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HOCKEY IS BACK! 4 Things We Love, 4 Surprising Things We’ll Miss



Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin: Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will be the first teams to drop the puck on what will undoubtedly be an NHL season in which the unexpected and unplanned will be the only constants. We’re likely facing cancelations, as well as outright hatred, as divisional opponents become absolutely sick of each other before their eight-game season series are over.

It’s the middle of January, and hockey is just starting, but the excitement is reaching a fever pitch even among the players. Evgeni Malkin admitted he didn’t sleep for two days before his first game as a rookie. He probably slept Tuesday night, but his excitement was obvious on Tuesday morning.

As the puck drop is just mere hours away, we’re preparing for what is to come. There are some things we’ll absolutely miss in this unique NHL season, just as there are many things we can’t wait to see.

Pittsburgh Penguins Love and Miss

Love: Hate. 

Cmon, by the time the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders play each other eight times, the hate just might hit level 10. Then add the playoffs? Oh boy.

The intensity will be off the charts for regular-season games. The players may eventually hate th schedule, and casual fans for whom rivalries mean less may zone out, but we can’t wait for the hate.

Miss: Flyers fans

Yep. In this crazy, self-destructive, unpredictable world, we’ll even miss the bloodthirsty, angry Philadelphia fans. The rivalry is so intense, this grandma to flip the bird to the Philadelphia Flyers.

We’ll never, ever, ever, say or write that we’ll miss Philly fans, again. Ever. While we’ll enjoy the Penguins vs. Flyers battles, we’re also going to miss the angry Roman Coliseum crowd in Philly.

And we’ll miss hearing about Gritty clotheslining young Philadelphia fans.

Love: Boston and Buffalo

Trade the Boston Bruins for the Carolina Hurricanes in the East Division presented by Mass Mutual? Sure! Boston will be a tougher opponent with more interesting games than Carolina. Sorry, the choregraphed Storm Surge postgame celebrations were cute for only a moment. Boston will create more intense games and be more fun to watch than Carolina, which often turns Penguins games into low scoring free skates.

We’re looking forward to seeing Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and watching your reactions (and memes).

We are also looking forward to seeing Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall with the Buffalo Sabres.

Miss: The Columbus experience

Absolutely diehard fans with a civil war weapon? The Columbus Blue Jackets game experience is one of the most fun in the NHL. It’s no Vegas, but it’s pure, and that cannon is the most annoying, obnoxious, and awesome opposing symbols in the NHL.

It’s so good that we love to hate it. Without Columbus in the East Division, Penguins fans probably won’t hear the booms after goals. You may hate it, but we’re sure going to miss it.

Love: 56-Game Season

The NHL season is too long. It’s monotonous and often pointless for long stretches of time. Playing 82 games, then beginning the playoffs wears down the players, wastes time, casual fans zone out like trying to listen to Charlie Brown’s teacher.

But playing only 56 games in four months? This won’t be a bruising lazy river but a whiplash-inducing roller coaster of emotion, physicality, and importance.

Bring it on.

Miss: LEO! RED!

National anthems are a thing in hockey. Over the last few years, the best belts in the league have retired, but a few cities have created fun anthem traditions.

When the anthem begins, 18,000 Washington Capitals fans yell, “O!” in unison (as in Oh, say can you see..). The “O” is for Alex Ovechkin. The fans also yell, in unison, when the anthem reaches the rockets “RED!” glare.

Columbus fans have a similar tradition. Leo Welsh won a contest to sing the anthem in 2003. Now, when Mr. Leo Welsh is introduced, the entire crowd yells, “LEO!”

Boy, we’re going to miss that.

Love: Penguins Core

The Penguins have had opportunities to break up the band but chose to rebuild around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

There’s something impressive about the loyalty and dedication to the three players. As Malkin spoke on Tuesday, he admitted the trio talk about what little time together they have left.

“We’re older and older every year. We don’t know how many (more) years we’ll play together. Two? Three,” Malkin asked.

Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s been a remarkable run which we don’t often see in professional sports—three elite players playing with the same team for their entire career.

Miss: The Canadian national anthem

Oh, Canada! For the entire 2020-21 NHL season, we will not hear the Canadian national anthem in person. Sure, we’ll see it on TV, but none of us Americans will get to hear (and quietly sing along) to THE most fun anthem in the world.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command,

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits,

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Side story: As newbie Pittsburgh Penguins reporters nearly 20 years ago, Mark Lazerus, now of the Athletic Chicago (but then of the Observer-Reporter), and I had the entire Souper Bowl singing the anthem. With two other reporters, we played a seven-game series of bubble hockey. My team led the series 3-0, but couldn’t close it out. Laz and his teammate scored an overtime winner in Game 7, and immediately burst into song.

Within a couple of notes, the entire place was in full throat song. Everyone knew the words, too. Mostly, I’ll miss you, hockey fans. I can’t wait until you’re back in the barn, and the first one who leaves early gets banished.