After a long hot summer, it’s finally here. The scraping of skates on the ice, the boom of a hit into the boards, the loud sharp smack that hurts your ears and startles you when a puck slams into the wall from a run away slap shot, the roar of thousands of fans cheering on their favorite teams, the sounds of hockey. It’s time to smell the wetness of the ice, the sweat and blood of the players, and the drinks and food in the stands. Pre-season hockey is here! Leaving the last season just one goal away from The Stanley Cup Play-Offs left us hungry for just a bit more, like when you’re eating a really good steak and just before you take that last bite that you’ve been savoring for the end of your meal, then someone snatches it and eats it, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Your stomach may be full, but your tongue tingles, waiting for that one last taste to give your dinner closure. My tongue has been tingling for Tampa Bay Lightning hockey for 3 months! I go down and watch local leagues play. Beer leagues, children’s games, I try to attend it all. Not only is it a slight fix for my hockey addiction, but I believe that we should support local hockey. It’s not just about fancy announcers and super-stars. It’s about the sport. I urge you to check out your local high school, college, and rinks.
At this point, chopped steak isn’t cutting my craving. I want filet mignon! Pre-season hockey is finally here! And it feels so good to be back in The St. Pete Times Forum yelling “LET’S GO BOLTS!” People keep telling me “It’s just the pre-season, it doesn’t really matter.” So I can’t be upset when they don’t play well, or even more upset when I feel that they were wronged on the ice? I can’t get extremely excited when my new favorite players score goals for the first time in a Lightning uniform? Or, like in the game last night, they make a glorious come back for an amazing win? Well I guess they shouldn’t have tried to make that come back, who cares if they win or not. It’s only the pre-season. You can’t tell me it doesn’t bother the organization the fact that they started off the preseason 0 – 2 for the first time in franchise history, or that the players don’t feel really good after these last two wins. Pre-season games may not matter to some because of points and standings, but they do matter. We get to see a glimpse of our team’s future! Players like Vladislav Namestnikov, @Vladdy18 on Twitter, our first round draft pick. He’s more than likely to have a great career with The Lightning. He was sent to the OHL for development because he’s just not quite ready for the NHL yet. Young players like Brett Connolly, @bconnolly8 on Twitter, and Carter Ashton, @c_ash15 on Twitter, get their shot at making the team this year. Cory Conacher, @conhockey19 on Twitter, is really blowing everyone away with his amazing skill! He wasn’t a draft pick, he’s an invitee who is really making a name for himself by impressing us with talent that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in anyone so young and new. Don’t let the fact that he wasn’t drafted fool you. There are plenty of NHL Superstars full of talent who went undrafted. Look at our very own Marty St. Louis! We also get to see some some of our guys battle it out for a roster spot. Dana Tyrell has been working extra hard to hold onto his place.
In my next article I will sum up the first four preseason games. Personally, I can not wait to see the next one. Of course I love the regular season games, but there’s an energy with the pre-season that is different. It’s the promise of a new season, the return to the ice. The uncertainty of knowing if the players that we are watching right now will be on the roster next month or not.