. I go to a lot of college games all over New England and if a seat is more than $15, I'm usually pretty surprised. A quick check of ticket prices around the CHL shows prices there are more or less the same, very rarely coming in at more than $20 for the best seats in the house. Tickets to Junior A games like the USHL, BCHL and so forth are typically even cheaper than that.

And if you're really jonesing for hockey on a Wednesday night, you can rest assured that, because technology has improved considerably in the last seven years, there are more options for absorbing the sport online and on TV than there were in the last lockout. There are more streams, both low- and high-quality, legitimate and less-than-legal, available online. There are more HD channels, showing more games, and you can bet that without the NHL, those that would be showing hockey anyway (local networks like NESN or various Fox and Comcast Sports channels, NBC Sports Net, etc.) will be scrambling to fill hours with live content, and you could, in the end, be a beneficiary of that.

And the great thing about watching all these lower-level games, rather than NHL contests, is that you can relax a little bit. No worrying about the financial hit, or whether your favorite team wins. You can just watch the sport and enjoy that it is the best sport, and you don't have to commit your life to every shift. You might even find a new team to root for and suffer with, if that's what you're interested in.

What Harrison Mooney said yesterday about how the fans have no influence over the NHL's CBA negotiations is 100 percent right, but that doesn't mean you should let those negotiations influence you. Hockey's available almost everywhere (unless you're in like Florida or something, in which case, have a nice winter), and you don't have to get locked out just because the NHL is.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: News you definitely care about: Sheldon Souray will wear No. 44 in Anaheim, just as he did with Dallas, Edmonton and Montreal. Not, like, any time before Thanksgiving or anything, but he will wear it.

Boston Bruins: Shawn Thornton followed golfer Keegan Bradley around the course during the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship just outside Boston, and fans were chanting "Let's Go B's!" at him the whole time. Where were those guys with the "Quiet please" signs? Lying down on the job.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are going to pump $123 million into the development of two rinks and a few other things in downtown Buffalo, but given what we know about how that team spends money, most other NHL teams could get the same deal done for like $65 million.

Calgary Flames: Mike Cammalleri would really like to not be terrible again next season but hey Mike I got news for you it doesn't matter since you play for Calgary.

Carolina Hurricanes: Boo hoo no one wants to see the Carolina Hurricanes on national TV. Ah yes the huge nationwide Hurricane-fanatic audience is just clamoring for another chance to see their favorite 10th-place team in action.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Chicago Blackhawks are some of the smartest spenders in sports if you ignore that whole Cristobal Huet thing.

Colorado Avalanche: Can Jamie McGinn, who came into last season with 15 career goals, go out and score 20 again like he did in 2011-12? Can he keep his shooting percentage above 12?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Brilliant marketing by the Blue Jackets: "Come see us get slaughtered by teams with players who are actually good!"

Dallas Stars: Derek Roy should be good to go in November, just like the league itself in a best-case scenario.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: The Red Wings have started a program to encourage kids to read, which is a great cause. The team will kick off the effort with Niklas Kronwall reading the NHL rulebook's section about charging, then throwing it in the garbage.

Related Links

Edmonton Oilers: "Why the Oilers' Jordan Eberle Is Underpaid and Underrated." He is, for the record, neither of those things.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers' ownership group might build a casino in Sunrise and boy can't you just not even wait for the first "BET ON RED" joint marketing campaign?

Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Lewis is the only person from Utah to ever get his name on the Stanley Cup. Dylan Olsen and Richard Bachman probably hope to change that.

Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund, after coming over from Finland last season, will play with Houston of the AHL during the lockout. Him and several dozen other top-flight prospects, yeah.

Montreal Canadiens: I don't know why we're sitting here talking about "How does Rene Bourque's injury affect the Habs?" as if we're going to be playing hockey in six to eight weeks. We're not. He'll be 100 percent when the puck drops.

Nashville Predators: First Ryan Suter, then Alex Radulov, now the team's charter jet company. Rough offseason.

New Jersey Devils: Underreported stat from last year, given how much people talked about the Panthers' shootout success: The Devils won 12 games in the shootout last year. That's the difference between finishing with 102 points, and just 90. Wow.

New York Islanders: That Islanders-to-Brooklyn thing just won't go away. Nor should it, I guess.

New York Rangers: Something to keep an eye on: The Rangers lost four forwards in the offseason, all of whom were part of the team's penalty kill last season. If they struggle on the PK next year, you'll know why.

Ottawa Senators: Chris Phillips is really hopeful that a CBA deal can get done but c'mon Chris Phillips you know how the game be.

Philadelphia Flyers: Apparently Jaromir Jagr asked Claude Giroux to come play for his team in the Czech Republic if there is a lockout. What could possibly go wrong?

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 24 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Oh but now the reason is because there's a suit over sales tax or something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Wow an article in the Onion about hockey that isn't about how no one watches hockey.

San Jose Sharks: Here's a list of the Sharks' best and worst contracts. I don't even know what to say about a list that only has Martin Havlat's deal as fifth-worst.

St. Louis Blues: Why does NBC think people want to see the Blues on national TV 16 times next season? I know they're good, but I thought everyone wanted 5-4 games, not 2-1 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Marty St. Louis is off to Europe if there's not a new CBA, and Stamkos wouldn't be far behind him.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Love the idea that the league wouldn't fall all over itself to get back under way before the Winter Classic. Of course it will.

Vancouver Canucks: Three people who allegedly participated in the Vancouver riots have been located in the U.S., two in Alaska, one in Illinois. Their punishment is that if they try to enter Canada they will be arrested, which doesn't seem like much of a punishment at all.

Washington Capitals: Mike Ribeiro and his family, along with about 150 Capitals fans, recently took part in an effort to beautify a public school. Good stuff.

Winnipeg Jets: Zach Bogosian out four to six months after wrist surgery. It's not like the team had problems with defense last year though, hey?

Gold Star Award

The good news is we're all gonna have a lot more free time this autumn, I guess. Go to the ballet or something.

Minus of the Weekend

I said in Trending Topics on Friday that I was optimistic about a deal getting done relatively soon. This is what you get for being optimistic.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "harro92" is a genius. (Please note his or her spelling of "receive.")

NYI Recieve
Vincent Lecavalier
Mathieu Garon

TB Recieve
Rick DiPietro
Josh Bailey

Yes!

Signoff

I wanna go now, so good luck to you.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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