The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is a must-see for any hockey fan. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL’s 2011-12 season is officially over, leaving some fans already hungry for more hockey. But for now, you can keep yourself hockey-involved by planning to do these 10 things to keep you from missing the game over the course of the next few months.
10. Learn the business of the game
With no games to watch, you’d be well advised to do a little research into what monetary issues are facing the NHL – especially with the specter of a labor war looming on the horizon and potentially disrupting the start of the 2012-13 campaign. Read up on the history of hockey’s labor disruptions and you’ll be much more savvy around your friends who throw out ill-educated comments like, “both the owners and players are equally greedy and deserve equal amounts of blame.”
9. Find out more about your fellow fans
Too often in this cocooned modern world, we don’t know anything about the people sitting next to us at games. But with social media playing a larger role in our lives, this is changing. Talk to the people on your favorite message boards and organize a public get-together (Twitter users call them ‘Tweet-Ups’) in which you can discuss and debate in person.
8. Familiarize yourself with other hockey leagues
If there won’t be NHL hockey starting up at its usual time, the major junior/college scenes, as well as other pro outfits such as the Kontinental, American and Swedish Leagues, are going full steam ahead. Indeed, many NHLers will likely wind up playing for one of those three organizations if the NHL locks them out, so knowing the landscape in which they’ll play will set you apart from the average fan.
7. Dig for memorabilia
Every hockey fan of a certain generation has a story about their mom throwing out their ultra-valuable pristine Wayne Gretzky rookie card. But maybe you’ve got some hidden treasure in your house a memorabilia collector would have interest in. Get out your shovels and metal detectors and your wallet could thank you later.
6. Have some fun with the unsettled labor situation
If fans are powerless to affect another potential NHL lockout and are forced to watch as their entertainment is taken away again, they might as well make some entertainment for themselves. I propose a labor pool fantasy draft, in which, for example, you and your friends pick (a) the first player or owner who says or does something they’ll be fined for or otherwise reprimanded by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman or NHL Players’ Association boss Donald Fehr; (b) the key person whose behind-the-scenes action ends the labor war and gets hockey going again.
5. Watch an NHL classic game
The NHL offers fans the option of digging into its archives and watching games played as far back as the 1960s. Whether you’re a hardcore hockey type or a newbie to the sport, this could be one of your best (and few) options for on-demand puck action.
4. NHL rookie/prospect tournaments
There’s some speculation a labor strife will result in NHL teams cancelling their rookie tournaments, but others (such as Boston’s) are still on course to take place. A look at the future of your team is better than what could be a depressing alternative.
3. Summer road hockey
Yeah, there’s nothing like a game of road hockey with a bitter wind nipping at your extremities and snow falling all around you, but the same activity in the summer isn’t shabby, either. If you’re really brave, play in net wearing shorts and a tank top.
2. NHL draft/free agency
The last series of NHL personnel transactions will happen at the end of June and the start of July, when a new class of young players are drafted into the league and veteran players change addresses via free agency and the trade market. It will be intriguing to see if the pending labor battle makes teams more or less willing to engage in major moves.
1. Visit the Hockey Hall Of Fame
Toronto can be a fairly miserable place weather-wise during the winter, but you can walk into the hallowed halls of hockey history with your shorts on at this time of year and enjoy the many amazing exhibits it has to offer. Baseball’s equivalent institution in Cooperstown, N.Y. is a frequent summer destination, but the corner of Yonge and Front Streets in Ontario’s capital should be as well.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.